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The ABCs of Death 2

The ABCs of Death 2

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Though given “complete artistic freedom,” the international directors charged with spinning horrific tales pegged to a letter of the alphabet for The ABCs of Death 2 are largely content to let their imaginations swim at the shallow end of the pool. Irony is a popular pose struck throughout these shorts, which are less revealing of the existentialist despair that death often rouses than they are of their makers’ prejudices: the playful Gondrian conceptualization of Alejandro Brugués’s E Is for Equilibrium is squandered once it reveals itself as an inane “bros before hoes” pissing contest, and Juan Martinez Moreno’s S Is for Split undermines its nerve-jangly use of split-screen by treating homophobia as a punchline. Even the finer contributions to the anthology are prone to self-sabotage: Robert Boocheck’s M Is for Masticate, reminiscent of Spike Jonze’s iconic video for Wax’s “California,” dazzles for its weirdly ultra-slow-motion depiction of a random act of violence, until a seconds-long coda dumbly repositions the whole thing as a public-service announcement, while Kristina Buozyte and Bruno Samper’s K Is for Knell begins as an unbelievably framed and choreographed vision of a terrifying alien takeover only to end up suffocated beneath the weight of its metaphorical overload.

The morality mini-plays are almost uniformly reductive, as in Julian Gilbey’s C Is for Capital Punishment and Hajime Ohata’s O Is for Ochlocracy, both concerning agents of law and order who are neither lawful nor orderly, though Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado’s F Is for Falling is canny for how it keys its unpredictable narrative beats to the sense of outrage, obligation, and presumptuousness felt by the pawns in its Israeli-Palestinian impasse. Gore and nostalgia wankery are also in abundant supply throughout, as are the half-hearted regurgitations of familiar themes by the more established filmmakers: Bill Plympton’s H Is for Head Games imagines a man and woman waging war against each other with eyes, tongues, and blood as their weaponry, and Vincenzo Natali offers a dull future vision with U Is for Utopia, in which being schlubby means having to be incinerated to death inside a coffin/Segway hybrid before an audience of hotties. And though Robert Morgan’s stop-motion D Is for Deloused, a disturbingly heady depiction of the death of the self, stands triumphant above all, it’s also an unfortunate metaphor for the crisis of this anthology: Give bourgeoning masters of horror a break and chances are they’ll devour themselves in the process.

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DVD
Distributor
Magnet Releasing
Runtime
125 min
Rating
R
Year
2014
Director
Evan Katz, Julian Barratt, Julian Gilbey, Robert Morgan, Alejandro Brugués, Aharon Keshales, Navot Papushado, Jim Hosking, Bill Plympton, Erik Matti, Dennison Ramalho, Kristina Buozyte, Bruno Samper, Robert Boocheck, Larry Fessenden, Hajime Ohata, Todd Rohal, Lancelot Imasuen, Rodney Ascher, Marvin Kren, Juan Martinez Moreno, Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska, Vincenzo Natali, Jerome Sable, Steven Kostanski, Julien Maury, Alexandre Bustillo, Soichi Umezawa, Chris Nash
Screenwriter
David Chirchirillo, Julian Barratt, Julian Gilbey, Robert Morgan, Alejandro Brugués, Aharon Keshales, Navot Papushado, Jim Hosking, Toby Harvard, Bill Plympton, Erik Matti, Dennison Ramalho, Kristina Buozyte, Bruno Samper, Lancelot Imasuen, Robert Boocheck, Larry Fessenden, Hajime Ohata, Todd Rohal, Rodney Ascher, Marvin Kren, Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska, Juan Martinez Moreno, Vincenzo Natali, Jerome Sable, Steven Kostanski, Julien Maury, Alexandre Bustillo, Soichi Umezawa, Chris Nash