Friday, April 24, 2015

Why Found Footage Horror Can Work

Hey guys! Let's go buy a video camera so we can film everything!

Awesome. Make sure to film awkward interactions with your family and friends. After all, anyone who gets a video camera is suddenly overcome with a childish, two-year-old-style desire to play with it 24/7 and film every little fucking thing.

We might run into some bad, scary stuff later, but it's okay. That comes with the territory of owning a video camera these days. When you're running away from whatever Eldritch demon you somehow conjured up with your own tomfoolery, you won't drop the camera at all. You won't miss a goddamn thing. And even if you die during your chase, your camera will be found by magical film-fairies who will edit the footage together in a convincing manner AND slap a "Based on a True Story" title card before it all, as if anticipating a major theatrical release. That makes it super real. So real, you guys.

I laid on the sarcasm pretty thick there, but you get what I mean – those are the worst things about found footage films. I've seen a lot of dumb movies that do this shit. I used to be really dead set against this whole style, and it made me miss out on the most interesting things about movies like Paranormal Activity. Recently I've had a kind of change of heart on these kinds of movies – there are still things wrong with them, yeah, but also plenty of ways to do it right.

I've said in the past that these found footage shaky cam movies are a product of who we are as a people right now, and it's true. We are millennials, as much as I personally hate that term after reading one too many think pieces about how we're all lazy fucks, and one thing we do differently than other generations is recording ourselves.

Whether it's Facebook, Twitter or Tinder, we love using the Internet to show off what we find unique about ourselves or how we're feeling. We put ourselves at center stage at all times. These horror films take that and put a morbid twist on it, putting characters at center stage, filming themselves, even as they're dying or coming face to face with horror. That's fine because everyone is like that deep down – we all sorta view ourselves as the main characters of our own films. I don't think that's specific to just millennials.

The point is, this is a trick that can be done well. There are a lot of films like The Devil Inside, Apartment 143, The Taking of Deborah Logan, the last two V/H/S films and plenty of others that do it wrong – they're just shitty scripts and shitty movies, with little creativity or nuance. The camera gimmick is stretched thin in all of them and there isn't enough quality there otherwise to make a difference.

But every once in a while … you get a really good one. People, I'm talking about The Houses October Built.

Director: Bobby Roe
Starring: Brandy Shaefer, Zack Andrews, Bobby Roe, Mikey Roe, Jeff Larson

I guess it's a good thing found footage has kinda been fading out of style recently in favor of artier flicks like Starry Eyes and It Follows, because now we can distinguish The Houses October Built as the kick ass movie that it is. This is a pretty stripped down story about a bunch of friends going on a road trip to do a bunch of haunted houses. As a self-professed lover of haunted houses myself, I was all over this shit.

It's just a well done movie. The dialogue feels realistic and you get to like the characters, who really just act like regular people you'd see at your job or at a local band's show or whatever else. That takes some talent to do.

The scares come slow and creepy. You really get a sense for the atmosphere at these haunted houses, which I understand were all real places the cast members went and filmed interviews at. It's playful ambiance, and transitions almost seamlessly into the scary bits through little, eerie moments here and there. The pacing is very good in this. When the scary shit does start happening like a landslide, it feels natural and you do actually feel as claustrophobic as these characters, trapped in horrible places.

Since the topic of this article is the found footage, well, the handheld camera perspective actually works for the movie. You get a sense of being right there with these people. The interviews with haunted house cast members are also cool and add a spice to it that a lot of these movies miss – very individual.

I guess some of the scenes on their RV feel a bit silly when they constantly have the camera on, like even at breakfast. Maybe a better idea would be having those parts as a normal movie without the camera, but I guess for that 'realistic' effect, it's not too bad - still better than the ways some movies do it, mostly due to the realism of the dialogue and how much you end up liking these people.

That's really a minor thing though, and overall there are comparatively few moments that feel really forced or silly with the camera – certainly no Paranormal Activity moments where they grab the fucking camera before going to see if someone needs help. And there are actually a few times later on when they do turn the camera off when they're asked to for secret haunted house business. That's really something more of these movies should try – it leaves the imagination wanting more and it's actually realistic. Most of the time, people in real life aren't gonna want you filming everything.

