Filmmaking contests rarely attract enough high-quality films to result in an embarrassment of riches, but horror anthology “The ABCs of Death 2” produced so many impressive short films that a third compilation was in order. That collection of shorts, entitled “The ABCs of Death 2.5,” premiered Tuesday on Vimeo, where viewers can rent the film for $2.99 or purchase it for $5.99.
The first two “ABCs of Death” were both comprised of 26 individual horror shorts, each corresponding to a letter of the alphabet. Both compilations saved a single letter to be used as the basis for a global filmmaking competition, the winner of which would have his or her short included in the final movie. In 2014, the second edition of the competition attracted 541 entries from filmmakers in more than 40 countries. Every short had to be three minutes long and begin with the letter “M.”
Robert Boocheck’s “M is for Masticate” won the $5,000 cash prize and was included in “The ABCs of Death 2” in 2014. Out of the remaining 540 shorts that were submitted, the 26 best entries were compiled together to form “The ABCs of Death 2.5.”
“These are who we think are the next filmmakers to break out,” said Ant Timpson, who produced all three compilations with Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League. “That’s the goal of the competition.”
Magnolia Pictures’ genre division Magnet distributed the first two “ABCs of Death” theatrically, where they played in limited release in independent theaters, including the Alamo. Timpson couldn’t disclose the films’ video on demand revenue figures but said part one was not only profitable but did “very well” on North American VOD and “brisk” sales internationally. Part two was unfortunately leaked online before its premiere, and ended up not being profitable.
Originally envisioned as a bonus disc on part two, “The ABCs of Death 2.5” is a Drafthouse Films release that went straight to Vimeo, where Timpson said it would likely get more attention as a standalone title. “We never saw it as a massive, major release, but we definitely wanted to get it out there,” he said, adding that the film was never intended to have a theatrical release, especially after part two failed to turn a profit.
Drafthouse Films released version 2.5 through Vimeo and splits the streaming revenue with the filmmakers. Drafthouse Chief Operating Officer James Shapiro declined to disclose the split between the company and filmmakers, but said the deal is similar to all of its distribution deals. Timpson said the filmmakers included on version 2.5 are all “happy” with the agreement.
The first “ABCs of Death” attracted horror fans by including shorts from established genre directors like Ben Wheatley (“Kill List”) and Adam Wingard (“You’re Next”). Many participants from the competitions have ended up working together on other projects and directing their own feature-length debuts. “Thats was a nice little offshoot for us as producers,” Timpson said.
One advantage for the filmmakers included in “The ABCs of Death 2.5” is the brand awareness created by the first two installments. “So many people have caught both part one and part two on Netflix,” Timpson said. “I think the timing is actually really good for the filmmakers to get their work out there.”