ABCs of Death 2 makes its way to VOD on October 2 and theaters on Halloween. As fans prepare to check out the second installment, I thought it would be fun to revisit the first one, and rank all 26 segments.
Note: This is for people who have seen the movie, so there will be spoilers. Be aware of that.
Obviously (especially with 26 different titles), there is plenty of room for debate and difference in opinion when it comes to a list like this, so feel free to completely disagree with my assessment (I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, by the way). Frankly, this whole thing was a lot more difficult than I thought it would be when I first started, and I can see my own opinion changing from time to time, depending on mood and random thoughts of reflection.
Some of them could probably be interchangeable even to myself, but I kept a running ranking as I re-watched each segment, and decided to keep it as is, so the list reflects my thoughts immediately upon watching.
One thing is now clear. To me, the good far outweighs the bad with this film, which is contrary to some of the other opinions I’ve read. So know that going in. In general, I’m a fan of this movie.
Here we go. From worst to best, these are my rankings for the initial ABCs of Death.
26. W is for WTF
This one was one of the “meta” segments in which the filmmakers try to figure out what they want to do with the letter they’ve been assigned. They go through several silly ideas, and then a bunch of strange things – like zombie clowns – start happening. There’s plenty of gore, but the whole thing is super cheap-looking, and frankly just not very interesting or fun. It didn’t help that there was a previous, funnier segment invoking the meta aspect, and after going through so many other, better segments, it just didn’t work for me.
25. O is for Orgasm
Death by orgasm could have been an interesting entry, but this one isn’t very compelling to me. It favors weird, but unremarkable visuals over anything of apparent substance. It gets points for delivering something more abstract, and it’s definitely arty, but like most art, it’s not for everyone, and unfortunately, I’m one of those people.
24. M is for Miscarriage
I found it hard not to be disappointed with this one as it’s from one of my favorite modern horror directors, Ti West. There’s not really much to it other than a woman looking for a toilet plunger, and then going to take care of the bloody mess she left in the commode. It’s certainly tasteless, and that’s where the horror lies. It did manage to be one of the segments I remembered the most months later after watching ABCs the first time, so I guess that’s worth something, but really, there are just so many better segments.
23. G is for Gravity
This one is also probably a little too simple to be incredibly effective. It’s POV, and it follows a person who commits suicide by drowning in the ocean. It wasn’t helped any by following the ludicrously entertaining F is for Fart.
22. C is for Cycle
This one gets points for creativity, and for some reason makes me think about Timecrimes, but the execution left quite a bit to be desired. It’s certainly not terrible, but compared with most of the others, I just can’t see ranking this one much higher.
21. K is for Klutz
I should point out that I’m not a huge animation person, so this one may have been doomed to a semi-low ranking from the get go, but that said, I did find it reasonably entertaining. I mean it is about a woman chasing her own turd around a bathroom. It’s got to have some value, right? We’re pretty much getting into all around more enjoyable territory from here on out.
20. Z is for Zetsumetsu (Extinction)
I don’t think I can even describe this with coherent sentences. I’ll just use standalone words: Japanese, Nazi, Dr. Strangelove, penises, giant penis, giant penis blade, vagina vegetable shooting, stew, rice, sushi, penis stew eating, boobs, 9/11 boobs, ass, insanity.
19. B is for Bigfoot
A little girl’s cousin is babysitting her. He’s trying to have sex with his girlfriend, so they both tell the girl a story to keep her in bed. It’s a frightening story about the abominable snowman who only eats childrens’ hearts. An apparent trash collector weirdo comes and kills the adults, cutting their hearts out with some kind of circular saw. It was a decent entry, but not among the best.
18. I is for Ingrown
This was another simple one, and was beautifully snot, but fairly uncomfortable to watch. A man sits in a bathroom with a needle before a woman is revealed. She’s bound and gagged in the tub. He injects her with something, and she starts itching and bleeding, and puking. She narrates the film as all of this is going on. It’s particularly effective at keeping you guessing about what I stands for. Is it injection? Itching? No, it’s ingrown.
17. Q is for Quack
As mentioned previously, W is for WTF was the second meta segment. Quack was the first. It involves filmmakers Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett bitching about getting the letter Q, and ultimately deciding to kill a real animal to stand out. They get a duck, and go to the desert to shoot it, but accidentally shoot each other. It was funny, and I thought a much better take on the meta angle. I wouldn’t have minded if their deaths were more over the top, but it was a generally fun segment.
