The ABCs of Death 2 (2014)

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“Another 26-chapter anthology that showcases death in all its vicious wonder and brutal beauty.” — IMDb

The ABCs of Death 2, while still a fairly uneven grouping of short films, was a definite step up from its 2012 predecessor, The ABCs of Death.

If you’re unfamiliar, both of these are 26-part anthologies where each director is given a letter of the alphabet and tasked with creating a short film (each just a few minutes long) related to the concept of death. It’s fascinating and perfect for someone like me who tends to have a short attention span, but also awesome for seeing a range of different directors and their work.

** SPOILERS! **

Much like the first anthology, it winds up being a little bit all over the place with the quality of the short films within, though I thought this was a much stronger collection overall. Again, it’s really interesting to see how each director interprets the theme of death. I definitely appreciated those that went a more cerebral route, or made a more complex story (though I can’t imagine how tough that it is to do with such a limited span of time to tell it) — some went a bit too literal with the subject and decided to go for shock and awe rather than true quality.

Some were going in the route of being clever but just missed the mark for me: Amateur (directed by E.L. Katz); Badger (directed by Julian Barratt, who also starred); Nexus (directed by Larry Fessenden); Ohlocracy (directed by Hajime Ohata); Questionnaire (directed by Rodney Ascher) was pretty cool but I just didn’t love it; Split (directed by Juan Martínez Moreno); Torture Porn (directed by Jen Soska & Sylvia Soska); Vacation (directed by Jerome Sable);

Some were decently strong but didn’t blow my mind: Capital Punishment (directed by Julian Gilbey) had an interesting take on a sort of 15th century court trial taking place in modern times, and features one of the toughest beheadings I’ve seen in a while; Falling (directed by Aharon Keshales & Navot Papushado) was controversial and bold; Head Games (directed by Bill Plympton) was a clever illustrated short; Wish (directed by Steven Kostanski) had a particularly awesome set;

As usual, some were completely unforgettable and stronger than you’d ever expect for such a quick short: Deloused (directed by Robert Morgan who I just now realized also did The Cat With Hands) is stop-motion nightmare fuel of the highest caliber, absolutely stomach-turning; Knell (directed by Bruno Samper & Kristina Buozyte) was easily my favorite of the whole bunch, and the only one I’d love to see as a feature film — terrifying with great atmosphere; Masticate (directed by Robert Boocheck) was a perfect bite-sized bit of hilarity; Roulette (directed by Marvin Kren) was a period piece that actually wasn’t cheaply done or ironic; Utopia (directed by Vincenzo Natali) was a sleek commentary on the direction our society is going; Zygote (directed by Chris Nash) was a fascinating plot, easily the goriest of the bunch (and convincingly so) but didn’t need it.

And some were not even worth the few minutes it took to watch: Equilibrium (directed by Alejandro Brugués); Grandad (directed by Jim Hosking) was just weird for weird’s sake; Invincible (directed by Erik Matti) was an okay concept but unbearable to watch; Jesus (directed by Dennison Ramalho); Legacy (directed by Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen); P-P-P-P-P Scary! (directed by Todd Rohal) was THE EFFING WORST; Xylophone (directed by Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury); and Youth (directed by Sôichi Umezawa), which was visually interesting but just felt like a mess.

Ultimately a decently solid collection, and I’m actually looking forward to finally seeing the third in the trilogy, The ABCs of Death 2.5 (which came out in 2016).

Rating: 6/10 | Director: E.L. Katz, Julian Barratt, Julian Gilbey, Robert Morgan, Alejandro Brugués, Aharon Keshales, Navot Papushado, Jim Hosking, Bill Plympton, Erik Matti, Dennison Ramalho, Kristina Buozyte, Bruno Samper, Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen, Robert Boocheck, Larry Fessenden, Hajime Ohata, Todd Rohal, Rodney Ascher, Marvin Kren, Juan Martínez Moreno, Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska, Vincenzo Natali, Jerome Sable, Steven Kostanski, Julien Maury, Alexandre Bustillo, Sôichi Umezawa, Chris Nash, Wolfgang Matzl | Writer: Ant Timpson, David Chirchirillo, Julian Barratt, Julian Gilbey, Robert Morgan, Alejandro Brugués, Marc Walkow, Jim Hosking, Toby Harvard, Erik Matti, Jeff Buhler, Dennison Ramalho, Kristina Buozyte, Bruno Samper, Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen, Ossa Earlice, Robert Boocheck, Larry Fessenden, Hajime Ohata, Todd Rohal, Rodney Ascher, Benjamin Hessler, Juan Martínez Moreno, Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska, Vincenzo Natali, Jerome Sable, Nicholas Musurca, Jeremy Gillespie, Julien Maury, Alexandre Bustillo, Sôichi Umezawa, Chris Nash | Music, Cinematography, and Starring: Too many to name

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