Anthologies live and die by their stories. Some are so creative that they enter the everyday lexicon. When you have such an interesting idea like 26 dark tales for 26 letters of the alphabet, it certainly bears repeating. In 2014, following up from the success of the previous anthology, The ABCs of Death got an expansion with The ABCs of Death 2.
Like its forebearer, The ABCs of Death 2 is a horror anthology dealing alphabetically with the concept of death, horror and everything in-between. From across the globe, the stories mix gore with guffaws just as they did previously, while varying from everyday horrors to conceptual nightmares, along with everything in between.
The addition of the macabre storybook as a framing device is a nice touch, but besides this, The ABCs of Death 2 follows a similar progression along the path from A to Z. A mixture of morose murders and inexplicable art films, as well as some more creative animated shorts. To be fair to the sequel, it is hard to expand on the concept as the first film held little back. But as an opportunity to get some fresh perspective and even members of the public are on board in a competition to fill in one of the letters (see M), the sequel feels more than justified in carrying on in the same way.
What is new is the 26 other directors that have brought on this time around. Some of the names are, at least to me, little more recognisable. You’ve got acclaimed animator Bill Plympton with what I think is a critique of love in H is for Head Games. Accompanied by the visionary behind The Cube, Vincenzo Natali, with his satirical depiction of Utopia in the aptly named U is for Utopia. In keeping, once again, with its anthology roots, a lot of the shorts have twists and turns. O is for Ochlocracy is a delightful take of justice, from the zombie’s point of view. While R for Roulette is a very charming if slightly predictable tale.
The ABCs of Death 2 is an improvement on the first while keeping almost everything that made the original a success intact. In comparing the two, I feel that the successor shines brighter, maybe it’s because the first one does a great job at acclimatising you to the insanity that The ABCs of Death is known for. But regardless of your prior conceptions, it’s a ghoulishly fascinating storybook telling tales of terror from around the world, one that makes for excellent late-night reading.
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