The really scary moments at the end feel extra seedy, dank and creepy as fuck with the low-res camera lens and the realistic audio, so points for that.

People will have mixed reactions to this, and if you don't like American haunted houses and that kind of shit, you might not get it. But I think it's one of the better movies of its style out there. It's on Netflix, so you can go watch it right now. You know, unless you don't have Netflix or something like that. In that case, I guess you're fucked. Sorry.

Found footage horror isn't dying out yet, and I actually think they're getting better now than they were in the mid-to-late 2000s. This one is my favorite I've seen recently, but other ones like Grave Encounters and The Den, despite having problems, are certainly worth a cursory view if nothing else. So don't write off the style yet even if you hated all of these movies I've mentioned. It might come out with something that interests you eventually; you never know.

Images copyright of their original owners; I own none of them.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Animal (2014)

Animal is a 2014 movie about a bunch of kids in the woods getting chased by an animal. Oh wait, no it isn't. It's about a bunch of kids in the woods getting chased by some kind of horrific unexplained abomination of mankind and nature alike. Great false advertising, guys!

Director: Brett Simmons
Starring: Keke Palmer, Jeremy Sumpter, Elizabeth Gillies

Co-written with Michelle.

We start this off with a bunch of annoying idiots in a car going for a hiking trip. You might be saying, hey there Cinema Freaks, why disparage these kindred souls so harshly right out of the gate? You never know. They could be upstanding, fine youths! Give them a chance, at least the morsel of a chance!

Well, oddly cultured sounding contrarian strawman that I just made up, I'll give you an example of what this movie thinks is appropriate to introduce us to the characters with – this one gay guy, Sean, puts his headphones on, music blaring full blast, and the others have to shout at the top of their lungs to talk to him. Because I guess this movie thinks normal human beings wouldn't just turn off the fucking music.

Sigh. I miss Rest Stop 2's idea of what a road trip looks like - you know, riding in two separate cars and the one guy playing with dinosaur toys on the dashboard. That's still better than this.

There's also Alissa and Matt Рa fairly new couple I gather, who spend most of their time spouting hollow clich̩ jokes about gender and how girls don't usually like to go camping. Wonderful, I guess we're operating in the 1950s mentality again, like sadly a lot of these movies seem to. Alissa is also played by former Disney star Keke Palmer, and I really think this movie would be better if it had more Disney-style random song and dance break-outs.

"How did you end up in this movie if you used to be a Disney star?"
"Hey, a job's a job!"

Then they get lost and the brother and sister in the group have a huge shouting match about getting lost. Instead of actually just turning around and going back the way they came, they stand in one place and shout about it until the sun goes down. You guys truly are the greatest at hiking. I'm glad we trusted you to keep the spirit of the American adventurer alive. Oh wait, we never did that. Whew!

"Anybody else tired of these forced scenes at the beginning of a horror film yet that are really just filler to make the movie feature-length?"
"No, not at all! MORE PLEASE!"

Before I forget, I might as well mention the very forced subplot that only lasts through the first ten minutes about the fact that a lot of America's forests are being torn down. Yes, they actually give the one “leader Alpha male” dude, Jeff, a bunch of lines about how he used to come to this forest as a kid and now they're about to destroy it. Which, after seeing the later parts of this movie with bloodthirsty man-eating monsters in the forest, is probably a good thing. Burn those fucking forests to the ground!

But yeah, that plot never comes up again, which I just love and think is the best thing ever.

They get found by the monster pretty easily, and somehow the strongest and most fit guy dies first, which will happen way too often in this movie. I guess the real way to survive is being a total wimp.

Gore in a horror movie - always best when it's too shaky and close-up to actually see shit.

The monster, content enough to snack on that guy, lets the rest of them go, and they find a random cabin in the woods to hang out at. There are a few others around, a husband and wife couple, Carl and Vicky, and this guy Douglas, whose only job is to bitch and moan and act like HE knows what's best to survive, even though he hasn't survived so much as just hidden in the cabin with the rest of them.

