Saturday, 18 October 2014

THE ABCs OF DEATH 2 - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Canadian Premiere at Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2014, followed by a wide Canadian release on October 31, 2014 via VSC

A whole whack of directors to
deliver 26 whacks (and then some)
The ABCs of Death 2 (2014)
Dirs. Evan Katz, Julian Barratt, Julian Gilbey, Robert Morgan, Alejandro Brugués, Aharon Keshales, Navot Papushado, Jim Hosking, Bill Plympton, Erik Matti, Dennison Ramalho, Kristina Buozyte, Bruno Samper, Lancelot Imasuen, Robert Boocheck, Larry Fessenden, Hajime Ohata, Todd Rohal, Rodney Ascher, Marven Kren, Juan Martinez Moreno, Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska, Vincenzo Natali, Jerome Sable, Steven Kostanski, Julien Maury, Alexandre Bustillo, Soichi Umezawa, Chris Nash.

Starring: Tristan Risk, Conor Sweeney, Béatrice Dalle and shitloads of others

Review By Greg Klymkiw

This second followup to the popular anthology feature The ABCs of Death is a marked improvement over the previous outing, but it shares similar, albeit less egregious obstacles to total appreciation.

This is a full-length amalgam of 26 thematically-linked shorts, each representing letters of the English alphabet which stand for a word that delivers a solid "kill" within a short narrative, each of which expunged upon celluloid by 26 directors.

Sounds interesting enough, but the whole package is a serious slog. Amidst the stuff that works, you're forced to watch a whack o' titles that range from ambition-exceeding-their-delivery (but worth seeing) to just plain middle-of-the-road (but watchable) to sucking a dirty, sweaty scrotum.

With this in mind, I'm going to primarily concentrate on letters of the alphabet that deliver good, better than good or just plain terrific short genre films.

And, of course, kills of the highest order. Jesus, for all of my kvetching, what's not to like?

"D" is for Deloused is UK director Robert Morgan's delightfully baroque animated short about a repulsive bug assisting a creepy gent get some mega-payback upon those who were responsible for his execution. Morgan's palette is wadded with globules of the most odious colours which he's skilfully wielded with abandon, aplomb and appropriate nausea appeal. Lots of disgusting viscera on display and a whack of decidedly dark laughs are the hallmarks of this outlandishly imaginative cartoon for kiddies of all ages who desire plenty of viscous fluids with their breakfast cereal (or as their breakfast cereal).

The Film Corner Rating: ****

"H" is for Head Games has been spewed from whatever orifices Master Animator Bill Plympton chooses to release his brilliantly unhinged images and ideas. Here, two people engage in the simple, passionate act of kissing. Imagine if you will, the scandal caused by all 47-seconds of Edison's famous 1896 filmed re-enactment depicting a kiss twixt the somewhat disgusting May Irwin and John Rice then blend it together with Raymond Carver's short story "Popular Mechanics" in which two parents play tug-of-war with their child. You get the drift.

The Film Corner Rating: *****

"Q" is for Questionnaire is belched out from the ultra-cool Rodney Ascher who delivered the phenomenal conspiracy theory documentary Room 237 about the more brilliantly psychotic theories behind Stanley Kubrick's much-loved and oft-debated horror masterpiece The Shining. In the grand tradition of documentary direct cinema, cross-pollinated with zero-budgeted 50s/60s "brain" genre films, he presents two sides of a delightful coin as he bounces twixt an intelligence test and a man's brain being transplanted into the head of a gorilla. The only thing missing is the gorilla leeringly emitting a Jack Nicholson-like "Heeeeeeerrrrrrreeeee's Johnny!"

The Film Corner Rating: ***1/2

"S" is for Split is an ideal short genre film and makes clever, literal and metaphorical use of its title. Juan Martinez Moreno creates a numbing nightmare involving a cel phone conversation twixt a hubby and wife whilst a killer invades the family home and proceeds to search out and murder one of the significant others on view in a series of horrifically effective split screens that would make Brian De Palma proud if they didn't give the man a run for his money.

The Film Corner Rating: ***

Astron-6 Stud-Thesp Conor Sweeney
is about to learn the meaning of
"T" is for Torture Porn comes to us courtesy of the Soska Twins, Jen and Sylvia, those two nice Hungarian girls from British Columbia who are continually on the cutting edge of reinventing, revitalizing and just plain knocking the ball out of the genre film park. They're an important force, not just in the world of genre, but in the world of cinema period. From their crazy micro-budgeted Dead Hooker in a Trunk to the astonishing low budget sophomore effort American Mary, the Soska Sisters (aka "The Twisted Twins") were naturals for this anthology feature. Their special blend of feminist splatter is taking the world by storm. Their films are stylish, dark, funny and have plenty to say about the world we live in. Herewith, the legend continues as the ladies wear metaphor on their sleeves in a winning fashion. Astron-6's prime thespian stud Conor Sweeney presides over a grim audition for torture porn and proceeds to debase a young actress (the great Tristan Risk) in the most despicable fashion. Payback is inevitable. Happily for the abused actress and the audience, the Soskas unleash payback of the Most Delicious Urotsukidōji Kind. Scumbags Beware!!! There's a vengeful new Overfiend in town and SHE's not interested in raping little schoolgirls in uniform.