16. P is for Pressure
This is another one that did a good job of keeping you guessing about what the p word was going to be (prostitute? pimp?). Basically, a prostitute tries to save up for a bike for her kid’s birthday. Her money is stolen, and rent is due. Eventually she steps on a cat with a high heel for a crush film.
15. N is for Nuptials
A man brings home a talking bird that does tricks, and has it give an engagement ring to his girlfriend. It starts repeating dialogue and noises from when the guy was screwing another woman. The girlfriend takes a kitchen knife and kills him off camera while blood covers the lens. It was one of the funnier segments.
14. V is for Vagitus (The Cry of a Newborn Baby)
It’s in the future, and there’s a robot cop and a human cop that wants a baby, but is infertile. Authorities try to eliminate a telekinetic family. After the robot cop decapitates a baby, the baby screams and causes the main villain’s head to explode. It gets major points for creativity and a pretty cool robot. You also don’t see babies decapitated in movies very often, but’s it’s done in a way that’s so over the top it doesn’t make you feel terrible. It’s an interesting melding of robot and telekinesis flicks.
13. A is for Apocalypse
This is obviously the first segment in the film, and gets the whole thing started pretty well in my opinion. It’s got some good gore, and you really don’t suspect the apocalypse element until the end. It’s shot well, and it’s well acted. It’s also one of the less goofy segments. I’ve seen complaints about this one, but I thought it was quite solid.
12. H is for Hydro-Electric Diffusion
I think this one made a bigger impression on me the first time I watched the film, and was initially one of the stand outs. If I would have made this list after the first viewing, it probably would’ve been higher up. It’s still a unique and solid offering.
It’s about an apparent WW2 dog fighter pilot, who goes into a strip club to watch a lady fox stripper. Tex Avery-like cartoon visuals ensue. The fox stripper turns out to be a Nazi, and starts electrocuting him, but he gets out of it, and ends up melting her skin off and winks at the camera. It gets big points for being something I’ve never seen anything like before (unless you count The Mask, but still…).
11. E is for Exterminate
This one from genre star Angela Bettis does a great job of catering to arachnophobes. A guy finds a spider in the office of his house right where the wall meets the ceiling. Those little bastards always end up right there, don’t they? He smacks it with a magazine, and loses it (again, a common scenario). It appears on his neck and bites him. Later, it crawls on him in bed, and bites him several times. He finally kills it before a bunch more come out of his ear.
10. F is for Fart
What an amazing piece of work this one is. A girl says she doesn’t believe in God, then farts when she thinks nobody is looking (she was wrong). The woman she looks up to was looking, and she thinks it’s her who is watching over her instead of God. Poison gas starts coming through town, but the two escape together. The lead farting girl says she’d rather die breathing in her mentor’s gas, and inhales a lengthy fart while everyone is dying on the outside. She gets sucked into the other woman’s butt, and the two make out inside of said woman’s body. What’s not to like? I don’t see how this can’t be among the most memorable segments (for better or for worse) for any viewer.
09. J is for Jidai-Geki (Samurai Movie)
This one was one of the better representations of ABCs of Death as a whole, because it’s silly, violent, and weird, which are three words that come to mind when describing the anthology in its entirety.
We see a guy in a Japan headband who seems serious at first. Then we see another guy’s face. He is sweating and also very serious. Then the first guy starts making funny (and unnatural faces at him). At one point, his eyeballs pop out of his nostrils and start ticking like a pendulum. Eventually, it’s revealed that the second guy is about to cut the first guy’s head off. He does so, and the blood makes a pattern on the white background resembling the Japanese flag. Very enjoyable.
08. U is for Unearthed
I’ll admit this one didn’t stick out to me much on the first viewing, but I appreciated it more this time around. It’s entirely POV from an apparent vampire being hunted through the night while attacking others. It gets teeth removed, impaled with a stake, and is beheaded.
07. S is for Speed
A woman holds another at gunpoint in the desert while being chased by a cloaked demon, who turns out to be Death. There’s a high speed car chase, and death catches up. The woman tries to hand the other over. Death is impressed by the chase, but takes her anyway. We realize the two women are really just junkies in a shithole shooting up and dying.
06. T is for Toilet
As I said before, I’m not a huge animation person, so I actually surprised myself by ranking this one so high, but I just like the story that much. I probably would have had it even higher if it were a well-executed live action gorefest.
A Little boy is scared to use the toilet. He finally uses it, and then the toilet turns into a monster and brutally kills his parents. He wakes up. It was just a dream. He has to poop, so he does. The tank, which was hanging on the wall, falls on him and crushes his head in front of his dad. Despite being silly and over the top, it still manages an effective note for a parent that’s gone through potty training.
