Another 26 filmmakers come together to create 26 films about death that relates to the letters of the alphabet.
One of the downsides of having to review distribution screeners is having to review movies you’d rather not. Of course, opening with that kind of statement, it’s fairly obvious how I feel about having to review “ABCs of Death 2”. The responsibility wouldn’t have fallen on my shoulders if it wasn’t for the fact that I was dumb enough to watch the first movie, unlike Ronny. “Never again,” said I, but like a cosmic kick to the nuts, fate has intervened leaving me no choice but to watch the needless and unnecessary sequel.
Usually this part of the review is where we reiterate the plot outline for the movie but I don’t feel that is necessary for “ABCs of Death 2”. It’s the same thing as last time: 26 short films about death where each death relates to a letter in the alphabet.
I was not looking forward to watching “ABCs of Death 2” since I absolutely hated the first one and I went in expecting to hate this one as well. Surprisingly, after it was over, I didn’t outright hate it. I didn’t like it but it wasn’t as obnoxious and insulting as the first “ABCs of Death”. "ABCs of Death 2" is ike most anthologies; there are some segments that are good, some that are bad, and some that are just okay. Unfortunately, most of the segments in this sequel fell into the ‘bad’ and ‘just okay’ categories.
The concept behind “ABCs of Death” is fun; there’s a lot of creative possibilities but the problem that I have is a majority of the segments do not feel like complete ideas. The movie ends up feeling like a cheap death scenes compilation, and that’s fine for some viewers I’m sure, but that’s not what I’m looking for, personally. As an example; “B is for Badger” from Julian Barratt — best known for “The Mighty Boosh” — has a perfectly acceptable installment in which an unbearable wildlife TV presenter is attacked and killed by an animal.
There’s no real story with “B is for Badger” and ultimately is nothing more than just a death scene, but that’s not a bad thing necessarily. Particularly because Barratt’s short was intentionally simple to be entertaining and amusing, which it is. There are a few other shorts that are like this but the downside is that when the shorts are nothing more than death scenes, the movie becomes rather boring.
I could deal with a random collection of death scenes but then you end up having to watch segments that are just plain bad. Segments like “G is for Grandad”, “N is for Nexus”, “Q is for Questionnaire”, or “X is for Xylophone” are bad because they feel like the people behind them squandered an opportunity and simply threw something together. “X for Xylophone” is one that I became particularly annoyed with since there was absolutely nothing to the short film — parents come home to find their child dismembered by her grandmother after she becoming annoyed by the child playing her xylophone. Technically, there is a story there but it’s empty and pointless where nothing satisfying is offered. The only thing that I could get out of that segment was a feeling that filmmakers put as little thought into it as they possibly could.
I can already here people coming to the defense of these installments: “With 26 short films, the filmmakers don’t have enough time to focus on things like story,” or “The is about death scenes and nothing else.”
Neither one is a viable excuse since there are many filmmakers out there who are more than capable of producing micro-short films, (micro-short films are ones that have runtimes of less than 5 minutes) that are not only well rounded, but also feature complete and competent stories. Is it a challenge to make micro-shorts? Absolutely, but that’s still not an excuse. Stop-motion animator Robert Morgan — a man who’s built a career out of short films — and his segment, “D is for Deloused”, is an example of a segment that is able to succeed. He manages to tell a complete story and create something that’s visually engaging in less time in comparison to some of the other segments.
There are also some shorts, like "F is for Falling", which is good, albeit heavy handed, but ultimately forgettable because it lacks sustenance. Or "K is for Knell" that's good and atmospheric but doesn't work well within its allotted time and would be better off longer or as a feature film. "ABCs of Death 2" is really a mix bag of varying quality and doesn't always fall strictly into good or bad categories.
However, having said that, a majority of the short films in this installment of “ABCs of Death” fall under the “bad” or “just okay” categories rather than good. Even with some feeling like they were nothing more than death scene excerpts, only about a handful of the films were genuinely bad. The rest were "just okay" because they were simply forgettable, unfortunately.
Also, a particular issue I have with the "ABCs of Death 2" is that because many of the short films feel like excerpts, and not complete films, the overall movie comes across more like a mixtape than an anthology. Which, if all I’m going to do is watch a mixtape of death scenes from various movies, I’ll watch one of the many, many horror mixtapes that are out there in the wild. Or better yet, I’ll watch something like “Retard-o-Tron” from Cinema Sewer creator Robin Bougie. At least with “Retard-o-Tron” Robin Bougie manages to make his videos bounce between being weird, disgusting, and entertaining. Something that the “ABCs of Death” films could do, but are unable to. And to be honest, I hate to say that about “ABCs of Death” because, as I said, the concept behind the series is a great with so many possibilities. Also, I’m sure the filmmakers involved in the project do have fun putting their contributions together. For me though, I just wish the final product was more interesting and more entertaining.