Fantastic Fest Interview: ABC’S OF DEATH 2 Director Robert Boocheck

Scott talks to Robert Boocheck, winner of the ABC's Of Death 2 "26th Director Competition."

As you know, Drafthouse Films' The ABC's Of Death 2 co-opened this year's Fantastic Fest alongside Kevin Smith's Tusk (a move that only served to further illustrate how staggeringly incompetent Tusk is), and everyone I spoke to afterwards sounded like they had a great time with it. Like the 2012 original, ABC's Of Death 2 is a gleefully tasteless horror anthology that offers up 26 horror shorts from 26 different directors, each based on a different letter of the alphabet. Some are animated, some are live-action; some are subtitled, some (OK, many) are gruesome -- you get the idea: lots of variety, lots of blood, maybe a giant penis or two.

And also like the first film, it's impossible to walk away from ABC's of Death 2 without name-checking your favorite segments. For the franchise's latest iteration (an ABC's of Death 3 is already in the works), three segments kept coming up again and again: Steven Kostanski's "W is for Wish", Chris Nash's closing short, "Z is for Zygote", and Robert Boocheck's mid-movie ode to drug-induced rampages, "M is for Masticate".

If you didn't already know: Boocheck's the guy who won the ABC's Of Death 2 "26th Director Competition". Boocheck went up against a whole bunch of other filmmakers from all over the world to get his short into the film, and it's not hard to see why he won: of the three aforementioned top segments, "M" was easily my favorite. Arriving mid-film (see also: alphabetical order), the short hits a number of my anthology sweet spots: it's got an initially-mysterious opening, a perfect comedy/horror balance, and a crackerjack punchline/twist. Here, check it out if you've not seen it yet:

M IS FOR MASTICATE from Robert Boocheck on Vimeo.

Great, right? I thought so. And the day after I caught the film's Fantastic Fest premiere, I had a chance to sat down with Boocheck to chat about how "M is for Masticate" came together. Here's what he had to say:

Tell me about where the idea came from for "M is for Masticate." Was it the first concept you arrived at for "M," or did you go through a few ideas of your own on the way to that one?  

Boocheck: I had this thought one day: if my friends and I were hanging out, getting drunk and someone threw a bag of bath salts on the table someone is going to do them and then someone is getting their face eaten off. That scenario just made me laugh. In a weird way, I think it's pretty relatable. Almost everyone has done regrettable things while drunk. So, I wrote the script and called the short "Fuck Yeah". Right after I saved the draft, I started reading some movie website (probably Badass Digest) and there was the ad for the 26th director contest. The light bulb went off in my head and I hit the ground running.

How long did it take to put the whole thing together?  

Boocheck: I think from start to finish it took 4-5 weeks. It was a one day shoot but the post took some time. I had to call in lots of favors and I was lucky enough to know lots of talented people who were willing to help.  

What was the period like between you submitting the short and being told you won? Were you nervous, confident, borderline hysterical with anticipation?

Boocheck: I was talking to Chris Nash, who directed "Z" and had entered the previous contest, and he said that they should actually make a documentary about the competition. I totally agree. I met so many talented filmmakers through the contest. There was a real sense of community. The other filmmakers were so supportive of each other. It was a really fun time. Winning was amazing but even if I hadn't it would have been so worth it. If anyone out there is contemplating doing the next contest: do it. It is such a blast.  

Was this your first time at Fantastic Fest?

Boocheck: This is my first time at Fantastic Fest. I'm a commercial and video director, so I've been doing making short form things for a long time. Then a couple years ago, I realized that all this time had passed and I hadn't made a feature. I had to start making steps in that direction or it would never happen. I love all the stuff that Drafthouse puts out and curates. I really wanted to be part of Fantastic Fest. So, I took out a loan and shot a short and submitted it... and it didn't get in. So, I spent the following year paying back this loan and licking my wounds. I knew I had to keep swinging, though, so I picked myself up and went ahead and shot Masticate (this time I kept the budget to virtually nothing) and it won the ABCs contest and here I am at Fantastic Fest.  

Wow. What was it like seeing the crowd response to "M"?  It was definitely one of the film's best-received segments.

Boocheck: I'm so happy the joke works at the end! You never know if people are going to find what you find funny.  I get such a thrill hearing people laugh or cheer at the end.  

What other ABC's 2 shorts were you particularly fond of?

Boocheck: I really loved so many segments...there is so much talent packed into this film. The one that I haven't been able to shake is "Z". It's poetic. morbid, and squirm inducing. It's just amazing filmmaking.  

What's next?

Boocheck: I have a few things in the works. I'm in production on a pilot for an animated sci-fi comedy series called Megamoon. It's essentially a deconstruction of the classic space opera where the "evil overlords" and "swashbuckling space cadets" are only the backdrop while we focus on the slacker alien teenagers who hang out at the space mall.  I also just finished a feature script with a friend called for a horror-action-comedy called I Am Metal. It's the story of a group of teenage metalheads who unwittingly summon the Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse. Now, these jaded kids are the only thing standing in the way of the complete annihilation of the planet.  It's a really fun script. Hopefully that will get up and running soon.

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If you weren't already aware, ABC's Of Death 2 is currently available via VOD, Amazon Prime streaming, and might even be playing a theater near you if you're lucky. Fans of anthology horror would do wise to check it out: I think I enjoyed 2 more than the original, and a handful of the segments are really not to be missed. Special thanks to the folks at Fons PR for setting things up, Robert Boocheck for taking the time to speak with us, and to bath salts for making the world a way weirder place.

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