05. Y is for Youngbuck
Y is for Youngbuck is something special. An old, creepy guy is hunting a buck with a young boy. They kill it, and then we see the guy is a creep janitor obviously interested in the young boys on the basketball team. He sees down the hall what appears to be the buck standing upright. Then it’s gone, and he goes to the gym to lick the boys’ sweat off the bleachers (really creepy).
As he does, we see the buck’s antlers approach. It flashes back to the hunting, and we see him decapitate the buck, then pull his pants down while facing the boy. It goes back to the present, and we see the boy in the gym was wearing the buck’s head, and he kills the creep. He throws his head in the basketball goal. Then he pulls his shorts down and it ends.
The entire segment happens without dialogue, and features a very 80s-sounding synth soundtrack, which gives it an interesting tone given the otherwise disturbing subject matter. It really makes you think about (and appreciate) how music affects the tone of a movie. The segment is genuinely creepy and disturbing, yet completely over the top and silly at the same time, which presents an interesting and somewhat rare dynamic.
Evidently, the director viewed the segment as something of a superhero origin about a boy who “embodies the power of a 12-point buck deer and seeks out revenge on pedophiles.”
I hadn’t considered that take upon viewing, but it’s definitely interesting.
04. X is for XXL
An overweight woman is mocked by various people in public, while we see visuals (like signs and television programs) showing beautiful, thin women. She goes home and gorges on food in a disgusting manner, then proceeds to cut the hell out of herself. She uses a knife, a razor blade, and finally an electric carving knife in the shower. Finally, she walks out completely skinless and thin, looking like someone out of a hellraiser movie. She then falls over and dies.
It’s kind of hard to watch, and reminds me of Cutting Moments a little (not to mention the Lords of Salem novel). It’s also an interesting comment on fat shaming and the pressure on women to be thin.
03. R is for Removed
Upon viewing, it’s hard to understand exactly what this segment is about, but it’s beautifully shot, gross, and looks cool.
An apparent burn victim (we see badly burned flesh covering his body) is in some kind of hospital, where he appears to have a dream about the railroad. The doctor and nurse cut off pieces of his flesh and take them to a dark room to develop them as film negatives. Eventually, he wakes up, and kills them and other people in the hallway (he even rubs one person’s face in a used bed pan with piss and shit), and takes pieces of his flesh, and leaves the hospital, killing everyone on his way out. He ends up in a creepy old trainyard, and there’s something in one of the trains – possibly a body or bodies. Then it starts raining blood. It seems like R is going to be for Railroad, and then for Rain, but it ends there. R is for Removed.
I’m not sure of the director’s intent, but my interpretation is that it’s just a weird fucked up dream, and it’s done very well for that. I don’t always like things that are just weird for the sake of being weird, but sometimes weird works well, and to me, R is for Removed did just that.
02. D is for Dogfight
A guy has to fight a dog in front of a grubby audience, which includes at least one diapered child. Eventually the dog turns on its supposed master, but then we learn it was really the fighter’s lost dog, or at least had the same name. It was definitely the best segment up to that point in the film, and I would be surprised if it wasn’t near the top of most viewers’ lists. It’s just so well shot, and offers something wholly unique (at least to my knowledge).
01. L is for Libido
Speaking of unique, this one simply has to get the number one spot. I said earlier that some of these rankings could be interchangeable, but I really can’t see putting any of them over L is for Libido. It’s just too fucking crazy to be outdone by its peers.
It’s depraved, well shot, disturbing, and has pretty good gore effects. The basic premise it that people are forced to participate in a masturbation contest, and the cost of losing is being impaled Cannibal Holocaust-style by a big mechanism that’s part of their seat. This all happens in front of spectators wearing creepy masks.
As the contest goes on, the subjects that “contestants” are forced to masturbate to become more and more disturbing from an amputee masturbating herself with her prosthetic limb to a pedophile abusing a child. Eventually, the apparent “good guy” becomes part of the subject in a grotesque, blood splattered climax.
L is for Libido was maniacal, disturbing, uncomfortable, and horrific in just about every sense of the word, and that’s why it belongs at the top of the list.
All in all, ABCs of Death deserves multiple viewings, because it’s really a lot to take in just one time. I recommend sitting down with it again and getting to know it better if you get a chance, and Part 2 will be available to you very soon. Watch the trailer here.
On one last note, I haven’t had a chance to listen to the DVD commentaries for The ABCs of Death, but it sounds like there is a lot of great information to be consumed from them. At least, be sure to check out this round-up of facts compiled by Film School Rejects.