Tag Archives: Alexandre Bustillo

CAPSULE: THE ABCS OF DEATH 2 (2014)

Weirdest!(segment D)

DIRECTED BY: , Julian Barratt, Robert Boocheck, Alejandro Brugués, , , , Julian Gilbey, Jim Hosking, Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen, E.L. Katz, Aharon Keshales, Steven Kostanski, Marvin Kren, Juan Martínez Moreno, Erik Matti, , , Chris Nash, , Hajime Ohata, Navot Papushado, , Dennison Ramalho, , Jerome Sable, Bruno Samper, Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska, Sôichi Umezawa

FEATURING: Too many actors to list individually, and no one appears onscreen for long enough to qualify as “featured”

PLOT: 26 more short horror films about death, each inspired by an assigned letter of the alphabet.

Still from The ABCs of Death 2 (2014)
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Only one out of these 26 films might qualify on its own merits as a candidate for the List of the Weirdest Movies Ever Made, which is not a favorable enough ratio to consider this anthology a contender.

COMMENTS: The original ABCs of Death was a somewhat successful reinvigoration of the horror anthology genre, benefiting from the novelty of the ultra-short short format. The sequel is more of the same, with a mostly second-tier (in terms of name recognition, not talent) slate of directors alphabetizing horror’s latest cemetery. One obvious improvement from the previous installment; there are hardly any toilet-themed scares here (the scat-horror fad thankfully played out in 2013). Fewer of the episodes qualify as astoundingly weird, but we’ll give you the rundown on what to watch out for.

First off, in the not-so-weird category, we have to mention neophyte director Rob Boochek’s “M is for Masticate,” winner of the fan-submission contest, whose entry (featuring a paunchy rampaging madman in stained underwear) amounts to a dumb and arguably dated joke—but one that made me laugh out loud at its perfectly-timed, abrupt punchline. Even better is Hajime Ohata’s “O is for Ochlocracy,” a clever Japanese entry which actually finds a new spin on the vastly overdone zomcom genre.

On to the weird scorecard. ‘s “P is for P-P-P Scary!,”  is a tribute to early talkies, with three hillbilly Bowery Boys in absurd makeup and stereotypical striped prison garb cowering their way through a nameless void. It’s probably the most universally loathed segment of the film, and it’s easy to see why; Rohal’s highly personal and peculiar brand of awkward surreal comedy is an acquired taste that has yet to be acquired by almost anyone. It certainly won’t appeal to the average horror fan. The anthology ends with a weird, if relatively weak, flurry, with the action-figure inspired “W is for Wish,” the strange but inconsequential “X is for Xylophone” (which at least features Béatrice Dalle, ABC2‘s biggest star), the surreal special effects spectacle “Y is for Youth,” and the absurd pregnancy fable “Z is for Zygote.” There are a few other bizarre entries scattered about the alphabet. and Bruno Samper’s “K is for Knell” is audiovisually apocalyptic but abstract and hard to connect with.  ‘s much anticipated (by us) entry is quality, but nothing unexpected. Two scribbly lovers kiss each other to death, like a gorier version of one of his 1980s MTV shorts. “G is for Grandad” is an unclassifiable surprise tale of bizarre inter-generational rivalry from the previously unknown Jim Hosking. “Grandad” was noteworthy enough that the director parlayed this calling card into a feature film (titled The Greasy Strangler), to be released by cult-film specialist Drafthouse Films next year.

The most noteworthy episode—weird or not—is stop-motion specialist ‘s “D is for Deloused.” Technically impressive, it is also thoroughly surreal, taking place in a dirty lilac operating room full of bleeding men, scurrying cockroaches, and arm-sucking larvae with dual-headed clowns inside them. Nightmares don’t come much more terrifyingly irrational than this one, with a protagonist birthed from a corpse and commanded to “pay for life.” “Deloused” is the best thing in ABCs of Death 2, and it makes us long to see what the slow-working Morgan would do with a long-form project.

Overall, my judgment is that this sequel is less essential than the interesting-but-inessential original. Only Morgan’s segment rates as a must-catch for weirdophiles, while the first collection had three exceedingly bizarre entries to catch your eye. Overall, the uneven effect is about the same (although full disclosure requires me to report that most critics preferred this second installment, concluding that this crop of directors learned from the mistakes of their trailblazing predecessors).

and were announced as directors for this project, but pulled out before completing their shorts. There are currently no active plans for a third installment (the makers say that rampant piracy makes it difficult to recoup their investment).

