THE ABCs OF DEATH 2
***1/2 (out of 5)
October 31, 2014
Studio: Magnet Releasing
Directed by: 30 Crazy People
BY KEVIN CARR
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I am a sucker for short films. Whenever I go to a film festival, I will often gravitate towards the short film selections because it’s a great way to sample a large group of filmmakers in a short amount of time.
Sadly, short filmmaking is the red-headed step-brother or feature filmmaking. Many filmmakers start with the shorts with the end goal to graduate into features, leaving the art for the smaller running time in the dust. However, there’s a real art needed to make a good short film, and they often play out differently than a standard feature. They have great potential for uniqueness and out-of-the-box thinking, sometimes being as short as a small gag and other times having the own fully-developed story arcs.
This is one of the reasons why I have always enjoyed anthology movies. From the old Amicus series to “Creepshow” and “The Twilight Zone” in the 1980s, I have always loved seeing a collection of stories, especially in the horror genre.
Last year’s “The ABCs of Death” was a neat filmmaking experiment, offering 26 directors an unrestricted opportunity to shoot short horror films dealing with death. Each filmmaker was assigned a letter of the alphabet, and that had to tie into the death theme. That film was a success, which of course led to the inevitable sequel.
“The ABCs of Death 2” features another 26 directors with another 26 tales of mortality. It’s the same process as its predecessor, but this movie actually turns out to be a better film.
I’m not going to bother to break down all 26 films here; after all, to explain the premise of some of them would be to spoil them. Instead, these shorts are better served cold and fresh. However, it’s worthwhile to point out how much more innovative this selection is.
The production value has appeared to step up a bit, making things look less down-and-dirty independent. There are some pretty slick special effects in many of the installments, including some mind-warping stop-motion animation and cheesy 90s throwback practical work. There’s really only one of the short films that stands out in my mind as being particularly low-rent, which is forgivable seeing it involves less than 4 percent of the total running time.
Other things of note that are different in this set of films is that overall the entire film has a shorter running time. As much as I love anthology films, a running time of over two hours can be a bit much, especially when digesting more than two dozen twisted tales. This sequel isn’t that much shorter, but those extra few minutes and the higher, more focused presentation makes things run a bit smoother.
It is also interesting to note that from my perspective, there appeared to be fewer dialogue-heavy foreign entries. I’m okay with reading subtitles, but switching through multiple languages every five minutes can be a bit wearing. There seemed to be a wider focus for possibly a more global audience by presenting films that either did not rely on dialogue or have it completely absent (which is actually a pretty bold and daring choice as it is).
This is definitely a straight-up horror film even though not every story falls squarely into that realm. It’s not for the squeamish as there are some pretty extreme moments, but for the fan of scary movies, you’ll definitely find some cool stuff in this virtual (and disturbing) picture book.