Yes – this character is the most obnoxious in the entire movie, which is a hard feat. For most of the first twenty minutes we see him, he does nothing but condescendingly sneer at their suggestions of what to do, while offering none of his own. His voice is too sexy for a guy this annoying. He should have a really whiny, grating voice like Urkel gurgling broken glass. That would more befit his character I think.

But oh well, at least they're safe in that weird house. Oh wait, no, they're not – the monster is able to get inside through some random room upstairs.

"I was originally in here to read my copy of Moby Dick, which I've been slacking off on recently and need to get back to. But now that the camera is on me, I'M A BLOODTHIRSTY KILLING MACHINE!"

It doesn't come out and kill them in the main part of the house, though – it just breaks into those rooms and waits for them there. I guess it's a very considerate monster; it just waits until the camera is on it to actually do anything. I love the one scene where they're struggling to hold the door up so the monster can't get in, and Carl tells Matt, “Go, I can hold it!” Because these movies love stupid irony, he immediately gets slashed on the arm by the monster. Probably even worse things would have happened too, if they didn't act quickly afterward - so, go you guys. You're the best.

Their next idea is to go hang around outside with Carl standing around acting like bait while Matt tries to run and escape. It backfires, though, when Matt gets killed almost instantly. Gee, maybe it would have been a better idea to have more than one guy running alone in an unfamiliar area where a monster's lurking. Nah, never mind; that's a terrible fucking idea. I should be ashamed.

Then Douglas tries to lock the other two survivors – Sean and Carl – out of the house. The women try to stop him, but he is stronger then them and has more of a penchant for screaming about how he's the only one who knows how to survive. Never mind that if he really knew how to survive, they wouldn't be losing people left and right and stuck in a cabin hiding, but whatever, don't tell him that. He's insecure about it.

"Isn't it a bit unrealistic for you to be this one dimensionally douchey and awful?"
"NO! I'm the unlikable asshole of the movie! I HAVE NO OTHER CHARACTER!"

Anyway, the two guys he said were hopeless and couldn't get back in without the monster coming in, end up getting back in just fine without a scratch on them. Wow. It's exactly an 180 degree opposite from what you said would happen, you dick. You're the worst leader ever.

So apparently then it's time for Sharing Hour, where Sean tearfully reveals that he and Jeff were having a gay affair together. It's largely a pointless scene and never comes up again. But if we're sharing secrets, OK then, I'll join in. Huddle closer, you guys. I don't want anyone to hear this...

...Okay, is the coast clear? Lean in real close and I'll tell you a secret: I paused the movie during this scene and instead made an ice sculpture of Vladimir Putin in my yard. It was pointless and retarded, but still better than this scene, and probably more patriotic, too.

"Non sequitur outburst!"
"Great! I'm sure you'll live 'til the end of the movie!"

Then we get the reveal that Mandy is pregnant! Why the fuck wouldn't she be? I mean, it's a shitty horror movie. Of course someone is secretly pregnant. That is the only way to create drama, right?

They go down in the basement after finding out the one guy is still alive down there, somehow, despite being so mauled he can't move. I guess he had the willpower to conveniently find his way into the basement and not the fucking front door. Selective strength! It's a thing, really.

Unfortunately for them, the monster was down there in the basement too! He was just waiting for the camera to pan to him! Again, what a nice monster. As long as you're trying to go about your business and the camera isn't in his face, he'll just save his energy for the next time it is, and then he'll show off. But because they try to carry the wounded dude up the stairs, the only able-bodied dude who isn't a complete psychopath, Carl, has to get behind and carry the legs. Then the monster decides it's kosher to kill him, because again, the strongest guys in this movie are apparently the easiest targets.

Upstairs, Matt gets out a few last words, and then the psycho from before, Douglas, bashes his brains in with a baseball bat to feed him to the monster outside – because now, I guess THAT'S the plan. He shouts a lot about how he's the only one living in the real world, and it's all very boring until that old irony strikes again and he gets killed by the monster immediately, as if the monster just really wanted to kill someone right after they said such asinine dialogue. Eh, fuck it. I'm on the monster's side now.

"Maybe I shouldn't have stood conveniently by the door for the last part of my self indulgent crazy douchebag monologue! The monster has douchebag-seeking powers!"

