The ABCs of Death 2 (2014)
There was a period in the mid to late 2010s where horror anthologies had an enormous surge in popularity. They are reasonably cheap movies to film, directors are asked to work on small budgets, and many are already used to that expectation. The risk you run with anthologies of any kind is that tones and style will be so varied that it’s just simply not possible to make one of these films that appeal to everyone from start to finish. The ABCs of Death series was like a horror anthology in overdrive as it touted 26 shorts in one package, a film for each letter of the English alphabet. This means there will be films you love and ones you will outright hate; your mileage may vary. In this review, I will talk specifically about the shorts I enjoyed.
D is for Deloused
(Directed by Robert Morgan)
Robert Morgan came across my radar in the early 2000s with his short film “The Cat With Hands.” It is a brilliant & silly horror film that doesn’t seem concerned with explaining its logic. It just is. The same could be said about this short, a stop-motion animation piece that sees an old man being seemingly rejuvenated. A prisoner is left for dead until a small louse is crushed and transforms into a human-sized version. It begins to consume the man’s hand, and a younger version emerges from the unconscious older body. A voice from within the bug tells the man it needs lives to keep him alive, and he goes on a killing spree. Morgan has expressed an appreciation for Edgar Allan Poe, and while the aesthetic here is more splatterpunk, thematically, it is right in line with Poe’s classic tales of ironic horror.
G is for Grandad
(Directed by Jim Hosking)
Hosking is a director you will either love or hate; there is no middle ground. I have only seen his film An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn, but one of these days, I’m going to strap in and do a deep dive. I think Hosking can work best in smaller doses because his work is so insane. Calling his films off-beat is an understatement. G is for Grandad is typical Hosking, with bizarre characters (a grandson and his grandad) having a nonsensical conversation. Things get even more insane, and I found it pretty hilarious. I’m not usually a fan of horror-comedy, but things that are such a specific aesthetic like this, rather than aping a popular style, always hit much better, in my opinion.
K is for Knell
(Directed by Kristina Buožytė and Bruno Samper)
This is a relatively sparse short, but I enjoy it for that. It does remind me of the short film Intruders. A segment in that film starts with a fairly similar premise of an incident occurring in an apartment building observed by someone in the building across the way. They both feature an evil presence moving towards the observer’s building, but the tone and plot go in very different directions. My favorite short films in this collection are the ones that touch on the supernatural without ever being specific about a particular monster or phenomenon. This could be aliens, interdimensional beings, something demonic. It doesn’t matter; it’s just an evil presence being forced upon many people.
P is for P-P-P-P SCARY!
(Directed by Todd Rohal)
Like Jim Hosking, Todd Rohal is going to be a director you either love or hate. And once again, this is a short film that is predicated on complete nonsense. It’s a black & white short featuring Three Stooges-like characters. We get no sense of the setting or plot, just three guys in striped prison jumpsuits wandering in the dark with a lantern. They come across an old man rocking a baby. When the old man sees them, he grins grotesquely and jumps to his feet to dance an Irish jig. I won’t spoil the whole thing other than it totally bizarre, but I liked that about it. If you are going to make horror-comedy, then don’t try to be “cool” or “badass” about it; just get weird.
W is for Wish
(Directed by Steven Kostanski)
Starting out like an action figure commercial from the 1980s, this short takes a hard left turn when the two boys playing with the toys are magically transported to the world of Harmonia, the setting for “Champions of Zorb.” They immediately encounter their hero, Prince Casio, who nopes out of the battlefield. The boys are captured and taken to the castle of Zorb, the Skeletor analog, where they experience a whole host of horrors. This short was done by Astron-6, a Canadian independent filmmaking group that has made some fantastic gore-filled science fiction & horror. I see them as sort of Tim & Eric fully leaning into the tropes of the horror genre. I might review their recent breakout hit Psycho Gorman sometime this year, and I have wanted to watch their acclaimed web series Divorced Dad.
Z is for Zygote
(Directed by Chris Nash)
This short started out seemingly innocuous but then went incredibly dark & macabre by the end. A pregnant woman is left alone by her husband, who says he will get the midwife. Outside, the snow is pouring down, and they are unsure if he will get back in time. He gives her a jar containing “Portlock root” and says this will inhibit the labor from completion until he returns. She is worried about the amount, and he replies there are years worth in the jar. I won’t say what happens next, but things get very gruesome by the end, and the film certainly plays with the limits of logic in a fun way. I was definitely covering my eyes near the end of this one. They don’t spare the fake blood and guts, but it concludes in a twisted & satisfying manner.