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Release Date: October 31, 2014 (Limited)
On VOD Platforms October 2, 2014
Directors: Various
MPAA Rating: NR

When the first ABCs of Death film came out last year I was excited at the prospect of 26 different directors offered the opportunity to take a letter from the alphabet and have full creative control in crafting a macabre tale of death told letter by letter.

Unfortunately, aside from a few standouts, the bulk of the shorts were rather underwhelming. Now, a year later, 26 more directors are taking another crack at the project, and thankfully this second iteration, The ABCs of Death 2, makes for a much more enjoyable overall experience.

This time around, many of the shorts feel more subdued and, for the most part, are less shocking than the bulk of the first film, but they all have a higher quality look to them and feel more substantial. There’s more creativity in the shorts, and it feels as though the directors all watched the original and made notes about what worked and what didn’t.

The film starts off with a bang with E.L. Katz (Cheap Thrills) tackling the letter A by showing us how wrong things can go for an amatuer hitman trying to be a badass. This proves to be one of the best of the sequel’s shorts and sets the bar very high for the rest of the film. Fortunately, there are plenty more afterward that match the caliber of the film’s strong opening.

Because the filmmakers are confined to telling a story within three or four minutes, it‘s always interesting to see how they tackle such a challenge, and for most of these directors, it’s a testament to their creativity and knack for compacting in an entire horror movie into one bite-size chunk. Rather than just throwing together something that relates to the letter they were assigned, it’s apparent that some serious thought and effort went into creating something unique with this batch of shorts. Of course, that’s a generalization of all the shorts in both films, and there certainly are exceptions.

Although on the whole this collection is better than the first, not all of them worked. I flat out hated a few of them, which I won’t be singling out in this review. As with most anthologies, you take the good with the bad, but because they go by so quickly, the ones that don’t work are over before you know it and you’re on to the next.

While most of the segments in The ABCs of Death 2 seem to favor a clever story over gratuity, that isn’t to say there aren’t a number of shocks in this entry. Jen and Silva Soska (American Mary) created a particularly nasty chapter with “T is for Torture Porn,” and Chris Nash closes the film with, in my opinion, the most disturbing segment of the entire film.

Not every short in the The ABCs of Death 2 is a homerun, but one can’t expect all of them to hit the right notes. It is a marked improvement over last year’s version and acts as a great sizzle reel for all the directors involved.

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