Oh, and they kill the monster with fire. Yes – that's really all it would have taken this whole ridiculous time.

The two hottest chicks in the group, Mandy and Alissa, survive, and run outside only for Alissa, who is the more interesting character, to get killed unceremoniously. Because she was the one who wasn't pregnant. Also, it's revealed there are TWO of the monsters! Shock and awe! Maybe you should make them wear different colored ribbons so we can tell them apart next time.

Mandy runs over the other monster with the jeep they came in, and then as she drives away to presumably live in a room indoors for the rest of her life and never come out. Then we get a shot of a third monster that comes and looks at the body of the second one.

Uh, okay, somebody has to raise the question – how did nobody ever discover these monsters? Wouldn't a bunch of man-eating, rabid beasts of questionable origin turn a few heads at least? They're not THAT fucking far from civilization if two different groups of people came out there within a few days of each other. Or maybe they just got there from some science experiment and-or alien invasion. Great. Except that's not in the movie, like at all. If I have to make up random shit that you never even came close to implying let alone actually explaining, your movie is a bit lacking.

Why did the monster just do nothing conveniently when standing in a room until everyone else notices it? That's the stupidest thing ever. The characters make no sense and are either unremarkable or made unlikable later on through poor decision making. The movie tries at drama, but really isn't terribly good at it – mostly just throwing things like the pregnancy subplot or the impressively random gay romance in for one scene and then never talking about them again.

The cinematography can be okay at times, and there are worse movies out there, but this still isn't very good. Really, the film is just notable because it tried to shoehorn in a pro-environmental message in the beginning and then forgot about it – and worse, in the end, shot itself in the foot completely by showing how many bloodthirsty monsters are in that goddamn forest they wanted to save so bad. Somehow, I doubt you'll convince the big heartless corporations not to bulldoze that place and build a Walmart instead.

So really, this is the sequel to Animal:

Images copyright of their original owner; I own none of them.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Event Horizon (1997)

With all these movies offering cautionary tales about the bad things that happen when you go into uncharted deep space in search of some abandoned space ship, I really think the astronauts of the future will have it pretty easy. When they're thinking about going out to some bum-fuck barren stretch of starry wasteland to rescue the no doubt alien-infested carcass of their lost ship...they'll probably reconsider. Especially with movies like this one as part of their space training curriculum.

Director: Paul Anderson
Starring: Sam Neill, Laurence Fishburne

Co-written with Michelle.

Event Horizon is from the pits of the 90s and made by the guy who did Resident Evil and Mortal Kombat, so you know it's good. It's a sort of splattershot mix of a low-rent Alien, a low-rent The Shining and gore from the Hellraiser series, put together with the craftsmanship of a guy with two broken hands trying to fix your porch.

The film starts off innocuously enough, with some incredibly boring opening credit scenes. Oh yeah, you really padded out the length of the film to make it look longer than it is!

The characters are kind of a mish-mash of various inoffensive stereotypes that, while they don't irritate me, do kinda come off like a checklist of the various types of people that have to be on every spaceship in the future – the obligatory super serious captain guy and of course one goofy comic relief guy, at least one woman who has some perfunctory emotional issues that cripple her ability to do her job and a mechanic guy who does nothing but talk about how horny he is.

I guess none of the characters are bad – they're mostly just bland, and so stock and predictable that it really feels like they were just thrown in there because this same set of characters HAS to be on every fucking space ship ever. The only differences between most of these characters is how many lines of soulless exposition they're allowed to spout out like a broken fountain.

Oh, yeah, you better believe there's a shitload of exposition in this movie. This whole thing is knee-fucking-deep in the kind of exposition you can only get from the thriller genre's awkward late-90s, early-2000s phase where there couldn't really be any fun or good cheer in these movies – only dramatic explanations of the plot. I get the idea that if Event Horizon tried to smile, it would crack into a million ceramic shards of its former self. Its idea of fun is probably reading help manuals for lawn mowers.

Okay, so I've said there's a lot of exposition. So what's the plot? They're going out to find this ship called Event Horizon which disappeared years ago, but now has come up again on their radars. Sam Neill's character tells them all of this when they get there, which takes a long time and is broken up by seemingly everyone else there interrupting him every other sentence. That's really all we get in terms of dialogue – people interrupting each other. It's almost like being at a really shitty Thanksgiving dinner, which is really something to strive for in your movie's dialogue!

