You may have seen the ambitious modern anthology The ABC's of Death (2012), of which Stu gave a fabulous write-up and its sequel (2014) too.
A quick explanation for those unfamiliar: the original film from 2012 was a collection of 26 short films directed by people from around the globe, the only common theme being that of death, which every short had to feature in some way. The directors otherwise had complete freedom over the content of their pieces, and this meant a very impressively-mixed bag of offerings; some disturbing, others comedic, a few experimental affairs, others done through animation, etc. The talent onboard was also very exciting, Srdjan Spasojevic, director of the extremely controversial A SERBIAN FILM (2010), Ben Wheatley, who made the British horror-thriller KILL LIST (2011), Nacho Vigalondo of TIMECRIMES (2007), HOUSE OF THE DEVIL (2009) creator Ti West...!
While audiences found the end result to be too unbalanced and massively underwhelming, a sequel followed in 2014, with just an eclectic mix of talent and artistry as the first. The thirteenth short in that one, 'M is for Masticate' spawned actually from a competition the producers made, through which amateur filmmakers everywhere could submit a short beginning with 'M' to be voted for possible inclusion alongside the more professional works in the rest of the anthology.
ABC's OF DEATH 2.5 is another sequel of sorts, depicting 26 finalists of that competition that didn't make the final cut. The compilation chiefly involving people not so recognisable as in its two predecessors, I thought that was an incredible incentive to watch it, instead of shy away. The shorts were shown in alphabetical order.
I must apologise in advance for any minor spoilers that may follow... there's only so little I can write about 3-minute works before I start to sound totally un-engaging and not worth reading at all!
Now, on to the reviews:
There's a promising start with Tim Rutherford and Cody Kennedy's action film 'MAGNETIC TAPE', featuring a video store under siege and its owner fighting back in his robotic form, with some cheap gory set pieces that work thanks to the fun, chilled tone and some great 80s-esque music to accompany the arse-kicking and head smashing.
Next up is Christopher Younes' 'MAIEUSIOPHOBIA', a grim Claymation about an alcoholic woman about to give birth, which turns grisly. There's no dialogue, which I appreciated because instead I was able to listen to some seriously disquieting sound design. I didn't quite understand its ending, but the run-up to it was not bad at all. The title refers to the fear of childbirth.
A personal favourite of mine comes next, the Brazilian vampire horror 'MAILBOX' by Dante Vescio and Rodrigo Gasparini. It's commendably satisfying, looks excellent, and features the very fitting classical masterpiece 'Lacrimosa' playing all the way through.
Summer Johnson's 'MAKE BELIEVE' is one of the darker offerings, concerning two little girls who find an injured man in the woods, and believe him to be the 'king of the fairies'. Some inventive gore complimented by an eerie soundtrack leads to a quietly disturbing final shot.
We now head to Slovakia for Peter Czikrai's 'MALNUTRITION', which picks up the pace with a woman running from zombies through a series of underground tunnels. The pursuing creatures look decently scary and their movements are well-choreographed. A clever, downbeat ending finishes this one off.
The quality starts to noticeably lessen after this point...
'MANURE' is one of the poorer efforts. The strange story, a farmer resurrecting his literally in-pieces mother by sticking together her body parts with manure, could've made for a memorable body horror short. Unfortunately, besides the somewhat decent-looking 'monster', the bad acting and general empty feel of it made this one much less enjoyable than the five which preceded it.
'MARAUDER' is a black and white short depicting bikers on the road; only here they're in tricycles. It gets violent fast, with a high-speed metal tune supporting the mayhem. Good, but nothing great.
The same type of music is prevalent in the next film in line, 'MARIACHI', in which the owners of a Mexican restaurant take their bloody revenge against a death metal band playing there one night. It's not bad, and shows good editing work, but it's ultimately pointless.
Todd E. Freeman's curious thriller 'MARRIAGE' left me with a lot of questions, and was pretty engaging despite me not totally getting what was going on. It was well-made and the tension grew nicely. Good actors, too.
And so on for another hour and a bit...
I never go into an anthology film expecting greatness from start to finish. Especially in this case, when the mix of talent is so great (twenty six shorts... come on!) that you have to anticipate some trips and falls along the way. What I did want, however, was at least a few to remember, either for provoking genuine thought or just for being so awesome to watch. While it seems there's not a great deal you can bring to the table in three minutes to really leave a lasting impact on the mind, there was more than enough general entertainment in this film for everyone to enjoy. The quality is severely unsteady, though there are some great achievements late into proceedings... 'MUFF' is a joyously slapstick short about an old geezer in a brothel for some extramarital fun; 'MORMON MISSIONARIES' has a neat twist at the end which is smartly foreshadowed, be observant throughout!
As expected, there are some downright bad works on display too. 'MERRY CHRISTMAS' feels incredibly rushed, and seems to think profanity is the surest way to laughter; 'MESS' is as camp as it is strange, telling the story of a man with a unique deformity and his gay coprophiliac admirer...
THE ABC'S OF DEATH 2.5 is available to watch on-demand via Amazon and Vimeo.
I enjoyed this. It wasn't perfect, as you surely wouldn't expect an anthology of this magnitude to be, but it comes recommended not only for the good amount of great, clever offerings within, but also simply as a showcase of real, unrestrained passion for filmmaking in all its different forms.
Check it out!
Review by Elliott Moran
|Released by Various streaming|