WARNING: THIS BLOG CONTAINS BODYCOUNT. HIGH RISK OF SPOILERS. ENTER IF YOU DARE.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Fun and Weirder Ways of Learning: The ABCs of Death 2 (2014)

ABCs of Death 2 (2014)
Starring: Martina García, Béatrice Dalle, Laurence R. Harvey (And A Whole. Lot. More.)

Straight from the creepy stopmotion opening of paper children being mutilated during playtime while a chilly humming tunes along the gory chaos, I can tell this follow-up of 2012's experimental short film compilation really took its time to improve itself. (So much that I re-watched it three times!)
animated mutilated children; ABCs of Death 2, did God send you to me?
While it's still a mixed bag, the fact that these shorts have more focus on the subject of death, one who is expecting the same craziness of the first will surely be surprised on how much these entries took the idea by heart and delivers us an array of wittier, funnier and most importantly, messier ways to die and learn our Alphabets. So, without further delay children, here's our ABCs of Death, again! Oh and also, like all of my reviews here...

WARNING! THE FOLLOWING POST MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS!
SHIT LOAD OF SPOILERS!

A is for Amateur
Rating: ***1/2

Completely by surprise, our first alphabet starts off fun: we see a hitman prepares himself to assassinate a drug-sniffing target who just so happens to be residing in a fancy apartment. In with the guns and into the air vent, he successfully infiltrates the system and murders the cokehead and his lackeys. Or so we thought.

Beautifully and effectively edited, with a touch of ironic (and darkly humorous) bloody comedy, A is for Amateur starts off our list with the much needed bang that was missing from the first, properly settles us in place as the rest of our shorts ready themselves.

Bodycount:
3 males shot
1 male dies from his injuries
1 male shot on the neck
Total: 5

B is for Badger
Rating: ***

What happens when a wet blanket of a professional reporter, doing an article about how the manufacturing of power plants affect the local wildlife, gets a carefree camera crew? Well whatever it'll be, it involves a badger hole. Again keeping the dark humor alive in this compilation is this short mockumentary that's, while brief, got  me chuckling with its simplicity. Oddly enough, I was glad that we never got to see the creature up-close, as it kinda helps the funnies for this entry and the ironic ending.

Bodycount:
1 male torn in half
Total: 1

C is for Capital Punishment
Rating: **

This one kinda disappoints me; it's nothing more than a story of a man wrongfully accused of murder being trialed and sentenced to death by an entire town until one of some of them found out they might be killing him for no reason. What should have followed was an intense race against time to stop a real injustice just seeing this is a short horror film, I kinda saw how the ending was gonna play out so it wasn't much of a big surprise.

Positives from this entry would be the cool gore effects and the working cathartic element but the plot itself was too simplistic to entertain me.

Bodycount:
1 male smashes to a windshield
1 male killed in car crash
1 male beheaded with an axe
Total: 3

D is for Deloused
Rating: ***1/2


A surreal animation from the genius who brought us the underground horror animated short The Cat with Hands, it shows us a bizarre situation concerning a captured victim of some leather-clad trio (who more or less resemble Hellraiser cenobites) taking revenge when a demonic louse gives him the opportunity to get back at them, but with a price. Creepily gets into your skin, the stopmotion short is as nightmarish as it'll be, expressively imaginative with its ghoulish concept and characters, some of the good reasons to praise this entry and its director.

Bodycount:
1 male beheaded with a blade
1 male beheaded with a blade
1 male beheaded with a blade
1 male stomped on the head
Total 4

E is for Equilibirum
Rating: ***


And jumping back to a lighter tone is this short by the director behind Juan of The Dead, about two castaways who find their friendship tested by the arrival of another castaway. Slightly misogynistic but overall a funny black comedy that's strangely warm in the end, the entry has this TV commercial tone that kinda hits the right combination of pacing, tone and unexpected last minute laughs.

