BLU-RAY REVIEW: THE ABCS OF DEATH 2 / CERT: 18 / DIRECTORS: VARIOUS / SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: MARTINA GARCÍA, BÉATRICE DALLE, TRISTAN RISK, LAURENCE R. HARVEY, ANDY NYMAN / RELEASE DATE: MARCH 23RD
Of all subgenres of horror, few have as narrow margin for error as the portmanteau piece, being only as good (or bad) as their best (or worst) segment. For every V/H/S 2 there's a V/H/S: Viral, for each Little Deaths, an ABCs of Death. And, yes, we're using the latter for negative comparison here. Because, in spite of its ingenious idea and cool talent behind the lens, 2012's The ABCs of Death emerged as one of the year's worst, marred by stupid fart jokes, unmemorable stories and a general lack of smarts. It speaks volumes that the absolute only thing this writer remembers from that movie is a scene in which a prostitute stands on a kitten until it dies.
Thankfully, the format gives the sequel ample opportunity to blaze its own path and forget about the previous film's mistakes (of which there were almost twenty six). Thankfully, like the aforementioned V/H/S 2, this sequel is a vast improvement over its predecessor. Even more remarkable, considering how many opportunities there were for the film to fall apart, is that the good actually manages to outweigh the bad. On some occasions, it even crosses a line into genuine brilliance. It starts out strong, with the one-two punch of E.L. Katz's clever A is for Amateur (via a quick cameo from Andy Nyman) and Julian Barratt's enjoyably silly B is for Badger and gets all the way to 'L' (your mileage may vary) before its first out-and-out terrible instalment – shortly followed by the nadir of P is for P-P-P-P Scary. There's a few more fluffed pieces, misjudged ideas and downright confusing elements scattered about here and there, but the speed and efficiency of the delivery means that you're never far away from something more to your own tastes. Steven Kostanski's W is for Wish is a definite highlight, as is Hajime Ohata's clever O is for Ochloracy, the heart-rending J is for Jesus, and Soichi Umezawa's inventive Y is for Youth.
If it's something a little more bizarre you're after, keep an eye out for Grandad, Zygote and the chunder-inducing Deloused. Phew. That's eleven out of twenty-six covered so far, and we haven't even mentioned the brain transplants, Russian roulette, desert islands, political parachutists or Soska Sisters. As a viewing experience, it's almost as exhausting to watch as it is write about. While there will be many turned off (or left indifferent) to its shock tactics and self-conscious edginess, you'll be in no danger of forgetting about The ABCs of Death 2 anytime soon.