Furthermore, why are they just now learning what the mission is? They really didn't know any of this shit before? Either the company they work for is just super anal-retentive about information, or they're just the kinds of people who hate asking questions before going billions of miles into space...either way, it's stupid. Oh, and apparently the government lied about what happened to this ship – amazing, a government lying about something? What kind of twists will this movie pull out next?

They find the ship instantly, and normally I'd be more complementary of them for completing their mission, buuuuut finding a ship ten times the size of yours isn't really THAT impressive. Should I make a Malaysian Airlines/CNN joke, or will that not make sense in a year or so?

"How did we lose this big-ass ship again?"
"Well, the navigator was preoccupied by sleeping with the hot chick who served the coffee at the space base, and..."

They get on the ship and it takes about five seconds before their young astronaut character finds a horrific abomination on all of mankind that threatens to kill them all:

"Maybe if we had painted this ship in other colors besides ominous blues and dark grays, we wouldn't have this problem."

Despite this, Neill acts indignant and whiny when the captain, played by Laurence Fishburne, tells him they're shutting down the room with that hellish otherworldly portal-machine thing in it and nobody else can go in there.

"Aw, what's the big deal? It's just an insane hell-portal to another dimension that could kill us all! You guys are buzzkills, man."

The characters aren't really very good in this, as the writing seems to think showing us the fact that they had relationships on Earth that they left behind is enough. Which really isn't a very inspired choice to make. Everyone who does something like this in a movie always leaves someone on Earth behind that they miss. You need more than just that. It's like saying, “yeah, her favorite color is blue,” and then going okay, that's good enough for character development!

But I do admire your penchant for putting boils on the legs of children:

And apparently Neill just has a fetish for his wife wearing red eyes, because that's what he sees in his visions.

As the movie goes on and more weird things happen, the characters start to distrust each other and show this through extended, overblown screaming matches, like they do in every other shitty movie. Guys, drama isn't created when you raise your voices high enough to lose them for the next 12 hours.

Later on, we get more “family drama” as the one lady who misses her son sees an illusion of him and tries to go to him – unfortunately for her, there's a giant hole in the floor for some unknown reason that she easily could have seen. Why is there a giant hole there? Space and stuff! Technology! Who cares! But seriously, she should have seen that shit. I don't know how good of a mother you are if you can't see giant gaping holes where you can fall to your death.

It's good that she's separated from her kid on this ship, because for one, apparently there are giant holes everywhere to fall into. And two, she can't see any of them. Awesome.

Meanwhile, Neill continues to act shifty, claiming he doesn't know what the deal with the ship was. Though later on, it's revealed that the ship went to Hell or something and that's why it disappeared. It also now has its own brain, or some shit like that. I'm glad it has its own brain and can think endlessly about taking people to Hell with it now, or whatever the story is; that's a relief. I was worried I was never gonna see that in a movie. Can it also play dead?

Neill's character goes crazy, murders a few people and stabs out his own eyes. He comes out looking like he got in a fight with a Gillette Blue blade.

It's like if a werewolf cut himself shaving.

Oh, and he can also show Fishburne some visions of his crewmates getting tortured in hell, because why not spoil the surprise, you asshole?

Hey, bucko, I didn't want to see the end of this. Now I won't be surprised when it happens!

He fights Fishburne and dies. Fishburne and the other survivors all shout a lot more while explosions go on, so you know it's serious. They find a way to get off the ship that they never considered before – by blowing up most of it and escaping in the one part of it that is conveniently safe and will allow them to do that!

And the remains of the ship get sucked into the anus of Neptune.

Wow. They could have done that when their crew was all still alive and before Neill went crazy, but I guess that wouldn't have been dramatic enough. Also there's no way to make sure the evil of the ship is really gone – you know, except for the fact that we mercifully got no sequels to this.

We end on a fake-out scare of the one lady waking up from sleep in the ship to rescuers coming in, only one of the rescuers turns out to be Neill with the scarred face again! Shock and awe!