Bodycount:
1 female killed by a thrown coconut
Total: 1

F is for Falling
Rating: *


An Israeli woman is caught in a tree by her parachute and is found by a hostile Palestinian boy. What soon follows was something I hardly cared about cuz, well, I never cared about anybody in this short. I'm sure this has some sort of social commentary about the wars between the two countries these main casts represent but politics and power struggle was never my thing. Add the lame death in this short and you got one unsatisfied viewer.

Bodycount:
1 male fell down a tree
Total: 1

G is for Grandad
Rating: ***

When an old-timer gets fed up with his snooty grandson, you would expect a berating or two from the old guy, but to find the old guy sleeping in a mattress? Expect the weird in this entry, as well as a nice kill and a shot of of some guy's wrinkly, shrivly sack. All in a neat package that's worthy of some laughs and gross-outs.

Bodycount:
1 male stabbed on the neck
Total: 1

H is for Head Games
Rating: *

Perhaps the only other animation in this collection, the short features two lovers kissing, only to end up violently attacking each other with an array of surreal weaponry and mutilations. It's craftily impressive as far as surrealism goes but I'm not to keen to this short. Perhaps it's too weird for its own sake to enjoy in anyway? Yeah, probably.

Bodycount:
1 male and 1 female mutilates themselves in a surreal fashion
Total: 2

I is for Invincible
Rating: **1/2

Now this is something I wish my country would do more, especially since the director here and the short itself is Filipino!

When an old crone refuses to die due to a cursed stone inside her body, her young benefactors try everything they can to get rid of her, much to their frustration. It is lacking some story and the acting is cheesy, but the tone is comic and the gore effects were the best I've seen! Still makes me wonder why the big shot directors from my country can't continue making fun films like this properly?

Bodycount:
1 female decapitated with a cleaver
Total: 1

J is for Jesus
Rating: ***

When a gay man was caught passionately in love with another, his father hires a couple of men to kill the lover and brutally punish him under an extremist faith. That is until something intervenes. I like this entry for reasons that it closely resembles a cool slasher, all the while stabbing at the subject of homosexuality and how some organized religion abhors this to the point of extremes. Gory and haunting, there's also a point up for its well-deserved "happy" ending.

Bodycount:
1 male seen bloodied and smothered with a plastic bag
1 male bludgeoned with the club end of a scythe, beheaded
1 male killed with a crucifix cattle brand
Total: 3

K is for Knell
Rating: ****

And lo, the first short film in this collection that I fell in love with instantly!

A woman looks out from her window and notices a strange floating orb of liquid suddenly plaguing a nearby building. She watches as all its occupants suddenly turn violent and murders anyone they can grab. Afterwards, they pause and stare at her. Before you know it, whatever happened to them now made its way to her room, possibly to succumb her to a similar fate.

The short has this impressive Lovecraftian feel to it, dreadful and unsettling mixing quite well to deliver a feeling of disturbance not often felt in a short film at this caliber. Beautifully shot and chillingly scary, Knell is an instant fave!

Bodycount:
1 victim murdered
1 victim thrown off a building
1 victim stabbed to death
1 victim murdered
Possibly more victims murdered offcamera
Total: 4+

L is for Legacy
Rating: 0

...What the fuck was this? As far as my brain could comprehend, Legacy was about some ritual gone wrong , resulting to some monster (that's obviously a guy in a cheap costume) killing some people. Everything else about it was either a blur to me or something that had no clue about. I'm sure this short would have worked a lot better if it was a bit longer, perhaps explain a thing or two for those who aren't familiar with the subject (it's obvious this is some African ritual) but as a short, this is the suckiest among the entries.

