The ABC’s of Death (2012) – Various Directors

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Have you ever been to one of those little self-serve frozen yogurt places? You know, those “healthy”, “don’t worry, it’s fat-free yogurt” places. You pump out your own fro-yo from the soft serve machine and then you get to pick out your own toppings from the little candy-salad bar. Next thing you know your “fat-free” desert has gummy bears, Oreos, Butterfingers, peanut butter cups, skittles and little marshmallows on it. And you have a full blown case of diabetes. The point is, mixing too many good things together takes away from the whole. That cup of yogurt and candy is probably pretty good, but you would have done better to stick with one theme and do it really well.

That awkward metaphor, and this awkward transition, represents my thoughts on the 2012 horror anthology The ABC’s of Death. 26 letters in the alphabet, 26 horror films  created by 26 different directors from all around the world. I do have to give them props for ambition and for originality, but it’s very difficult to make 26 two-five-minute films work cohesively together. The only theme connecting them was that each film was about something from each letter in the alphabet, for example, “Z is for Zombie”. The cool part is that you don’t get the title until after each short is over.

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A few of these movies were really fantastic, either for being genuinely scary or just very clever and well-done short films. Some of them were funny, some were confusing, and some were really just pretty stupid. Obviously I can’t do a synopsis of each film, and quite a few of them have really great twist endings so I don’t even want to go too far into any. There were 3 films that stood out as my favorites though. There’s one about a kid who’s afraid to sit on the toilet, one about a man and a dog in a fight to the death, and one about the end of the world. Other less remarkable films include topics such as deadly farts that engulf a whole city, vampires, zombie clowns, a masturbation contest, and a piece of shit that just won’t flush.

A lot of the films are overly grotesque and shocking. We don’t have a lot of time for build up so we need to dive right into the good stuff. Most of them have subtitles. A few have no dialogue whatsoever.

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From what I understand, each director was assigned a letter and really given carte blanche to just make a film about something that starts with that letter. It was great to see 26 different answers to essentially the same question. The film as a whole is a tribute to ADHD and a not so gentle reminder that people from Japan are fucking crazy. Well actually people from all over the world are pretty crazy, but the ones from Japan are the best at it.  

To sum up, I think this was ambitious and it was a very cool experiment. We got a chance to see some of the best current horror directors show off their chops in a condensed format. I hear there’s another one in the works. I’ll be interested to see how it turns out. I think there is a lot to improve upon, but I really like the idea.

  1. Is it scary? 4 Overall, not that scary, there were a few films that got under my skin but mostly they went for cheap, gross-out stuff and bad humor.
  2. Originality: 10– I have to give them credit here. The whole project was pretty original and there were lots of very cool and original ideas throughout, regardless of how good each film was.
  3. Blood: 7- Some had lots and lots of blood, some had no blood, Most had at least some, so I think this is going to skew towards the high end of the score.
  4. Believability: 5-It’s very difficult to give a believability score here. Some of the films were intentionally over the top. I think we’ll stick with average and call it a day.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 7- Overall, we saw lots of cool settings and there was some amazing cinematography. One of my favorites (the one about the dogfight) was shot entirely in slow motion with some really cool close-ups.                                             

Final Score: 33/50

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Halloween II (1981) – Rick Rosenthal

Have you ever bought a gallon of ice cream that melts a little in the car on the way home and then you refreeze it but it’s just never the same? That’s what most horror sequels are like. Just with more blood, and fewer chocolate chips. They usually add some plot elements that make it more complicated and less scary. In the sequels, they generally ramp up the murdering and you tend to get a nice big juicy body count. You’ll also probably get to see some new and creative deaths. If you’re lucky, the director, writer, and main cast will remain intact, but don’t hold your breath.

