Directed By: Rodney Ascher, Julian Barratt, et al
Starring: Martina García, Jen Soska, Béatrice Dalle
Tag line: "Some people never learn"
Trivia: Aside from directing one of the shorts, Jen and Sylvia Soska also appear briefly in "W is for Wish"
It’s time for another gruesome trip through the alphabet!
Like the 2012 original, 2014’s The ABCs of Death 2 invited filmmakers from around the world to participate in an experiment: each director (or team of directors, as the case may be) was assigned a letter of the alphabet, at which point they wrote and directed a short movie about death that, in some way, was connected to the letter they were given. The content of each film was left to the discretion of their individual creators, meaning they could devise any sort of story they wanted as long as it related to their letter. And with the likes of Jen and Sylvia Soska (Dead Hooker in a Trunk, American Mary), Julien Maury (Inside), and Rodney Ascher (who helmed the 2012 documentary Room 237, in which five individuals presented their own unique interpretation of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining) taking part, The ABCs of Death 2 promised to be every bit as much fun as its predecessor.
As it was with The ABCs of Death, some of the shorts in The ABCs of Death 2 were better than others. In fact, if I were to pick my favorite entries, they would be (in alphabetical order):
C is for Capital Punishment by Julien Gilbey – In this short, a small community takes the law into its own hands by executing a man (Ian Virgo) accused of murdering a teenage girl. But did he really commit the crime? Though a not-too-subtle jab at the death penalty, C is for Capital Punishment still impressed me with its acting, and its final scene is as brutal as they come.
I is for Invincible by Erik Matti – A crazy, sometimes creepy film about four adult children doing everything they can to finish off their wealthy mother (Sherry Lara) so they can divvy up her estate. The problem is that, no matter what they do, mama doesn’t want to die! The violence in this short is gloriously over-the-top, and its tongue-in-cheek approach only adds to the experience.
O is for Ochlocracy (Mob Rule) by Hajime Ohata – Putting a different spin on the zombie apocalypse, this film, about a woman (Aki Morita) brought before a court of the undead and charged with murder, was very creative, and more than a little funny.
S is for Split by Juan Martinez Moreno – This incredibly intense home invasion tale has a few twists that I never saw coming.
T is for Torture Porn by Jan and Sylvia Soska – I’m a fan of the Soska sisters, and this short about a dickhead pornographer (Connor Sweeney) who gets his comeuppance when his latest subject (the stunning Tristan Risk) doesn’t take his abuse lying down has one of the collection’s most satisfying finales.
Z is for Zygote by Chris Nash – The ABCs of Death 2 ends on a strong note thanks to this bizarre look at a pregnant woman (Delphine Roussel) who refuses to give birth until her husband (Timothy Paul McCarthy) returns home. The problem is: he’s been away almost 13 years! This clever short is as gross as it is imaginative, but I loved every minute of it!
Also worth mentioning is K is for Knell directed by Kristina Buozyte and Bruno Samper, about a woman (Julija Steponaityte) who, after seeing a black orb floating in the sky, witnesses a series of murders occurring in the apartment building across from hers. K is for Knell starts off great, but lost me in its final moments, which didn’t live up to what went before. I also enjoyed Vincenzo Natali’s U is for Utopia, a sci-fi flick set in the not-too-distant future that attacks society’s view of what constitutes a “perfect” person.
Alas, as with any anthology, The ABCs of Death 2 has its duds. L is for Legacy by Lancelot Iduwa Imasuen had an interesting concept (an African village faces the wrath of the Gods when a planned religious ceremony goes awry), but was undercut by its shoddy-looking monster; and P is for P-P-P-P Scary! By Todd Rohal, a black-and-white comedy about 3 inept prison escapees (Bryan Connolly, David Strong, and Vincent Prendergast) who encounter a strange man (Ivan Dimitrov), didn’t really make me laugh. In fact, I found the characters pretty damn annoying.
Like The ABCs of Death, The ABCs of Death 2 is always intriguing (even its worst entries manage to keep your attention), and I can only hope that, somewhere along the line, the series gets another entry. As good as The ABCs of Death 1 and 2 are, I’m fairly certain a few more treks through the alphabet will prove just as fascinating.