Bodycount:
1 female rots
1 female clawed on the gut
1 male impaled by a levitating branch
Total: 3

M is for Masticate
Rating: ***

The winner for this film's contest where aspiring horror directors tackle deaths starting with M; Shot in slow-mo, Masticate had a fat guy running down a street in his skippies, attacking anyone he can get his sweaty hands on while a trippy stoner music plays in the background. A bit fun, obviously tributing itself to a short from the original ABCS of Death, the entire film is crisp, crazy and cuts to a little twist that's a tad obvious with the title given to the short. Overall a worthy addition, with its fair share of shocks and laughs.

Bodycount:
1 male shot on the head
Total: 1

N is for Nexus
Rating: *1/2

Also titled as A Halloween in New York, Nexus is an impressively edited tale of a guy and a girl meeting up for a Halloween date, all the while cutting back and fort to a cab driver being argued by his passenger. As much as I want to love this, the fact that I kinda saw the ending a mile away killed some of the tension, thus I'm not too happy with the result. Death happens and that's it. Kinda lame.

Bodycount:
1 boy hit by a bike
1 male hit by a car, lands on his head
Total: 2

O is for Ochlocracy
Rating: *1/2

And here we go with our first Japanese entry; imagine a world where zombies nearly overran humans but somehow regained their intelligence thanks to a miracle drug. Now, they set the remaining humans up for trial for "murdering" their kind, in a silly and twisted EC comic-esque scenario.

Now, I like the idea, there's a whole lot of laughs that you could get from this, but the quick pacing and the cartoonish atmosphere wore out on me quickly, leaving me to question myself if that was all to it? This could have been better as a feature, or at least if it was a bit longer.

Bodycount:
1 girl shot on the head
1 male executed via electric chair
1 female executed via electric chair
Total: 3

P is for P-P-P-P Scary!
Rating: ***

This is probably what The Three Stooges would be if they were plunged into something surreal and creepy; a trio of criminals (who two of them have long pointy noses for some reason) find themselves in the middle of darkness and finds a man in a rocking chair with a baby. The man wakes up, dances a happy Scottish dance for them before blowing out their only light. When they lit up again, they'll see something scary (and/or silly), and soon dwindles down one by one. Weird, funny and slightly creepy, nothing can beat that!

Bodycount:
2 males found melted
1 male presumably killed
Total: 3

Q is for Questionnaire
Rating: **

A man is given a free intelligence exam while the shots coincides with him being surgically de-brained. Why is something they keep as a surprise in the end but for honesty's sake, it's kinda funny. Not much from this one; apart from the painful looking operation and gooey gore, the short feels a bit too easy for any shocks or scares. Then again, couldn't blame them for trying.

Bodycount:
1 male surgically had his brain removed
Total: 1

R is for Roulette
Rating: *

Two men and a woman in a basement, taking turns in a Russian roulette. In black and white. Some called it intense, others called it gripping, I find it boring.

Not wanting to sound snippy but roulettes are creepier if done alone or at least with just two "participants". Even more if they're been coaxed by a large crowd, now that's creepy! This, sadly, felt too drawn out that even the unexplainable twist ending in the end could not save it. But then again, this might be just me.

Bodycount:
1 female shot on the head
Total: 1

S is for Split
Rating: ****

A husband on a business trip phones his wife at home, only to have their conversation cut short as a masked intruder breaks inside their house and hunts down the wife. All of this shot grippingly in split screens. It's quick, nasty and brutal, Split easily won a place among my faves as a Home Invasion, a horror-sub-genre I'm a sucker for, as well as surprising us with a twist we never saw coming.

Bodycount:
1 female brained to death with a hammer
Total: 1

T is for Torture Porn
Rating: **

From American Mary's Soska sisters, a porn studio molests a prostitute they picked up, something they will quickly regret as she hides something deadly underneath her skirt. A fine example of weirdness out of nowhere that works comfortably as a short film, but it feels a bit rushed, as if nothing almost happened until the last minute, and even that was quick-cut into an editing artwork, but at least this was far more entertaining than the sister's feature films...

