'ABCs of Death 2': Film Review

Courtesy of Magnet Releasing
There are far better ways to learn your ABCs

This horror anthology sequel once again features dozens of filmmakers contributing short films tied to the letters of the alphabet

The law of diminishing returns has set in with the sequel to the 2012 international anthology of gross-out short films spanning the alphabet and lasting no more than five minutes each. Featuring 26 efforts by filmmakers both known and unknown — including such ringers as Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado (Big Bad Wolves), Rodney Ascher (Room 237), Larry Fessenden (Wendigo), Jen and Sylvia Soska (America Mary) and veteran animator Bill Plympton (The Tune), among others — ABCs of Death 2 mainly serves to demonstrate that even talented filmmakers need a lengthier running time to craft even a moderately successful short.

Trafficking in the sort of gore, explicit violence, female exploitation and black humor designed to gladden the hearts of beer-swilling, pot-smoking adolescents of all ages, the collection overseen by producers Tim League and Ant Timpson relies mainly on cheap shocks and ironic punchlines for effect. This is partly the result of the films having so little time to advance any sort of coherent storyline, but it also stems from the low-rent nature of the concepts and executions.

By sheer dint of the law of averages, some of the efforts are very effective. Juan Martinez Moreno's Split is a horrifying anecdote, worthy of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, in which a man listens over the phone while his wife is trying to evade a murderous intruder, with the nasty final twist only adding to the fun. Similarly, Jerome Sable's Vacation, shot from the POV of a cellphone camera, depicts the brutal consequences of a man calling his girlfriend while on an overseas vacation that's not nearly as wholesome as he let on.

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Evan Katz's Amateur depicts the unfortunate results of a would-be hit man using an unwise method to get to his prey, while Fessenden's Nexus, set on Halloween, should make costumed revelers look twice before crossing the street. And Hajime Ohata's wickedly clever Ochlocracy concerns the legal consequences of being a zombie killer when the head of an undead victim is brought in to testify.

The animated sequences also fare well, with Robert Morgan's Deloused and Plympton's Head Games depicting bodily mayhem in visually visceral fashion.  

But the highly varied efforts miss far more often than hit, with the filmmakers too often struggling to make an impact with the short time allotted. And over the course of more than two hours, the sheer accumulation proves wearying.

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Thanks to their low budgets and popularity on home video formats, there will no doubt be future alphabet-themed installments of the series. But better talent and more effective curating will be necessary to make them anything other than minor curiosities.

Production: Drafthouse Films, Timpson Films
Cast: Tristan Risk, Martina Garcia, Beatrice Dalle, Laurence R. Harvey, Andy Nyman, Lee Majidoub, C. Ernst Harth, Miguel Angel Munoz, Jerod Meagher, Alys Crocker, Victoria Broom, Ian Virgo, Kestrin Pantera, Alan McKenna

Directors: Evan 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, Robert Boocheck, Larry Fessenden, Hajime Ohata, Todd Rohal, Lancelot Imasuen, Rodney Ascher, Marvin Kren, Juan Martinez Moreno, Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska, Vincenzo Natali, Jerome Sable, Steven Kostanski, Julien Maury, Alexandre Bustillo, Soichi Umezawa, Chris Nash
Screenwriters: David Chirchirillo, Julian Barratt, Julian Gilbey, Robert Morgan, Alejandro Brugués, Aharon Keshales, Navot Papushado, Jim Hosking, Toby Harvard, Bill Plympton, Erik Matti, Dennison Ramalho, Kristina Buozyte, Bruno Samper, Lancelot Imasuen, Robert Boocheck, Larry Fessenden, Hajime Ohata, Todd Rohal, Rodney Ascher, Marvin Kren, Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska, Juan Martinez Moreno, Vincenzo Natali, Jerome Sable, Steven Kostanski, Julien Maury, Alexandre Bustillo, Soichi Umezawa, Chris Nash
Producers: Ant Timpson, Tim League
Directors of photography: Jon Britt, Jose Roberto Eliezer, Nick Gillespie, Alex Gomez, Adam Hall, Clay Liford, John Rutland, Antoine Sanier, Ioana Vasile, Mahlon Todd Williams
Editors: Lindsay Allikas, Richard Blackburn, Mark Burnett, Michael Lane, Russell Lichter, Hajime Ohata, Nick Wenger, John Wesley Whitton
Production designers: Matthew Button, Felix Coles, Scott Colquitt, Chris Farmer, James Lapsley, Sara Millan, Hock Wong
Costume designers: Heidi McQueen-Prentice, Hayley Nebauer
Composers: Raphael Gesqua, Jeremy Gillispie, Mads Heldtberg, Haim Frank Ilfman, Alex Khaskin, Sergio Moure, Kyle Newmaster, Z. No, Vytis Puronas, Stefan Will
Casting: Colin Jones, Bo Rosenmuller

Not rated, 125 minutes

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