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“There are a few standouts, though viewers’ appetites will differ enough that it’s unlikely any sort of consensus will form on which two or three make the entire experience worthwhile. From a critical standpoint, Robert Morgan’s stop-motion ‘Deloused’ does Kafka proud, commercial director Jim Hosking’s ‘Granddad’ wins the weirdness prize, Vincenzo Natali’s ‘Utopia’ proves hauntingly evocative, and Jerome Sable’s sick p.o.v.-style ‘Vacation’ would be right at home in one of the ‘V/H/S’ horror anthologies.”–Peter Debruge, Variety (contemporaneous)

RECOMMENDED AS WEIRD: LIVIDE (2011)

AKA Livid

DIRECTED BY: Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury

FEATURING: Chloé Coulloud, Félix Moati, Jérémy Kapone, Catherine Jacob, Béatrice Dalle, Chloé Marcq, Marie-Claude Pietragalla

PLOT: When a student nurse and her companions break into an enigmatic patient’s mouldering mansion, they spiral into a horrifying mystery while being stalked by reanimated corpses, a marionette vampire, and a brain-sucking sorceress.

Still from Livide (2011)


WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: Livide undergoes a continual genre metamorphoses from teen slasher, to haunted house film, to morbid steampunk thriller, to otherworldy fantasy. If that’s not enough, the underlying concept, while not purely original (though the story fresh) is completely off-the-wall.

COMMENTS: When Lucy (Coulloud) takes a job as a nurse’s assistant, her mentor takes her to a sinister, ancient estate where an elderly comatose patient named Mademoiselle Jessel (Pietragalla) has allegedly hidden a fortune in treasure somewhere inside the gloomy edifice’s crumbling walls. Lucy returns with accomplices to search for it. The trio unwittingly awakens an ancient matriarch who turns out to be a sorceress—and a brain-sucking vampiress.

Mademoiselle Jessel’s very habitation is in collusion with her. The manor is nearly a living entity and becomes a central, personified lead in the film. Baroque and timeworn, intricate, creaking and groaning, and full of decorative complexity, the edifice resonates from a terrible secret enclosed within.

The house is monstrous and overwhelming, with winding corridors, door-less rooms, portal mirrors, and darkened, cluttered spaces filled with the aberrant memorabilia and paraphernalia of Mademoiselle Jessel’s moribund life. The mansion has its own plan, in malignant collaboration with an undead menagerie of taixdermied creatures.

There are menacing shadows, disturbing movements, and a feeling that one is not alone within these walls. In fact, Lucy and her compatriots are not. The residence’s creaking floors, locked doors and disintegrating walls alternately conceal and release unmentionable abominations upon the hapless intruders.

Trapped in the house with all exits inexplicably locked behind them, exploring eerie room after eerie room, Lucy and her cagey cohorts are drawn into an alternate reality behind a magic mirror. As they frantically scramble for a means of escape, the three friends are pursued by animal and human corpses reanimated as ghoulish marionettes. Meanwhile Lucy finds herself entwined in a vintage riddle which she must solve in order to keep her soul.

Livide is a visually stunning horror film, utterly fresh, and free of all clichés, cheap tricks and tired gimmicks. From the mummy-like, comatose Mademoiselle Jessel, her finger nails grown long as talons and her face obfuscated by a grotesque oxygen mask, to the dreary, decaying mansion in which she is entombed alive, Livide is a morbid cavalcade of ghastly settings, objects and characters.

Intricate sets, elaborate, horrifying makeup effects, along with cryptic objects and props accentuate an original and bizarre genre-bending story. Livide begins as a mystery, evolves into horror and concludes as grisly fantasy. The film’s claustrophobic optical signature enhances its uncanny and eventually surreal feel.

Livide is the ultimate haunted house film, but it is also a diabolical odyssey. Dark, striking, slick, inscrutable and arty, but conventionally filmed and superbly produced, Livide proffers moments of sheer terror accented with otherworldly wonder. A visual extravaganza of the dreadful visions and horrible ideas lurking in the hearts of all proud horror aficionados, Livide unnaturally speaks to something locked deep down inside of us. Livide is an absolutely bitchin’, smashing, slam-bang groovy movie all the way.

LIVIDE 450 (2)

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…while the duo has reduced the ketchup factor by at least 50% [from their debut Inside] in this rather surreal mélange of ballet, taxidermy and vampirism, they’ve also cut down on the frights to the point that their doomed Gallic chateau seems about as scary as Disney’s Haunted Mansion.”–Jordan Mintzer, The Hollywood Repoter