ABCs of Death 2 is the second anthology to present a simple idea: take a letter of the alphabet, assign it to a director known for their work in the field of horror, and hey presto, you have twenty-six short films edited together on the theme of shocks and fright. First up to open is E.L. Katz's A is for Amateur, which delineates the scheme of a hitman (Eric Jacobus) to garner a large amount of money by carrying out the execution of a British gangster (Andy Nyman) by sneaking into his apartment through the air ducts, he's seen it done many times before in the movies so it sounds like a cinch to carry out in real life. Or so he thinks, but ducts in real life are nowhere near as accommodating as those in Hollywood fiction...
Which is a great, blackly humorous way to kick off the second instalment of a project that started with some success, if not universal acclaim, with The ABCs of Death. Although not enjoying every segment in that was par for the course with anthologies, especially anthologies with this amount of stories all wildly varying in style, on the whole those who appreciated what producers Tim League and Ant Timpson had ambitions to do really did enjoy the variety and imagination most of the directors displayed, and if you were not diverted by the section currently playing then you did not have long to wait until the next one would appear, and you could like that better. It was this variety that was the concept's strength, leaving you feeling satisfied that you had partaken of a hearty twenty-six course meal of cinema.
Horror is a genre that lends itself well to portmanteau, you just have to look at the success of Amicus in the sixties and seventies to see that, and the quality of each part here was fairly high, with only a small handful of pieces that would leave you indifferent. Some, like Kristina Buozyte and Bruno Samper's K is for Knell were deliberately baffling, hinting strongly that there was a lot more to what the lead witnesses from her apartment window than they had time to expand upon, though others, such as Todd Rohal's forties pastiche P is for P-P-P-P-Scary! went all out to be as confounding as possible, which was brave but risked losing an audience who showed up for the gore. Bloodshed was a feature of pretty much all of them, sometimes humorous as Julian Barratt's encounter with a supposedly dead badger.
And sometimes more serious, as Dennison Ramalho's J is for Jesus took on fundamentalist Christians who would seek to "cure" homosexuality, but the reliance on spilling the claret did mean every section tended to lean on that for their effect, rather than being creepy, which not many attempted. Of the ones that were, Robert Morgan's D is for Deloused was a rather excellent animation set in its own grotty world with insects and beheadings, all played out in a set of rules we cannot begin to fathom; it was business like that, genuinely imaginative, that proved the worth of the production. Marvin Kren's R is for Roulette also stood out from the pack by presenting an imitation vintage melodrama which edges towards something very much in its own strangeness, open-ended as it was.
Quite often, the influence of eighties splatstick made its presence felt, with letters like Jen and Sylvia Soska's T is for Torture Porn giving a bunch of sexist video makers their peculiar comeuppance, Bill Plympton's typical but no less welcome H is for Head Games demonstrating he had not lost his touch for laugh out loud weirdness (and how nice that he was asked to participate), Rodney Ascher's Q is for Questionnaire demonstrating the terrors of what taking a Scientology-esque personality test could lead to and Steven Kostanski's W is for Wish, a toy commercial nightmare. Robert Boochek's M is for Masticate doesn't look like a comedy bit until its topical punchline, though some went for all out shock, such as Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen's Nollywood tale of village witchcraft L is for Legacy, or Sôichi Umezawa's effects-packed insight into the mind of a troubled teen Y is for Youth. And then there was Jim Hosking's G is for Grandad where... well, who knows what was going through his mind when he concocted that one? Overall, a winner, and no toilets this time.
[Monster's DVD has trailers as an extra, but that's about your lot. The disc will have great replay value, however.]