"Surprise! I gotcha, didn't I?"

Except it's just a dream and the movie ends on the real rescuers comforting her. Kinda anticlimactic.

I used to like this pretty well, but after rewatching, it really just didn't hold up. The ideas are interesting – the whole cosmic occult thing is kinda cool, and the visuals aren't bad or anything. But in practice, there's just nothing interesting to this. There's a dump truck load of exposition, and then people start dying. It's Point A to Point B with very little deviation from the path and no real character or plot that isn't strictly generic and could have been made by anyone else.

It is better than other space-horror movies like Jason X or Hellraiser: Bloodline, though, which is a standard you can feel comfortable in when you lower your actual standards enough to buy this from the Walmart discount movie bin to watch while drunk off your ass.

Images copyright of their original owners; I own none of them.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The ABCs of Death 2 (2014)

If you want to learn the alphabet, there are lots of ways you can do it. Feeling left out, the horror movie genre decided to get in on the game, too. Then, a few years later, it tried again.

Directors: Various
Starring: Various

Co-written with Michelle and Tony.

Coming off like a children's book written by Ted Bundy, this is yet another anthology of horror stories with 26 different directors trying their hands at making some weird, crazy, creative stuff. Some of it's good, some of it's bad...and some of it just makes me wish I had stayed home today. Let's dive right in and see what this batshit insane lesson has to teach us about the alphabet.

A is for Amateur

The worst hitman in the world, who I'm guessing was hired from the security department of a Toys R Us, botches up his kill and ends up re-enacting Die Hard in the air vents.

B is for Badger

The story of an incredibly obnoxious TV personality who bullies his staff until they presumably want to see blood – either their own or his. Fortunately, a giant demonic badger is there to help them with the second one:

His last word, after he is torn in half, is “Cut!” Which is a line so stupid that it circles the globe, goes into orbit and finds all the knowledge in the universe, then plummets back down to Earth, cures all the world's ills, and then bends time backwards with its newfound superpowers and it goes straight back to being ass-backwards stupid again.

...that's how dumb that line was.

Anyway, I'm just astounded that a giant demonic man-eating badger isn't the focus of this, but a jackass TV personality dying is the focus of this. Priorities schmiorities.

C is for Capital Punishment

In a truly award-winning society, the town conspires to beat the shit out of some random guy who they think kidnapped some girl. It doesn't really give a reason why they think so, so I'll just assume they picked his name out of a hat. Anyway, they take him out in the woods and try to kill him, very unsucessfully, with a rubber ax they apparently bought from Toys R Us where the guy from the “A” segment worked.

"DAMMIT JENKINS, DID YOU BUY A GODDAMNED FAKE AX AGAIN?! *sigh* I thought we learned our lesson the last five times we did this."

But they eventually get it right. At least they can kill a guy five-against-one when his hands are bound! They at least have that. Oh, and it turns out the girl is okay and they killed him for nothing. Have fun with years of soul searching and self loathing, guys!

D is for Deloused

"So this is the end of life...eaten by a giant lice..."

This one is about lice, apparently, as some truly strange things happen with a guy and a bug. I dunno. The mood and atmosphere are creepy, but I can't help but think this is what's going on in Sid from Toy Story's head all the time – either lice, or the batshit insane contents of this short film, you decide.

E is for Equilibrium

Two stoner rejects from a 90s movie have become trapped on a desert island and nobody noticed or cared. A beautiful woman shows up, inexplicably surviving despite the harsh waves and lack of any other land around the island. They fight over her but then decide to kill her because she's breaking up their non-gay 90s-movie-style bromance.

F is for Falling

A really interesting segment about an Israeli woman paratrooper fleeing from Arab law and getting caught in a tree. Some kid finds her and they strike up some quite well written dialogue that is sweet and kind of sad. It's a sort of romance, although I don't think many romances involve the main girl breaking her leg and hobbling around with the bone sticking out. Or, for that matter, the boy shooting himself by dropping his gun.

Buuuuuuut it was still good. Love just knows no boundaries.

G is for Grandad

I know what, no. I'm not talking about this one.

