“ABCs of Death 2” opens theatrically in Houston at the Alamo Drafthouse – Vintage Park movie theater starting tomorrow.
Continuing the alphabetized horror anthology format the first film followed, 26 directors were again given a random letter for “ABCs of Death 2,” chose a random word that started with that letter, and then were allowed complete control over their segment for the sequel. Directors for the film include Julian Barratt (“The Mighty Boosh”), Alexandre Bustillo (“Inside”), Alejandro Brugues (“Juan of the Dead”), Larry Fessenden (“I Sell the Dead”), E.L. Katz (“Cheap Thrills”), Aharon Keshales (“Big Bad Wolves”), Steven Kostanski (“Manborg”), Julien Maury (“Inside”), Vincenzo Natali (“Cube”), “Splice”), Navot Papushado (“Big Bad Wolves”), Jerome Sable (“Stage Fright”), and Jen and Sylvia Soska (“American Mary”).
While “ABCs of Death 2” can still be viewed as ambitious, the sequel can’t help but give the impression that it’s the B-team version of the original. Even with all of the present talent behind modern horror included in the cast, this sequel can’t even carry the buckets of blood spilled or scratch the surface of outrageous images established in the first film.
The quality of the sequel doesn’t fluctuate on the same scale the original “ABCs of Death” did and still does. Most of the segments are very so-so (“Capital Punishment”), extremely peculiar (“Youth”), or just absolutely unlikeable (“P-P-P-P Scary!”). There are really only a handful of segments that are even worth remembering; “Ochlocracy” turns the zombie genre inside out, “Questionnaire” puts a unique spin on public surveys, and “Wish” is probably the most nostalgic segment of the collection.
The stop-motion animated “Deloused” seems like something ripped straight out of Clive Barker’s skull while the sketchy and traditionally animated “Head Games” is a bit more over the top. The futuristic “Utopia” tries so hard to be like “Vagitus” from the first film, but feels more like an imitation that isn’t up to par. There’s this emphasis on lame concepts such as “Equilibrium,” “Falling,” and “Grandad.” These segments just come off as overly goofy, uninteresting, or are trying too hard to be humorous.
Some of the segments like “Knell” have the plug pulled right when they seem to be going somewhere. “Badger” is only worthwhile because of Julian Barratt’s performance and “Legacy” takes an intriguing concept and nearly ruins it with cheap looking effects.
That appealing factor “ABCs of Death” oozed the majority of the alphabet is completely absent in the sequel. Enjoyable segments that rearrange bizarre, gruesome, and sometimes amusing pieces to one horrific puzzle have been swapped for dull cast away diaries and lame “guy’s trip” stories that have gone awry. “ABCs of Death 2” pushes mediocrity above everything else. There’s gore and eccentricity, but it’s few and far between while being buried under layers and layers of nothing but boring absurdity.
Even with the bloodier “Xylophone” and “Zygote”, the bold statement making “Jesus”, and the ridiculously brilliant “Masticate,” “ABCs of Death 2” is lackluster in comparison to the original film. Maybe the format is losing its charm or the talent involved just isn’t as creative as the first batch of directors. Nevertheless “ABCs of Death 2” is a horror sequel that unfortunately follows the formula of feeling like a diluted clone of an impressive prototype.