ABC’s of Death 2 Blu-Ray Review
Blu-Ray Review- ABC’s of Death 2
Distributor: Magnet Releasing
Street Date: February 3rd 2015
Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Runtime: 122 Minutes
Anthologies may just be my very favorite type of cinema when it comes to the horror genre. From 1972’s Tales from the Crypt to 1982’s Creepshow and even 2007’s Trick ‘r Treat, they have the ability to absorb us as viewers with short, masterfully told tales of terror. In 2012 Magnet Releasing and Drafthouse Films teamed up to give us The ABC’s of Death; twenty-six Horror shorts directed by 26 different filmmakers who were each assigned a letter of the alphabet in which to weave their madness around. The concept was rather brilliant, but the execution left me wanting more. Those shorts ranged from masterfully well done to utterly pointless and the just plain bizarre. That films sequel, ABC’s of Death 2, offers up more of the same, but luckily for us, this time around the good outweighs the bad.
Rather than executing your typical review where I break down each segment, I thought I would explore the best and the worst of ABC’s of Death 2:
- A is for Amateur from E.L. Katz is a stylish and wickedly hilarious segment that follows a hit-man’s latest assassination, first from the perspective of how he imagines it happening, and then, how it actually occurs (which is, to say the least, much less smooth than he had imagined).
- B is for Badger from Julian Barratt is also ridiculously funny and involves a wildlife camera crew encountering a “larger than average” badger that lives in an ominous hole in the ground. The situation is drawn out for maximum effect and when “it” finally happens it’s unexpected and darkly comical.
- D is for Deloused from Robert Morgan is an awfully disgusting stop-motion segment that has a giant bug aiding an executed man with revenge on those that wronged him. It’s utterly ridiculous and the animation is disturbing, but it’s creative and well made.
- M is for Masticate from Robert Boocheck is perhaps the greatest segment of them all (and one you’ve likely seen replayed in the trailers). It’s all rather simple, a large hairy man in his underoos runs screaming down the street in slow motion, searching for someone to eat. The ridiculousness of it all and the reveal of “why” he is doing this at the end is timely and gut-busting funny (in a “so wrong I’m laughing” sort of way).
- R is for Roulette from Marvin Kren is filmed in black and white, artfully crafted, and definitely disturbing. Three people play Russian roulette in a basement while something sinister awaits them upstairs.
- U is for Utopia from Vincenzo Natali centers on your “average guy” in a shopping center full of very attractive people who is singled out in this “perfect” society in the worst way imaginable. It’s short, bizarre, and has some nice effects.
- W is for Wish from Steven Kostanski is likely my 2nd favorite segment, as it perfectly captures every 80’s kids’ favorite toy and game TV commercial memories into one sadistic little short film. The child actors are spot-on, the visual “look” of the piece really echoes the time period, and the resulting Horror twist is very clever.
- Z is for Zygote from Chris Nash is another rather brilliant segment involving a rural pregnant woman who manages to keep her baby gestating and growing inside her for 13 years. It’s extremely well made, utterly disgusting in every respect, and features an ending that sticks with you. Great stuff!
- C is for Capital Punishment from Julian Gilbey leaves a bad taste in your mouth, especially given recent events in the real-world. A man is amateurishly beheaded in the woods after he has been found guilty of a crime he didn’t commit. I’m sure the filmmakers’ didn’t intend to echo actual events, but it comes off as being in bad taste. I’m also not sure what the point was plot-wise with this one.
- F is for Falling from Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado about an Israeli woman’s parachute becoming stuck in a tree in Palestinian territory is also offensive and in poor taste (in my opinion at least). Maybe some find the cleverness in these more politically themed segments, but I personally enjoy my Horror best when it’s not connected to real-life pain and suffering.
- S is for Split from Juan Martinez Moreno is admittedly well-filmed in several split-screen moments as a horrified husband has to stay on the phone with his wife as an intruder breaks into their home. Unfortunately, the death of an infant in brutal fashion is an automatic deal breaker for me. It’s the Father in me speaking and yes, I realize this is fiction, but it’s completely unnecessary and sadistic. The subsequent “reveal” at the end of this segment didn’t offend me as it did others, but I think it’s safe to say that these filmmakers were going for the “how many people can we offend” goal, which frankly isn’t Horror and strikes too close to home for some.
- X is for Xylophone from Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo is again, from a parent’s perspective, not funny and downright cruel. I understand the tone these filmmakers were going for but it honestly made me queasy. Maybe they would say that they did their job. Personally, my taste for Horror sits much better with the stylish and suspenseful spectrum than the gory and plotless.
- Segments that weren’t mentioned above were likely just middle-of-the-road and didn’t impress or offend me enough to write about. Though I obviously had a bone to pick with a handful of segments, I would say that ABC’s of Death 2 far outshines its predecessor in nearly every way. The majority of segments are clever and some even brilliant, making for some great Anthology-Horror fun.
Each segment was filmed and transferred via High Definition, and generally, they all look great on Blu-Ray. Each Director’s style and choice of filters and enhancements effects the segments accordingly, such as the stop-motion grittiness and imperfect look of D is for Deloused or the aforementioned nostalgic 80’s commercial vibe that W is for Wish has going for it. No complaints here folks, the video looks great with plenty of clarity and definition across the board.
The 5.1 DTS-HD audio track works well, and differs accordingly in power/nuances for each segment. While I wouldn’t say that this particular track as a whole is demo-worthy, dialogue and sound effects always come through clean and clear.
Magnet Releasing has provided fans of ABC’s of Death 2 with a vast array of bonus features to accompany this Blu-Ray release. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:
- Filmmaker’s Commentary- Several of the filmmakers involved in each segment, along with Ant Timson and Tim League, give their individual takes and unique commentary for their respective pieces. Worth listening to especially for the K is for Knell segment where the filmmakers offer up a unique retelling of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Bells.
- Individual Segment Bonus Content- Listing out each individual bonus feature for the segments would take ages, so just know that there are is endless array of bonus featurettes, making-of’s, special effects segments, and production stills and galleries to accompany select Alphabet shorts.
- AXS TV: A Look at The ABC’s of Death 2– The Directors of A, E, & M (not in that specific order) discuss their respective segments in this featurette which lasts just over 2 minutes.
As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray edition from Magnet Releasing features some stylish cover art focusing on the grim reaper angel figure who has become the mascot of sorts for the series. I appreciate the font and style utilized in the film’s title as well. On the reverse of the packaging you’ll find a brief plot synopsis, a list of bonus features, and technical specifications. On the interior of the packaging you’ll find the Blu-Ray disc, which mimics the cover art for the case, packaged in an eco-friendly design. I do need to mention that I personally adored the book-version of the first film’s release that Drafthouse had available exclusively on their site, and would have loved to see a follow-up book/Blu-Ray release for this one.
Anthology Horror films have long been a favorite staple of the genre for me, and though the first installment left me wanting more, ABC’s of Death 2 more than makes up for its predecessor with the majority of its 26 shorts ranging from brilliantly clever to memorable. There are a handful of segments that offended me, but I suppose that was the point. This Blu-Ray edition from Magnet Releasing features outstanding video and decent audio, not to mention an endless array of bonus features catered to individual segments. While it does have its share of duds, The ABC’s of Death 2 is an anthology piece that I will revisit again. Recommended.