H is for Head Games

No matter who you are or what you like in a partner, no matter what your tastes are in terms of romance, I think there's one thing we can agree on – we all need a guy or gal we can do this with:

Ah, true love.

I is for Inheritance

This one is about as charming as a five-month old child who hasn't been fed in a week, and with even more screaming and less capacity for sympathy. With all the graphics of your least favorite Nickelodeon shows as a kid, the “I” segment is about some kind of immortal grandma who won't die and her screeching hell-spawn relatives who try and kill her to get money or whatever - what a bunch of fucks.

It turns out there's some kind of strange amulet in the grandma's mouth that makes her live forever. She seems to want to die, and all the miserable hellspawn trying to kill her presumably also want that to happen. But instead of just taking the amulet out and getting rid of it, I guess setting her on fire is more appealing.

J is for Jesus

Two gay guys get tortured and killed in some shithole by some piece of shit bigot fuck. Fortunately for them, one of them was hiding the ability to turn into a vengeful spirit from beyond the grave that comes back and eviscerates their tormentors.

K is for Knell

A young woman looks out the window and sees a bunch of people killing each other in hotel windows. Then, the same thing happens to her as a black slime mixes with blood on the floor. It's effective, creepy and way too vague to figure out what the fuck it actually meant.

No, my vacation is turning into an unfinished Windows screensaver! Control Alt Delete! CONTROL ALT DELETE!!

L is for Legacy

A spirit comes alive in Africa and brutally murders several members of a nearby village. Too bad they didn't have the special healthcare plan that offers protection from ancient primordial spirits!

M is for Mastication

When my friends and I were watching this one, about a crazy guy in piss-stained underwear who goes on a cannibalistic rampage on a busy street, I made a joke about bath salts. Which turned out to be exactly the same punchline as the movie itself came up with. I'm not saying I'm the secret writer of this segment, but I am saying the writer of this segment and myself have never been seen in a room together.

Zach Galifinakis, no!

N is for Nexus

A trippy short in which a girl is bitchy to a cab driver while trying to meet her stupid boyfriend on Halloween. This causes a chain reaction of events which ends in a child dying. Moral of the story, be nice to your cab driver, or else little children will die at his hands. Fear the cab drivers. Keep one eye open when you sleep.

O is for Ochlocracy

Another of the really good ones in this, a Japanese film telling the story of a postapocalyptic future where a woman is being put on trial for killing her kid in a zombie apocalypse. It's actually really effective, with some good acting and the oppressive atmosphere working really well.

At the end there's a twist and we find out everyone persecuting the woman is a zombie, as zombies have now become sentient. It's kind of played for shock value a bit, and there's some of the old Japanese vaudeville-esque humor, but mostly it's a very dark story.

Except for the cartoony judge that yells “DEATH!!!!” like it's the biggest thing in the world for him. I love this guy. He should be the judge for every case in real life. Give him a pay raise.

The legal system at its finest.

P is for P-P-P-Scary!

A tribute to old black and white Three-Stooges esque movies. It's funny and has a guy who can shrink his own head as well as make his head appear on a baby!

So like every movie in that genre, I like it.

Q is for Questionnaire

A story about a guy who answered a bunch of questions to get money, only to have his brain put inside of a gorilla instead. Worst April Fool's ever. I dunno though, maybe it was an improvement. We don't really know anything about the guy. Maybe he was actually a big slacker, and the gorilla version of him will fight crime or something.

R is for Roulette

A bunch of people play Russian roulette as zombies wait outside. Or, Walking Dead season 11. Either one.

S is for Split

Another of my favorites here – this one is about a guy who hears a home break-in while talking to his wife on the phone from another country. She gets killed, and it turns out to be another woman – and the wife of the other guy the husband was staying with at a hotel! What a twist!

"Since you'll be going away for murder for the rest of your life now, honey, I guess I'll just stay with this guy and be gay."

T is for Torture Porn

Girl gets man-handled at an audition for a porn tape, and then turns into a demon and rapes and kills everyone in the room for being misogynistic shitheads. Not that what the porn tape guys were doing was good, as they were just being real dicks the entire time, but...what was the story here? Did she just go into that porn tape audition thinking gee, I bet they'll treat me like a respectable person and not ask me to even take off my clothes? I know she's a demon, but it's confusing as shit. Unless she was just a vengeful spirit who planned to kill them in the first place.