The Film Corner Rating: ***1/2

"U" is for Utopia is pure Vincenzo (Cube, Splice, Haunter) Natali. The man has a distinctive voice you can detect within seconds of seeing his seemingly cold, clinical, horrifying and mordantly funny work. Here we face a dystopian world of public execution (in malls, no less) and for the most egregious of crimes (in a perfect world, of course). Imagine, if you will, a dash of Kubrick, a sprinkling of Jean-Baptiste Leonetti, a few drops of Harlan Ellison via L.Q. Jones ('natch) and a few buckets o' Pure Natali. It's tasty!

The Film Corner Rating: ***1/2

"W" is for Wish is the latest cinematic chub o' kielbassa from that Winnipeg Wunderkind of the Astron-6 persuasion, the one, the only, Steven Kostanski. The madman behind Manborg serves up a delicious blend of his delightfully retro special effects and the kind of wonder we all felt as kids (and that those of us, who've never grown up, still feel). Kostanski's operating on similar ground to the Soskas here by wearing metaphor proudly (and entertainingly on his sleeve). The less said about this gem, the better. Suffice to say, we're given a dose, through the eyes of children, of how the things we wish for might come terrifyingly true. Mega-Bravo!

The Film Corner Rating: ****

"X" is for Xylophone by Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo features Béatrice Dalle, the still sexy Betty Blue girl herself, the incomparable muse of Jean-Jacques Beineix and every strapping young 70s/80s lad's mega-masturbation fantasy. Here, she's a somewhat long-in-tooth babysitter being driven to places she'd rather not traverse to, courtesy of an annoying child plunking on a fucking xylophone. Xylophone's in the hands of babes are fine, but only in moderation and this goddamn kid just doesn't know the meaning of the word.

The Film Corner Rating: ***

Refrain from ingesting your guitar.
"Y" is for Youth is what's been barfed up from within the diseased mind of ace Japanese makeup and SFX whiz Soichi Umezawa. His cinematic blown chunks reveal an equally diseased mind - that of a young woman fantasizing violent payback for those in her family who would dare abuse her. If you've a fetish for sword swallowing electric guitars, viscous pustules, juicy white worms and other taste treats, you're sure to be dazzled by the fantasies of this demented young missy exploring the true extert of her desires for vengeance.

The overriding question is this: Is fantasy reality? O! Land of Nippon! I love thee!

The Film Corner Rating: ***

"Z" is for Zygote is the last short in the anthology and it's the surprise treat of ABCs of Death 2. The less said about the plot and/or content of Chris Nash's creepily eerie and downright brilliant shocker, the better. Just let it work its savoury magic upon you whilst rivalling the pus sucks hanging from Samantha Eggar's tummy in David Cronenberg's The Brood.

Storytelling and shocks at their very best.

The Film Corner Rating: ****

So there you have it: 10 fine films out of 26. Titles where the ambition of the filmmakers either exceeds their reach as filmmakers and/or falls short in the delivery department, but are worth seeing include "C" is for Capital Punishment, "F" is for Falling, "J" is for Jesus, "L" is for Legacy and "O" is for Ochlocracy. Adding these titles to the list increases the watchability-factor to 15 out of 26 titles. Adding middle of the road mediocrity (no need to point fingers on this inevitability) increases watchability to 19 out of 26 titles. The most horrendously disappointing film is master filmmaker Larry Fessenden's lazy effort "N" is for Nexus. The number of shorts that suck dirty, sweaty scrotum (including Fessenden's) are a mere 7 out of 26 titles. Not too bad at all when you get right down to it. Add to this mix cool opening and closing title sequences to the whole anthology and The ABCs of Death 2 yields a fine genre treat for horror lovers - especially as Halloween is looming.

THE FILM CORNER RATING for all 10 titles in the 3-5-Star Range: **** 4-Stars
THE FILM CORNER RATING for all 19 titles in the 2-5-Star Range: *** 3-Stars
THE FILM CORNER RATING for the whole 26-title package: **½ 2-and-a-half Stars

The ABCs of Death 2 had its Canuck launch at the 2014 edition of the Toronto After Dark Film Festival. It will be released theatrically in Canada (and via VOD and digital platforms) on October 31, 2014 through everyone's have Canuck indie distributor VSC. Playdates include the following:

On Demand and iTunes October 20, In Theatres October 31

Opens October 31
Toronto – Carlton Cinema, 20 Carlton Street
Calgary – Globe Cinema, 617 8th Avenue Southwest

Opens November 1
Vancouver – Rio Theatre, 1660 East Broadway

Opens November 5
Montreal – Centre PHI, 407 Rue Saint Pierre

Opens November 7
Ottawa – The Mayfair Theatre, 1074 Bank Street

Magnet Releasing is handling the distribution honours in USA