By all accounts, the production behind The ABCs of Death 2 didn’t have to reach out to aspiring filmmakers to fill their 26th slot. With names like Sion Sono, Alex de la Iglesia and Vincenzo Natali rounding out the roster for the alphabet-inspired horror anthology, they could have easily enticed another heavy into the mix. Instead, they did what they did with the first film and sought a new voice from their fan base.
It worked well before. So well in fact that one of the non-winners from the first contest — Chris Nash — made such an impact that he secured a spot alongside more well-established filmmakers as one of the 25. Thus, the search for the 26th director was on.
Since both Rob Hunter and Scott Beggs were foolish enough to watch all of the 500+ entries, and now that the 12 finalists have been announced, they wanted to rank the disgusting dozen with an eye toward choosing who they would pick as the overall winner (and thus, the short that will be tucked away in the middle of the movie). The real winner will be announced December 15 after a mad scientist finishes his gruesome experiments or they torture it out of Tim League or something, but for now here’s two bloody cents (and 12 cool shorts to watch).
(Sidenote: the order was decided by independently voting and then adding up scores. Simple. Because math is the enemy.)
12. M is for Misdirection
Like Matchmaker and Munging below, I’m disappointed that this one made it into the list of finalists when there were so many far better entries. It’s a setup in search of an ending, but neither part is all that interesting. - RH
11. M is for Mind Meld
A thousand cool points for self-inflicted gore that sticks to your ribs, but there wasn’t much meat hidden here beyond the concept. It’s probably the most grueling, though. - SB
10. M is for Matchmaker
There’s a simple premise at the heart of this short that in the right hands could have made for quite an ending. Instead it gets mangled alongside jokes that are dead on arrival and an end stinger that fails to land. - RH
9. M is for Miracle
Thought-provoking surrealism done with a desperate man, a simple box and a dangerous rabbit hole. It’s disturbing, but it could also use a bit more glue to connect its own dots. - SB
8. M is for Munging
Unlike many of the entries, this one eschews humor in favor of a creepy and fairly disgusting setup, but it falls apart with its somewhat pointless payoff. Still, it earns points for introducing a new party game into our lives. - RH
7. M is for Masticate
You know the punchline from the first frame, but it doesn’t matter. The visually shocking (strangely beautiful) real-world terror come to life is executed with precision and balletic slow motion. Great work that could be a PSA. - SB
6. M is for Multiverse Apathy
This one’s gross and funny (“Shit like bullets!”), and at first you might think that’s all it has going for it, but once we change spots in the multiverse a whole new level of hilarious genius is revealed. The final line kills me every time. - RH
5. M is for Mailbox
This excels with crowd-pleasing skill. An antique, intriguing set up with a simple attack in its bowels, the ultimate reveal is beyond satisfying. The only thing is, I keep waiting for a feature film to follow after it. - SB
4. M is for Make Believe
You don’t find a lot of innocence in these shorts, but this one manages to capture the sweet beauty of youth and summer vacations spent outdoors in a fun and funny way. The dead body at the center of it all is just the decomposing icing on the cake. - RH
3. M is for Meat
The sole animated finalist, it’s oozing creepy like a stop-motion baby from Tim Burton and David Cronenberg. When he strokes the chicken leg? Crazy. So unsettling and wonderful. Truly weird Weiner art. - SB
2. M is for Marauder
While our elaborate points system resulted in a different flick earning the top spot, this black & white ode to Mad Max and ’50s biker flicks is actually my personal favorite thanks to a brilliantly executed mix of smart edits, crafty homage, and liberal bloodshed. It doesn’t hurt that it’s damn funny either. - RH
The Winner: M is for Muff
Big, bold, bizarre. Really all of the B-words. Every detail — from the Vargas girl off-setting expectations to the tissues at the bedside — is pitch-perfect in service of a short that catches you off guard at every single turn. – SB
As you can see, the ultimate thing to remember is that most of these finalists would feel right at home in The ABCs of Death 2. There’s some incredible quality and innovation here — proof that there are levels of talent all of over the world merely waiting for a spotlight. It’s fantastic to see them (and many others) get that audience platform here. Best of luck to all of them.
Which one was your favorite?