The rebirth of the horror anthology over the last few years has me more than a little excited. I suppose one could argue they haven’t really gone away, but we can agree that the quality has gone up recently. Perhaps until a greenlight is lit for a new Tales from the Crypt HBO series I won’t be truly happy, but I’ll take wins where I can get them. I generally prefer my anthologies with three or four shorts that ideally tie in together, but I was pretty intrigued by THE ABCS OF DEATH. 26 ultra short segments featuring a different way to die based on a letter of the alphabet. It’s a morbid premise, but as a horror fan it raises a curious eyebrow.
As history would have it I thought the first ABCS OF DEATH was a commendable experiment, but the balance of good and bad tilted heavily towards bad. The fart and poop jokes combined with some really pointless and bizarre segments made the first film a chore to watch. Luckily it seems the folks putting this installment together wanted segments of more substance rather than fart and poop jokes every three minutes. THE ABCS OF DEATH 2 brings on 26 new directors for 26 new shorts that land on the opposite spectrum of the first film. The good outweigh the bad this time around, though I still can’t say I’m excited for a third entry.
As you can read here, I was not the biggest fan of THE ABCS OF DEATH. There were some decent shorts that made the experience somewhat worth it, but I to this day cannot talk myself into sitting through it again. The same cannot be said about THE ABCS OF DEATH 2. I’m not going to trip over myself to watch this again, but there are some shorts this time around I can’t wait to dig into over and over just to admire what they were able to fit into just a few minutes. Yet make no mistake, there are still a handful that make the entirety of this sequel a bit taxing at times.
I’m willing to wager that there will be shorts that I loved that others will hate, just as I’m sure there are shorts I hated that others will love- it’s just how an anthology film works. I’ll tell you the one thing I loved most about this movie- the fart jokes have been completely eliminated. Face it, those were the worst segments of the first movie- not to mention the uncharacteristically lazy effort Ti West gave in his short. And with the talents involved this time around I’m not saying I’m surprised how much more I liked THE ABCS OF DEATH 2, but I am relieved. The anthology kicks off with a stylish little diddy from E.L. Katz, who directed my favorite movie of the year so far, CHEAP THRILLS. Half the fun of watching these shorts is figuring out what will be the instrument of death based on the letter of the alphabet you’re at- so I won’t spoil that. Katz’s entry starts off almost like a music video, but has a fun little twist near the end before revealing his method that begins with the letter A.
My absolute favorite entries this time around come from Robert Morgan who handles the letter D. Morgan’s short is a stop motion animated nightmare that still haunts my dreams with the imagery depicted within it. Bill Plympton (letter H) also delivers an old school animated short that is as cool as it is trippy, but also unforgettable. The letter M from Robert Boocheck was a short that most people will have probably already seen if you participated in the search for the 26th director- seeing as how it was the winner and it works just as well even though I watched it a few times prior to its place in the final film. Lastly Marvin Kren delivers a short that has a fun little twist despite the fact that the word which begins with the letter R will be figured out long before the end of the segment.
On the opposite end of the spectrum there are a handful of shorts that I really did not care for. There are a number of reasons, but without wasting time I’ll simply say that letters C, E, F, G, I, L, Q, W and Y are shorts I intend to skip the next time I watch this. The very last segment (Z of course) I also noted to have not liked, but with the exception that the practical gore effects within it are pretty incredible- just don’t eat or expect to eat during or after watching it. There are a number of segments that I rated somewhere in the middle, so it’s obvious that were way more shorts this time around that I felt had some redeeming aspects to them. Some were just plain weird both good and bad and others just made me question why I was watching this all over again- my note for the letter G simply said “old man balls….gross.”
The highs of THE ABCS OF DEATH 2 really outweigh the lows, which is something I cannot say for the first film. Some of the shorts I could even see as pitch points for full length features because the mythology within them was pretty impressive stuffed into only a few minutes. Some of the worst moments have some decent filmmaking putting them together, it’s just that the idea itself didn’t work for me. Much like its predecessor THE ABCS OF DEATH 2 is a mixed bag, but it’s a mixed bag perfect for a raucous group of boozed up horror junkies. The great opening credits promise a twisted story book of death and in that aspect THE ABCS OF DEATH 2 delivers in spades.