One of the less disturbing entries in the horror short anthology ABCs of Death 2 is Todd Rohal’s oddball black and white “P is for P-P-P-P Scary!,” which comes in at number 16 for some much needed comic relief amidst the bizarre scenes and twisted imaginations of the other directors involved in this second go-around.
Seditious in its intent, ABCs of Death 2 (review) is determined to upend the current state of horror, pushing the limits of what filmmakers have done and fans have seen up to this point in the genre’s history. Just after the film’s premiere at Fantastic Fest, Dread Central spoke with Rohal about his contribution to such a unique project and how excited he was to be involved this time around…
DC: Can you give a description of your entry and how you first came up with the idea? There are 26 of these so I really want to try to make sure that yours stands out a little.
TR: It’s a black and white, kind of like a Three Stooges-ish, Don Knotts, fearful hero slapstick horror tale. It’s a bit different from the rest because it’s not super violent; it’s super violent in a 1930’s context, I guess. It would have shattered all horror conventions in 1935 but not today.
DC: It would have been really controversial then. It’s not exactly “splatstick.” How did you get involved with ABCs of Death 2? You had a connection to Drafthouse because of The Catechism Cataclysm, but was the uniqueness of the project what made you really want to be a part of it?
TR: I think with the first one Todd Brown wrote to me and asked if I wanted to do it, and I wrote a thing immediately. And then they actually asked too many directors and I got asked not to do it. So when they announced the sequel, I wrote to them and asked, ‘All right, am I on the runner-up list? Can I get back in the game?’ Then, after a lot of lobbying, they said okay even though I’m not really a horror director. I just asked a lot.
DC: Why couldn’t there just be 27 letters of the alphabet and you could have snuck in?
TR: Yeah, we could have just gone to infinity and had this thing be 85 hours long. But yeah, the running time is definitely plenty.
DC: Have you gotten a chance to see some of the other entries and how your short fits in as a whole?
TR: Yeah, I did. I didn’t know what I’d be walking into. Curating a shorts program is one of the hardest things to do and there are not too many people that can do it well. I think Sundance does the best job at putting a block of shorts together. It would be like if someone running an art gallery just put up a bunch of paintings that were blue. That’s not really how you do it. So I was really nervous about this because they’re just asking 26 people and you’re completely free to do whatever you want and they don’t ask for any changes. But man, it so worked for me because it was such a diverse group of movies. It totally worked for me when, really, it shouldn’t have. I mean, seeing that entry from Nigeria? It was so different from everything else just in the rhythm of how it was told. And even up to the very end of it with X, Y, and Z with this Korean entry that was so out there and fun and full of great practical effect stuff. I actually really enjoyed the show.
DC: It’s such a huge, collaborative effort with people from all over the world. It’s kind of overwhelming probably to be a part of that.
TR: Yes, absolutely. It felt like there wasn’t a lot of American directors in it which, for the sake of that movie, is really good to have it be so international.
DC: With you and Larry Fessenden there really isn’t a need for other American directors.
TR: (laughs) And Bill Plympton was great to have in there and that Jim Hosking thing? I’d seen some of his short films and his commercial work. He did the one with the old man (“G is for Grandad”). That sense of humor is totally different than any American sense of humor. Programming it and not just going with an American sensibility is smart because it naturally gets a more diverse mix of movies.
DC: I like how the tone shifts. Normally you might critique that, but I couldn’t wait to see what was going to come next and what else was going to get thrown at you. How long did it take to shoot this?
TR: This one we ended up being able to shoot in a day. I had done three features prior and have been trying to get another movie off the ground that we’re hopefully shooting soon. But it takes so long to get a feature with a significant budget together so I just wanted to do something, I wanted to be making something. And to be able to shoot something in a weekend and then have it finished in a short amount of time is great, especially when it’s something that feels like it should be a short film, where you’re not trying to make a small feature. You’re actually making something that works for that time limit. It’s a whole different part of your brain you’re using.
DC: It’s amazing, too, you shoot it in a day and then it’s going to be coming out in theaters on Halloween. As a horror fan, that’s got to be kind of a dream come true.
TR: That’s so frustrating when you read about something that’s playing at a film festival and then you don’t get to see it for six months. You feel like you’re left out of that whole scene … You know you’re missing out on a huge chunk of people that want to see it but don’t have the ability to anymore.
Even though ABCs of Death did play at a festival, you can see it now On Demand, and it will be released in the US in theaters this Halloween.