The more I watch The ABCs Of Death 2, the more I love it. Seriously. I can’t get enough. This isn’t just another gimmicky horror anthology that throws some random short stories together in hopes of a cult following, but instead an intelligent collection of grim fables that *mostly* deliver death, destruction, and a heaping helping of mental unrest. The original film worked as a genre experiment, testing the waters of insanity to see if audiences would react favorably, but its sequel shows more confidence, creativity, and gusto when analyzing all the shorts as one marketable package. With twenty-six different segments, there’s bound to be some stinkers, but where The ABCs Of Death is a 50/50 mixed bag, The ABCs Of Death 2 showcases an impressive amount of successes compared to a few atrocious letters that are better left forgotten – but the ratio still demands an enthusiastic encore.
I had the opportunity to screen The ABCs Of Death 2 when it premiered at Fantastic Fest this past September, but I jumped at the chance to review this Drafthouse home release because I wanted to see how each segment settled after a second viewing (and because I wanted to own this Blu-Ray SO ‘EFFING BAD). Part of me wished that the least impressive segments might reveal a new light given a second try, but unfortunately letters like “L” and “K” remained just as insufferable as I’d remembered. The whole purpose of Tim League and Ant Timpson’s wackadoo collection is to showcase a brilliantly horrific death sequence, yet some filmmakers either mishandled their budget or conjured ideas that needed more than five minutes to grow into something coherent. Some letters deserve a fast-forward fate, but that number easily rests under 10 – a fantastic ratio when considering previous efforts.
On a positive note, The ABCs Of Death 2 shook my non-horror-watching roommate to his vulnerable, unexpecting core. I popped this Blu-Ray in when my friend least expected it, which brought me great joy considering how desensitized I’ve become to insurmountable horrors, and I can’t tell you how many times I was shot a perturbed look followed by a comment along the lines of “Well that’s completely disturbing” – a compliment all horror directors should strive for. Think of it as my litmus test, which Julian Gilbey, Alexandre Bustillo, Rodney Ascher, Jerome Sable, Julien Maury, Chris Nash, and many more pushed far beyond reasonable comprehension. There’s no playing it safe as far as The ABCs Of Death 2 is concerned, but these unflinching talents prove that horror is FAR more than grotesque imagery and bloody spurts.
There’s no doubt that some of my favorite horror material of 2014 came from The ABCs Of Death 2, and my Blu-Ray watch quickly confirmed such feelings. “A is for Amateur” shows why E.L. Katz is one of the brightest genre minds in the game, while “Z is for Zygote” makes me question why the hell Chris Nash hasn’t directed his own slasher feature by now. The Soska sisters unleash another female-driven piece of genre gold, Steven Kostanski brings us to a fantastical land reminiscent of some twisted Saturday morning cartoon, and Robert Boocheck delivers this sequel’s “D is for Dogfight,” which only represents a small collection of highlights from this death-filled doozy. The ABCs Of Death 2 is no longer a quirky idea, but a celebration of everything that horror fans love about movies.
Thankfully, a seamless Blu-Ray transfer accentuates all the horror goodness that genre fans have come to know. “M is for Masticate” sticks out vibrantly against a slew of darker, more atmospheric pieces, brightened by crystal imagery on any 1080p home theater system, and the same goes for colorful segments such as “T is for Torture Porn,” “D is for Deloused,” and “A is for Amateur.” The sound is balanced nicely and doesn’t provide any unwanted distractions, which makes each director’s segment uniquely styled in its own way – like a blood-splattered snowflake!
As far as Special Features go, here’s the extra curricular material:
- A-Z: An Offering of Behind The Scenes, Making Of”s and Galleries
- AXS TV: A look at ‘ABCs OF DEATH 2’
- Filmmakers Commentary (29 Commentary Segments)
Fans of specific directors will be happy to know that most shorts have their own separate featurette, so you won’t have to sit through 25 letters in an attempt to get a behind the scenes look at Chris Nash’s squirm-tastic “Z is for Zygote.” Knowing some of the filmmakers involved, a few good laughs and some impressive techniques are expected when the curtain is pulled back, so don’t be afraid of these little nuggets. Or you could throw on the film’s commentary, including all 29 talents (a few segments have two filmmakers involved) giving their perspective on The ABCs Of Death 2 in real-time. There’s no overabundance of features, but there’s also enough fleshy substance for a vampire to sink its teeth into.
The ABCs Of Death 2 is an upgrade in overall segment quality, delivering a much more rounded watch this time around, and once again there’s a handful of shining directors who squeeze Drafthouse’s creative opportunity for every possible scream, scare, and laugh. Group viewings are highly recommended because of the varying boundaries each segment pushes, allowing different opinions on each letter that’ll be sure to cause debate (alcoholic consumption is also encouraged), because anthology films of this nature inspire a more party-friendly vibe. The ABCs Of Death 2 has proven to be far more than ust a gimmick, as it’s embraced a reusable format that excites participating filmmakers and anxious audience members alike – as long as short death sequences imagined in the most ludicrous, unfathomable, and astonishingly daring ways manageable are your thing.
The ABCs Of Death 2 proves that this horror anthology is far more than a cheap gimmick, cooking up a whole assortment of sweet horror treats with their own unique bite.