CELLULOID SCREAMS 2014
ABCs OF DEATH 2
Dir: Rodney Ascher, Julian Barratt, Robert Boocheck, Alejandro Brugues, Kristina Buozyte, Alexanre Bustillo, Larry Fessenden, Julian Gilbey, Jim Hosking, Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen, E.L. Katz, Aharon Keshales, Steven Kostanski, Marvin Kren, Juan Martinez Moreno, Erik Matti, Julien Maury, Robert Morgan, Chris Nash, Vincenzo Natali, Hajime Ohata, Navot Papushado, Bill Plympton, Dennison Ramalho, Todd Rohal, Jerome Sable, Bruno Samper, Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska, Soichi Umezawa
Starring: Tristan Risk, Martina Garcia, Beatrice Dalle, Lawrence R Harvey, Jerod Meagher, Andy Nyman, C Ernst Harth, Miguel Angel Munoz, Ivan Gonzalez, Ian Virgo, Alys Crocker, Victoria Broom, Lee Majoub, Kestrin Pantera, Conor Sweeney
The first ABCs of Death it has to be said, had a rather fun and novel concept at its core. The idea of presenting 26 short films, each based around a letter of the alphabet was an inspired one. However, despite an array of horror talent both old and new, the film came up incredibly short (no pun intended!). It was inevitable that consistency would be an issue on a project like this but for the shorts to be as uninspired and often unpleasant as they turned out to be was something of a surprise. I appreciate that not everyone feels this way, and the film(s) has a lot of fans and was successful enough to warrant this sequel. Again we are treated to 26 short films based around the letters of the alphabet, and again it is a mixed bag, and again to these eyes anyway, it never achieves its potential and is lacking in something truly inspired.
How you feel about this second dose of alphabetised mayhem will probably depend of how much you liked the first dose, and how forgiving you are of the film maker’s indulgencies. It isn’t without merit and I have to admit that three or four of the shorts hit the mark, just about, for me this time which is a bigger success rate than the first. But ultimately as an exhibition of the short film format, and as an anthology picture it fails and is mostly filled with either very bland student style films, or films that are overly bizarre just for the sake of it.
A is for Amateur is a convoluted little opener that I completely lost interest in early on and wasn’t a good start. B is for Badger was a mini mockumentary about an obnoxious reporter that falls foul of an angry man eating badger. Harmless enough, but again lacks punch. C is for Capital Punishment has bigger ideas, and its denouement is shocking, but it doesn’t quite ring true. D is for Deloused is one of the better entries; a stop motion animation about large bugs it is creepy and well done. E is for Equilibrium is kooky and entertaining as a girl comes between two castaways. F is for Falling is one of the worst of the bunch. It tries so hard to say something about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict that it ultimately says nothing at all.
G is for Grandad is another poor entry and an example of something being gross for the sake of it. H is for Head Games is a weird animation about relationship power struggles; odd, but effective in its way. The amusingly gruesome I is for Invincible is a better short as a family tries to kill its invincible matriarch for its inheritance. J is for Jesus is a brutal and visceral affair about ignorance and martyrdom. It is solid and quite frightening, but not particularly memorable. K is for Knell was another oddity that failed to really connect with me. L is for Legacy involves a ritual sacrifice going wrong, but again is fairly forgettable. M is for Masticate is a slow motion bore that goes for high style but feels forced and a bit silly in the end.
N is for Nexus is better from the famed Larry Fessenden. Dealing with interweaving fates as people prepare for Halloween it is genuinely quite shocking. O is for Ochlocracy is well set up as it deals with a woman on trial for crimes against zombies after the zombies have become the dominant species. Smart and witty, it just out stays its welcome a little. P is for P-P-P-P SCARY! is just awful. Neither funny nor scary it is misguided and smart arsed. Q is for Questionnaire is ok. It works on its own terms, but isn’t particularly special. R is for Roulette sees three people in a basement forced to play Russian Roulette. Whilst it is well done, it doesn’t seem to have any real point. S is for Split is almost brilliant. Using split screen it follows a man as he is forced to listen to an attack on his wife via his phone in another country. It is genuinely tense, but is let down by offering up a predictable final twist.
T is for Torture Porn sees American Mary’s The Soska Sisters take a stab at the murkier aspects of the porn industry. An interesting set up is ultimately let down and the film doesn’t particularly stand out. U is for Utopia is a quite effective sci-fi tale about our obsession with perfection. It emerges as one of the smarter more interesting entries. V is for Vacation is a raw and brutal entry that sees two obnoxious tourists fall foul of a couple of prostitutes they have mistreated. Rough and unpleasant, it is hit and miss. W is for Wish is a strange, but nightmarish journey into dark childish fantasy. Some interesting ideas are buried under tacky visuals. X is probably the most difficult letter to land but Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo’s X is for Xylophone is a good entry that goes to some pretty unpleasant places but does so with a wry and sinister smile. Y is for Youth is a crazed revenge fantasy that has some cool ideas but doesn’t feel entirely complete. Finally the end comes, and it ends on a high note with Z is for Zygote. It doesn’t make a great deal of sense but it is wonderfully gross and disturbingly funny.
Ultimately what we have here is a very mixed package from a very mixed bag of film makers. The best anthology films tend to have something that ties all the segments together, giving them some sort of narrative link and making them feel more cinematic. Possibly the biggest problem with both ABCs of Death films is that they lack any real connecting feature. They have the concept to work with but ultimately nothing is relevant to anything else on display meaning it is all a bit pick and mix. If you liked ABCs of Death the likelihood is you will find something to like here as well, but if you had little love for it the first time round it is unlikely that you will find much of interest here. Diverse, certainly but ultimately fairly forgettable from almost all concerned.