That miss-or-hit collection of horror shorts, “The ABCs of Death” becomes more hit or miss with its sequel, “ABCs of Death 2.”
Not to be confused with the similar “VHS” horror omnibus, “ABCs” gives up-and-coming horror writer-directors — more than 26, as many work in teams — a letter of the alphabet which they then turn into a word and build a four to five minute tale of death.
So we get director Hajime Ohata’s “O is for Ochlocracy,” a word which means mob rule. In this case, it’s rule by zombies who bring a zombie killer to trial for…wait for it…killing zombies.
The length means the filmmakers have to find a clever concept, a couple of decent shocks, and a great punchline. And the good ones do.
“B is for Badger” has actor-director Julian Barratt (“The Mighty Boosh”) playing a bullying nature show host whose hapless crew watches helplessly as the badger, supposedly driven away by a nearby nuclear power plant, turns out to be still there, much stronger and even more irritable than the host.
A Japanese teenage girl’s psychotic fantasy of what to do about her awful parents, who neglect her and her dog, becomes ‘s Sôichi Umezawa deliciously dark “Y is for Youth.”
“N is for Nexus” (Larry Fessenden) cleverly sends a dating couple, in costume, kiddie trick-or-treaters and a distracted, crossword-puzzle addict cabbie into a busy intersection on Halloween.
A few of the shorts are weak but watchable with filmmakers who seem to have a juvenile attachment to female nudity. It’s why boys go to film school — many of them, anyway. And a couple of the “ABCs” are student film amateurish, though not E.L. Katz’s nicely conceived “A is for Amateur.” A would-be hitman fantasizes “a job” — taking out a drug dealer by crawling through the duct work of his nude-girls-filled lair. Then the hitman gets to work, and we see what the movies never show you — how duct work was never made to be crawled through, all jagged sheet metal, with pointy screws more of a menace than vermin.
As with all of these shorts collections, the idea is to make a statement film and get a directing deal. But we the viewers also find names to try and remember, filmmakers worth watching for. Because you never know who the next Joon-Ho Bong (“The Host”) or Juan Antonio Bayona (“The Orphanage”) will be. A couple of them might make the grade after learning their “ABCs.”
MPAA Rating: unrated, with graphic violence, gore, nudity, drug abuse
Cast: Scores of players, none of great note (yet)
Credits: Written and directed by over 26 different filmmakers. A Magnet release.
Running time: 2:03