Written by: Matt Molgaard
Directed by: Various
ABC’s of Death 2.5 is every bit as outlandish as both preexisting franchise entries. This film, however, has a much grimier appearance to it, lending it a stronger B-movie vibe, if you will. Throughout the collection fans will catch a few Easter Eggs and familiar references, which help to make the film feel as though it fits in the same basket holding ABC’s part one and two, even if a few of these shorts sport a dingier, cheaper feel than some of the work we’ve seen thus far from the first two films. No matter how you slice it, all three pictures float about in the same pool where a handful of shiners breach the surface and a handful of stinkers sink to the bottom.
For the record, my personal opinion is that all three films are worth owning.
Unlike the other two ABC’s of Death pics, this particular film focuses only on the letter ‘M’ exclusively, and while that may seem limiting, it also seems to spark a little bit more creativity from the minds who put these films together. I like the structure, to be honest, even if I found myself a bit underwhelmed by a handful of the segments, particularly the segments that hit us in the latter portions of the film.
Highlighting a few of the keepers however, shouldn’t be too hard. The greatness actually starts with the very first short, M is for Magnetic Tape, in which we get a nod to Mortal Kombat, good old VHS tapes and a few other culturally relevant works of art. It’s a fun throwback piece, and it sets a high standard.
M is for Mailbox proves to be another early winner in the lineup. Not only is this one Halloween themed, it sports some beautiful cinematography and a gloomy atmosphere that pulls the viewer in within seconds. The twist to the quick tale isn’t mind boggling, but it’s a rewarding payoff all the same, and every performer in the pic manages to legitimately shine. This one is more than worth your time, and even comes equipped with a hat tip to one of literature’s greatest “good guys.”
The next shiner in the lineup comes from Peter Czikrai and is titled M is for Malnutrition. It’s a rather brutal affair that highlights the desperate lengths the starving will travel to in order to get a meal in their belly. There’s a fun little zombie spin in this pic, although I’m not certain that was entirely necessary. There’s so much tension before the undead are introduced that a part of me wishes Czikrai had left well enough alone. Regardless, this is a bloody good short with a conclusion that absolutely rocks while expressing an interesting moral.
M is for Manure has to be one of the more unsettling stories in the anthology, as a young man with a brutal upbringing discovers body parts in the family manure pile. So what’s this young man to do? Build a monster and unleash that devilish monstrosity on the bastard who calls himself the man of the house, of course. There are obvious nods to Frankenstein here, but this one functions and succeeds on its own merits, which I can greatly appreciate. Michael Schwartz does a bang up job with this story, a clear personal favorite of mine.
If I’m doling out points for ingenuity, Steve Daniels takes the entire cake with his hilarious yet captivating black and white piece, M is for Marauder. It looks gorgeous, and basically proves to be a Mad Max-esque piece, the dangers of the road occurring not through a high speed suped up game of cat and mouse, but a slowed down rendition of that terror, the madness unfolding as we witness a chase on those old mini tricycles kids rode in the ‘70s and ‘80s. The manner in which Daniels approaches the story is nothing shy of genius. If you’ve got to run into a biker gang, this is probably your safest bet… despite the blood bath that this story does eventually become. Great finale!
The final short I’ll highlight is M is for Mermaid, directed by Ama Lea. This one caught me a bit off guard, simply because it differs in appearance and tone than the vast majority of these shorts. But it’s a fun little slice of celluloid. As a fishing enthusiast I found serious entertainment in this segment, and Lea does a fine job of delivering some unexpected twists. This one reminds us that we need more quality mermaid flicks, because there’s a lot to tap into here and filmmakers aren’t going out of their way to travel that path.
Overall, there wasn’t a single short that left me feeling cheated or underwhelmed. Some (including those I’ve listed) are quite obviously stronger than others, but there really aren’t any genuinely weak stories. As has been the case with this franchise, you’ll run into some very avant garde material, and you’ll spot some Claymation/animation work as well (M is for Maieusiophobia is a strong example of engaging Claymation, and it also happens to be a far more heartbreaking tale than frightening; seriously, it’s a sad story), and there are more than a single foreign film included.
I think the greatest aspect of this film, like the official second ABC’s of Death (I can’t say the same for the inaugural film, which, in my opinion is the weakest of the three), is that there really isn’t anything that leaves the viewer wanting to fast forward. Some are going to work well for some, while some stories will fall flat for others. It’s a toss-up of a movie, but for an anthology of this proportion, it’s damn respectful. We’ve seen far inferior films to ABC’s of Death 2.5. So, if you’re feeling a little reluctant about this one, and can’t quite decide if it happens to be for you, trust in the fact that you’re going to see some material that justifies a rental fee, if not a purchase.