Above, see an exclusive still from "M is for Masticate," the 26th Director contest winner by Robert Boocheck in this year's ABCs of Death 2 horror anthology. ABCs of Death 2 hits VOD today and, to celebrate, producers Tim League, Ant Timpson and the international filmmakers behind the highly anticipated horror anthology sequel will be holding a Live Twitter #DeathParty starting at 10:00pm ET TONIGHT. Join in the conversation and watch 26 new ways to die along with the creators using the hashtag #DeathParty. And read a conversation about the making of both films from League and Timpson below!
In 2012, friends Ant Timpson, founder of the Incredibly Strange Film Festival, and Tim League, founder of Fantastic Fest and the Alamo Drafthouse, joined forces to produce the incredibly ambitious, possibly insane, horror anthology The ABCs of Death. 26 directors created 26 horror shorts all around the world, each one featuring a death based on a different letter of the alphabet. It’s an anthology with a scope and breadth unlike any other - that is, until this year’s ABCs of Death 2 had its world premiere at Fantastic Fest opening night on September 18, 2014. The two longtime partners in crime and creativity sat down with me to discuss their upcoming film, their collaboration and their favorite movie deaths.
So how did these two meet and become cohorts? In 1999, where many film-lovers and horror nerds have become friends in the past: at Ain’t It Cool News’ and Alamo Drafthouse’s annual 24-hour-plus movie marathon, Butt-Numb-A-Thon. League said, “Ant had been reading the site and saw what we played at Butt-Numb-A-Thon, and he said ‘Hey, this sounds like a cool lineup, cool event; if you guys ever need any film prints, let me know,’ and sent over his list of film prints. And I happened to be a collector of film prints myself at the time, and we got to chatting. It’s really been this kind of crazy fifteen years of on-again, off-again collaboration. We like a lot of the same things, and we’re both irresponsible and maybe impulsive in the same way.” For instance? “ABCs came from idea to fruition really fast!”
It’s a bold idea, creating a horror anthology based on every letter of the alphabet, and even bolder to make it a worldwide affair, overseeing over two dozen simultaneous productions by so many different directors. On how the first film was conceived, Timpson said, “I had a eureka moment late one night when the boys wouldn’t go to sleep, so I was reading them an ABC book. And I just came up with the crazy idea of an alphabetical anthology, based on those ABC books but with multiple directors and multiple tales of death. I just made a really small one-pager - I think I even made it into a PDF because I know Tim likes his paperwork [they both laugh], and I was thinking he wouldn’t have much of a response. But he said, ‘Yeah, that sounds good. Let’s do it.’ And I think without that, it would have just been one of those silly ideas I have every day, but because Tim was at peace with it, it just sort of took off from there.”
League added, “This is an absolutely insane idea, to try to produce this as my first effort. This is an incredibly complicated procedure to have 26 different productions going on all over the globe. It’s just dumb. But after having worked on Fantastic Fest for so long, we felt like there was this network of emerging horror directors out there that would really leap at the opportunity to do whatever the hell they wanted, and to be a part of this. So I was sort of inspired by seeing not only dozens of features, but also the shorts directors, and to work with people that we’d gotten to know through the Fest.”
But it’s the sort of insane idea that became something because of League’s and Timpson’s shared love of risk and theatricality. Timpson said of their working relationship, “I think there’s mutual respect in terms of showmanship, and respect of exhibition… Because even though ABCs is kind of an anthology, it’s kind of not. It’s really a throwback to the midnight movies we both really, really like, with the audience interaction, and the fact that they have a longevity long after the initial showing. And it’s really due to the audience just having a fun time.” Midnight movies like Pink Flamingos, El Topo, all the “granddaddies” of the grindhouse and arthouse. “There was a period from the late ‘70s to the early ‘80s where there was a really vibrant midnight scene, before home video sort of exploded, and it was a very seminal experience to have when you were young, seeing those sorts of movies with a very pumped up, hyped up, drug-induced audience. Those experiences will last with you for a lifetime. It was just these raucous celebrations of cult cinema.”
Other than the midnight movies that inspired ABCs of Death, the film is obviously informed by a love of great cinematic deaths. I asked League and Timpson about some of their favorites, though League warned me I’d have to cut them off eventually, because they could go on forever. “Ahh, there’s a lot. The first one that pops to mind, and there’s so many directions that you can go, but I like the sort of novel and unique deaths. So the death of the geriatric old lady in Man Bites Dog is one of my favorites.” Timpson approved, “Yay! Old lady death! For me it’s the ones that affected me the most at an early age. So it’s things like the slo-mo decapitation in The Omen. I vividly remember seeing that and freaking the hell out. John Hurt in Alien was a massive, massive, iconic death that lived long after the film had finished.” League added, “I watched a lot of horror movies when I was in high school, so a really choice one for me was the final death in the first Hellraiser. Because I was a young kid, I thought it was cool as shit from a 13-year-old’s perspective, and there’s still a part of me that’s 13 years old. So there’s a lot of things like that. All the choice Lucio Fulci deaths kind of rise to the cream, the cream at the top of the milk.” And Timpson pointed out that a film’s quality is often irrelevant when talking movie deaths: “You can have a really average film like The Fury that will feature one of the best deaths of all time, as well. Cassavetes’ head exploding from a hundred different camera angles is pretty hard to top.”
League and Timpson’s love of showmanship led to more than a simple screening at the world premiere of ABCs of Death 2 at Fantastic Fest last month. Many of the directors were in attendance, and the Q&A was Skyped for the world at large on its opening night. And tonight at 10pm ET, League, Timpson and many of the directors are hosting a Twitter #DeathParty with anyone who watches the film on VOD and wants to live-tweet with them.
And we can expect a lot of departures from the first film, as well, as there isn’t a single director from ABCs who also worked on ABCs 2. League said, “We like to keep it really diverse in a lot of different ways. We like a lot of different tones, we like a lot of different styles and we like a lot of different geography. We want people to come from all corners of the globe to put this piece together.” Timpson added, “Personal connections were very much a part of the first one, and this one, we definitely didn’t have as many direct connections. We had some people that we knew, and some people that we had some contact with, but definitely not on that level of the first film. So there was a lot more of the nature of the unexpected, which is kind of exciting. You really don’t know what you’re getting until it turns up on the day.” On other differences we can expect in ABCs 2 that distinguish it from its predecessor, Timpson laughed, “There’s no toilet humor.” League added, “Yeah, we went a little too hard on the toilet humor the first time around. There’s a bit of comedy in this one. I would say it’s probably not...” and Timpson chimed in, “Puerile? Well, the first one was like the juvenile delinquent version, and this is like the kind of educated psychopath.”
This was originally published in the October edition of Birth.Movies.Death. See ABCs OF DEATH 2 on VOD starting today, and catch it at the Alamo Drafthouse and other theaters beginning Oct 31!