They're back! Comprised of twenty-six individual chapters, each segment of ABCs of Death 2 is a barmy showcase of horror cinema, featuring the cream of the crop of promising new talent. Each segment is helmed by a different director, each assigned a letter of the alphabet. As with the first film, they were given free reign in choosing a word to create a story involving death. For fans of the first instalment then, it's very much business as usual.
There was a lot to love about the first entry in the series, and with entries varying from 30 seconds to 5 minutes in length, there was never enough time to get bored with the scattershot approach that we believe worked in the film's favour. The ABCs proved that there’s still life in death, and while the individual chapters were always going to be a little hit and miss, depending on your taste in horror, the quality of filmmakers was never in doubt.
Part two adds 26 names to the list, each of them bringing chaos and anarchy to the table. The directors this time around include Aharon Keshales & Navot Papushado (Big Bad Wolves), Marvin Kren (Blood Glacier), Jen Soska & Sylvia Soska (American Mary), Julien Maury & Alexandre Bustillo (Inside) and Vincenzo Natali (Splice). Sion Sono had originally planned to take part but his segment didn't work out. Maybe part three will atone for that disappointment, should it ever see the light of day. Piracy has hit the series hard, which is a crying shame, because part two is even more insane than the first.
Comparisons are inevitable so lets get that out of the way first. The stand-out entries of the first instalment are hard to beat and there aren't many segments here that reach those dizzy heights. However, there are next to no weak efforts either. Unlike the first film, which forced the inexcusable M is for Miscarriage on us, an ill-conceived shocker that smacked of laziness and distaste. The fact that it came from Ti West – the director of The Innkeepers and The House of the Devil – made it doubly disappointing. G is for Gravity failed to find it’s footing too, leaving us with an overwhelming sense of, "Oh, is that it?"
There are entries in both movies that lack the killer punch, but most of the segments in part two have enough creativity to keep you engaged. In part one, B is for Bigfoot, E is for Exterminate and I is for Ingrown opened promisingly but failed to land that killer blow. Likewise, part two gives us I is for Invincible, R is for Roulette and G is for Granddad. There's plenty to admire in these segments but they don't quite hit the sweet spot.
Some entries are just plain forgettable, particularly in the first half of the movie, but they are few and far between this time around. However, as with the first entry in the series, ABCs of Death 2 is much stronger in the latter stages, despite getting off to a belting start with E.L. Katz' (Deep Thrills) A is for Amateur. It's a grisly, hilarious opening that sets the tone perfectly. B is for Badger is quirky and comedic and Robert Morgan's animated entry for D is a definite stand-out. Creepy, bizarre and unforgettable, it's certainly one of the more interesting shorts of the series.
There is a lot to like about part two, including J is for Jesus (striking visuals), E is for Equilibrium (funny and well shot), M is for Masticate (stylish competition winner), N is for Nexus (beautifully bizarre) and O is for Ochlocracy - Hajime Ohata's insatiable twist on the zombie sub-genre. My favourites though, seeing as you asked, are K is for Knell, S is for Split, V is for Vacation, W is for Wish, X is for Xylophone, Y is for Youth and Z is for Zygote. Which, along with X is probably the most disturbing of the bunch.
ABCs of Death 2 starts slowly but comes alive in the second half, providing jaded horror fans with jealous wives, killer prostitutes, boys with toys, musical masterpieces, zombies with feelings and killer ooze. It's nutty, insane and not all of it works, but please don't stop making these movies. A life without the ABCs of Death has no meaning at all.