Now, even though Rick Rosenthal’s 1981 Halloween II (John Carpenter co-wrote this one, but he only directed the first one) falls into most of these traps, it still stands up as a solid slasher, and a solid horror movie in general. It’s a little unfair to hold it up against the original, because that is one of the best horror movies ever made. Unfortunately, that’s what I’m going to do for most of this review, so suck it. It’s basically like comparing the store brand “Honey O’s” or whatever to real “Honey Nut Cheerio’s.” Close, but no cigar. Thanks for playing. But all comparison aside, this movie is awesome. It’s bloody, nasty, and suspenseful. Rosenthal holds on to a lot of what we loved about Carpenter’s directing and cinematography. And they’ve added some interesting elements to the story. It’s debatable as to whether these things make the story/better or worse, but they set the stage for the rest of the franchise.

The story picks up right where the first film left off. Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) is being brought to the hospital, and Michael Myers, who was just shot a half dozen times and fell out of an upstairs window, has somehow survived and is on the loose again. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) and the cops are searching the town for the killer after the bodies of the kids from the first movie are found all strung up and hidden around the house. Michael overhears a radio broadcast saying that the survivor of the massacre is being brought to the hospital and he heads there to finish the job. On his way he chops up a few more people for no reason. Just to be a dick, I guess.

So Loomis and the cops finally figure out that Michael is hunting Laurie and they head for the hospital to save her. But it’s too late for most of the staff. Michael has sliced, diced, boiled, gutted, and injected a large syringe of air into nurses, doctors, ambulance drivers, and security guards. If you thought he head count was too low in the original, don’t worry because it more than doubles in this one. They don’t even have time to show everyone getting killed. Sometimes we just show up and find bodies lying around. Anyway, Loomis and the cops show up and shoot Michael a bunch of times. Thinking he’s dead, the cop stupidly stands over him and Michael pops up and turns the cop into a giant Pez dispenser. There’s a big standoff at the end with Laurie and Loomis and Michael. There’s also a big twist which I’m not going to spoil.

In terms of scares, this one doesn’t quite hit the mark like the original. It’s still got a good creepy atmosphere but something’s missing. Part of what made the first movie so scary was that everything was super dark, shadowy, and hard to see. The times that we did see Michael Myers, he was halfway behind something. There’s something about that being hard to see that made him even creepier. Now, this movie was pretty dark too, but it wasn’t quite the same. I don’t think it packed the same punch visually as the original.

Halloween had a sort of charm to it that this sequel didn’t have. The first had a low budget but they made it work. The whole thing took place in just a couple of scenes. This movie was bigger, flashier, and more expensive. I guess you could say that the first one was untested, unproven and breaking new ground. While the sequel was a little self-aware. You can almost sense that the filmmakers had a certain confidence about things that wasn’t there in the original. This one felt more like a “movie” instead of a “story.” I don’t know if that makes any sense. You can even see (hear) this in the music. The second movie tried to make the music better, more electronic, and fancy, but for that extra level of production, they’ve sacrificed some of the basics.

Listen to the two songs and you’ll see what I mean. I think this sums up the two movies pretty well actually.

The point is that the movie is good, but not as good. The moral of the story is fancier doesn’t always mean better. And I’m pretty sure you can say that if John Carpenter had been behind the camera, this might have been even better.

  1. Is it scary: 6- It’s still pretty dark, scary, and, suspenseful. Though it doesn’t haunt you in the way the first one did.
  2. Originality: 5- It’s still pretty groundbreaking. It’s basically like the Ramones second album. It still did a lot for punk rock, but not as much as the first.
  3. Blood: 6- Probably the only category that will get this one more points than the original. Michael made up for lost time in this one. He racked up a nice little body count here. After the modest showing in the first one, he had his work cut out for him.
  4. Believability: 5–More characters, more plotlines to follow, more scenery to keep up with. This was still decent, but it was more complicated than it needed to be.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 6- Rosenthal did a pretty good job here. A dark empty hospital overnight is not a bad setting. He maintained a lot of the cinematography, lighting effects that we loved from the original.

Final Score: 28/50