Well, actually, that sounds good to me. Let's let that be it.

U is for Utopia

An ugly guy who somehow wandered into the exalted halls of beautiful people finds out that that isn't allowed after he gets incinerated immediately by the robot police that roam the halls of this place. Gee, if your only standard for a Utopian society is “no ugly people,” my guess is you're also the type of person who thinks Budweiser's Superbowl ad this year was accurate.

V is for Vacation

A girl chats on video on the phone with her boyfriend, who for some reason is at a resort without her, but with a male friend of his – huh, yeah, not weird at all...

Anyway, she finds out they've been sleeping with a bunch of whores and doing drugs. The one guy whose girlfriend it is frantically protests that it wasn't him! It was the other guy who was doing all of it alone! The whores, the drugs, everything! What, was the main guy just curled fetal-pose in a corner sucking his thumb the whole time?

Oh well – they get killed by a naked prostitute, which is always the greatest way to end a vacation.

W is for Wish

Two kids get their wish of being teleported inside their favorite TV show, Fantasy Man. Which is a pretty shitty wish when you think about it. You dumb ass kids couldn't think of anything better? I guess they deserve what happens next – being trapped in the castle of the show's villain. The one kid gets killed, and the other gets kidnapped by Fantasy Man, who seems to mistake him for a princess and carries him away trapped in a bag.

He's riding off into the court of lawsuits for child predators. That light in the distance will go out pretty quick.

X is for Xylophone

Little girl plays with a xylophone, babysitter goes nuts and disembowels her and then plays with her bones.

Okay, come on – I know these are just goofy, overexaggerated cartoon-horror type stories, but we have to start asking questions here. Where did they get this babysitter? Is it really the best idea to shop for babysitters for your kids at the nearby mental asylum? I doubt they even waited until she got out – the mother probably just gave the director of the asylum a handjob in a broom closet and he went, okay, take your pick of the litter!

The lesson I take away from this is, never cut corners when hiring a babysitter.

Y is for Youth

A Japanese girl takes out her woes about her family by engaging in some admittedly pretty creative fantasies. I mean, even as shitty as her family must be, they'd at least appreciate the creativity in these fantasies.

Z is for Zygote

A woman fends off birth with medicine that makes her keep a child inside her belly for 13 years. If that didn't sound like something that would end up on the cover of a tabloid rag or the Daily Mail or some shit, it's actually an extremely hamfisted metaphor for a miscarriage.

Yeah, I don't know about this one. For what it was trying to do, it's pretty well done – it's well-directed, creepy in how depressing and dark it is, very disturbing and certainly doesn't pull any punches. I'm sure whoever made this has some reason they wanted to do it – it's not like this is a topic you just skate around lightly.

But it's just so heavy-handed and in your face, and there's just no context to this. Is there a reason I need to see this? It seems like something this intentionally dark, gruesome and serious was made for a reason, but like a really pushy political protester while you're just trying to go to the post office send a package to your sister in the mail, it's just needlessly heavy when we have zero context for it. Maybe some people will find this one powerful – I just found it a huge downer.

Plus, as my friend put it, "it was just really disgusting."

Can't argue with that one either.


So this is the end of our lesson today. What have we learned? Hmm, well, a lot. The ABCs of Death 2 was certainly a mixed bag like the first one, but I liked this one a bit more if I had to choose – more of these were good as opposed to those that weren't. The first couple are pretty shitty, but once we hit F it's actually quite strong – that one, along with H, L, M, O, P, Q, S, V and W were all varying degrees of good.

The only ones that were real downers this time were G, I and X. T wasn't great either, and Z had its own problems as I mentioned above.

And even the bad ones are still better in a minuscule way as opposed to stuff like The Thing remake or some other corporate bullshit with zero effort. So there is that. If you want something weird and crazy, this is a pretty good bed. Personally I hope we see more of the directors in this anthology – maybe full movies for some of them. That's the great thing about horror; the underground is usually the place to go to find good shit.

Images copyright of their original owners; I own none of them.