Published Oct 18, 2014When producers Ant Timpson and Tim League announced that they'd be producing a followup to 2012's highly ambitious anthology film The ABCs of Death, reactions within the horror community were mixed. While the first movie had a few standouts, it also felt fairly uneven — which, one might argue, is an expected result of giving free artistic reign to a hugely divergent group of directors. Happily, the sequel, which made its Canadian debut at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival and hits theatres this Halloween, has easily bested its predecessor; it's smarter, weirder, more inventive and unapologetically disgusting.
The movie starts out strong right out of the gate with the slick and messy "A is for Amateur" by E.L. Katz (Cheap Thrills), who brings a gnarly twist to the hitman vs. mobster narrative. We're then hit with a volley of intense imagery and ideas, from the agonizing botched beheading in "C is for Capital Punishment" to a terse and moving exchange between an Israeli soldier and a Palestinian boy in "F is for Falling" (from talented Israeli up-and-comers Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado).
For this reviewer, a few highlights came early, starting with the delightfully bent "G is for Grandpa," in which an unpleasant exchange between two family members results in the ultimate reveal: Grandpa has nards! The animated segments this time around were also a huge improvement on the original film, with Robert Morgan's moist and visceral "D is for Deloused" and a segment from the legendary Bill Plympton called "H is for Headgames," featuring two lovers violently smooching each other to death. There are also a few segments that cleverly twist genre expectations: "J is for Jesus" brings a queer re-interpretation of biblical exorcism, while "T is for Torture Porn" from the mighty Jen and Sylvia Soska sees a greasy Terry Richardson-type get his well-deserved comeuppance. Like any anthology film, there are a few pieces that don't quite fit: Todd Rohal's "P is for P-P-P Scary" is a failed mashup of David Lynch and Tim and Eric-style irreverence and "R is for Roulette" is the titular game lazily used as a vehicle for narrative tension.
The piece de resistance here is "Z is for Zygote" by Canadian up-and-comer Chris Nash, which explores the troubling intersection of motherhood and abandonment. This segment's stunningly graphic and brilliantly executed climax was soundtracked by gasps and muffled, awed laughter at my screening: proof in itself that Nash is the one to watch here.
(Drafthouse Films/Magnet Releasing)