Do I Have to Spell It Out for You?

Over the next few days, I will take a look at a collection of collections.  Horror seems to be the most popular genre for the film anthology.  I think a lot of that is the result of the EC Comics influence that so drove the filmmakers of the 70s and 80s, who then in turn influenced future generations.  I'm not convinced that horror is really the best genre for brevity, greatly preferring the slow-burning dread myself.  There's also the not-insignificant matter of inconsistency.  Anthologies are, almost by definition, bound to be a mixed bag.  That being said, both the V/H/S series and the ABCs of Death series (both highly inconsistent themselves) have shown a few glimmers of hope that there might still be potential in the short form.



The ABCs of Death 2 - 2014
see link for writing & directing credits

I wasn't particularly impressed by 2012's horror anthology The ABCs of Death.  The concept -- assign 26 directors a letter of the alphabet and give them free reign (and I mean FREE reign) to create a short film (using any word of their choosing beginning with that letter) on the theme of death (with the general understanding that the end product would be a horror movie, mind you) -- was intriguing, but the end product suffered from the flaws inherent to the concept.  There simply weren't enough good segments to tide one over through all the dumb ones.  That being said, it's still worth seeing if the concept interests you.  While the average gets dragged down by weak links, the few gold nuggets do indeed represent some unique and imaginative film making.

If The ABCs of Death 2 had been any other sequel, then I'd surely have been unlikely to watch it based on my experience with the first, but due to the concept (and some positive early reviews) it sounded like it deserved a second chance... or 26 second chances in this case.  The concept is the same, but the overall quality of the shorts is greatly improved.

The original suffered (and I can hardly believe I'm saying this, but) from too many high-concept shorts that weren't well fleshed out.  Sure, some of the "zany" ones were fun, but then they got kind of monotonous.  Ditto the "moody" ones and the "look how much fake blood I can get with our penny-ante budget!" ones.  The sequel has many more segments with better considered narratives.  There are still a lot of "Uh Oh! Now THAT was a twist!" endings reminiscent of 1950s horror comics, but I can see how that would be a difficult angle to avoid given the history of the horror genre in America.

It seems like there are fewer animated segments in ABCs 2, for good or ill.  I can only think of two.  H is for Head Games by Bill Plympton is (disappointingly) disappointing, playing like an outtake from the kissing cartoons he was doing 20 years ago.  The other one, D is for Deloused was one of the most disturbing and strange segments in the whole collection.  Other stand-outs (at least those that come to mind the next day, although I feel like there are a lot more that would elicit and "Oh yeaaahh" from me is mentioned) include the VERY messed-up Z is for Zygote, the tense and slightly shocking R is for Roulette, and U is for Utopia & C is for Capital Punishment which actually develop poignant themes.  Once again, the Japanese directors show up to defend their insanity crown, though few of these bolster the overall average of the collection.

Short stories made shorter; there are still a few clunkers in ABCs 2, but they're now squarely in the minority as this sequel anthology gathers some altogether stronger narrative pieces while still maintaining a great sense of variety.


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