Bodycount:
1 male strangled
1 male sodomized
1 male bitten on the face
Total: 3

U is for Utopia
Rating: *1/2

Set in a future where everybody is perfect, one unattractive man gets singled out and publicly executed. And much like the case of Nexus, I find this hard to enjoy coming from the fact that this plot had been done to death and there's barely any surprises at all. Seriously, how many times had we seen a film where people gets executed in public for being different? Perhaps if the short was a little longer, it would have done better but I'll give it points for it's polished quality and that cool looking Cop-Bot!

Bodycount:
1 male incinerated
Total: 1

V is for Vacation
Rating: ****

And yet another found footage film, Vacation had us watching a boy video-calling his girlfriend while on vacation. Started out sweet until his bestfriend shows us, steals the phone and showed us what really went on that night. It wasn't pretty and it ain't gonna get better. Gritty, mean-spirited, exploitative, intense and very bloody, if my choice of words doesn't make you very curious about this short then you're either a failure as a horror fan, or I'm not doing enough to express my love for this entry. But seriously, the wait was worth it for this short!

Bodycount:
1 male stabbed to death with a screwdriver
1 male fell off a balcony
Total: 2

W is for Wish
Rating: ****

What begins as a toy commercial for some action figure playset, one boy's wish to help their hero in an epic battle got granted magically and puts these two up in a world less magical and more doomed (and messed-up) than they imagined.

Mean spirited all the way, with some of the most demented twists to come out from what a little boy would picture his fantasy land (kinda like what Michael Bay is doing with Hasbro's Transformer franchise. the robot Gorno's getting more extreme!), complete with monstrous mutants, merciless armies and an Eldritch overlord. Juice it up with a very unsettling ending and you'll get this nightmarishly fun short!

Bodycount:
An army is seen being slaughtered
1 male shot
1 male speared through the head
1 male had his head shot off
1 male seen disemboweled
1 boy burned to death
Total: 5+


X is for Xylophone
Rating: **

Starring Insides' Béatrice Dalle as a babysitter going bonker after listening to the kid's xylophone playing, the short was sortah predictable. As a two person act, I quickly knew one of them's gonna go bite the big one and seeing this is made by the same folks who filmed movies where pregnant women and young boys were victimized by deranged stalkers and maniacs in clown suits, yeah, that girl was so dead. It's gory, yes. Messed up? Oh, definitely! But not quite enough to get me upset to the gut. In fact, my initial reaction was more like "okay, so the kid's dead. Who else wants that slice of pizza?"

...I was eating pizza watching these films.

Bodycount:
1 girl mutilated to the bones
Total: 1

Y is for Youth
Rating: ****

A melancholic piece about a teenage girl's violent fantasies against her neglectful and abusive parents, this visually surreal and impressive look into a troubled girl's mind win a praise worthy rating for its intense savagery, despite being altogether cartoonish and silly, and an effective direction. It's creepy and saddening, something that rarely works for most full feature these days.

Bodycount:
1 male mutilated by a guitar growing out of his mouth
1 female broke apart into egg shells
1 male and 1 female killed with a cutter
Total: 4

Z is for Zygote
Rating: ****

Now this is how you end a short film collection!

Perhaps one of the more effectively disturbing and visually impressive entries, the story centers a woman who managed to stave the birth of her child for 13 years and now lives with a preteen daughter residing inside her womb! What follows is a deranged turn of events that's bloodier and weirder than any of the other shorts combined! With a haunting atmosphere that's chilling to the bone and practical effects best seen to be believed, the entry seals the deal and concludes this cavalcade of nightmares the right way!

Bodycount:
1 cat killed with a hammer
1 female disemboweled
Total: 2

All in all, I have the most fun with this! Noticeably the death toll is awfully lower than the last movie but, hey, so long as these things live up  to the wild and demented nature that is horror then I'm all up for his! And to think, after two years we'll have our third collection! If this is any sign of further improvement, I say BRING IT ON!

Total Bodycount: 59+

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