AICN HORROR celebrates Halloween with some anthologies; CHILLING VISIONS! BLACK SABBATH! TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE! LITTLE DEATHS! TRICK R’ TREAT & CREEPSHOW 1-2!
Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. This time around, just in time for the Halloween Holiday, I’ve got a special column looking at some of the best anthologies around. Because there’s nothing better than horror in bite size chunks! Both BottleImp and I bring you some cool horror anthologies of note that will round out any good Halloween season!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
BLACK SABBATH (1963)
CREEPSHOW 2 (1987)
TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE MOVIE (1997)
TRICK R’ TREAT (2007)
LITTLE DEATHS (2011)
CHILLING VISIONS: 5 SENSES OF FEAR (2013)
And finally… Peter Podgursky’s M IS FOR MORMON MISSIONARIES!
Find this film on Netflix here!
BLACK SABBATH (1963)aka THE THREE FACES OF FEAR
Directed by Mario Bava
Written by Alberto Bevilacqua, Mario Bava, Marcello Fondato, F.G. Snyder (The Telephone), Ivan Chekhov (The Drop of Water), Aleksei Tolstoy (The Wurdalak)
Starring Boris Karloff, Michèle Mercier, Lidia Alfonsi, Mark Damon, Susy Andersen, Massimo Righi, Rika Dialina, Glauco Onorato, Jacqueline Pierreux, Milly Monti
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Filled with imagery both terrifying and hokey, there’s a little bit of everything in Mario Bava’s classic trilogy of terrors. Hosted by Boris Karloff himself, the film is oftentimes kooky and oftentimes bone-chilling, but is bound to leave an impact on anyone who watches it.
One of the things that surprises me about Kino Lorber/Redemption’s latest BluRay release is that it is in Italian only. I know parts of it have been dubbed in both languages, but it perplexes me why they didn’t have an English version of this film added to the disk as well for completists. I seem to remember watching the English version in an all night movie marathon one time, and it seemed to be much more effective. I know complaining about subtitles is poo-poohed, but still, so much of Bava’s film relies on what is played out in the image that having to read the bottom of the scream lessened the effect of the film for me. Surprisingly, I haven’t had this happen in other subtitled films and am a huge supporter of foreign scares, but for BLACK SABBATH in particular, I feel it hurts the film.
Though I am not sure why, the order of the short stories is switched from the American version I saw, which led with “A Drop of Water”, then “The Telephone” and finally “The Wurdulak”. The Italian version on this disk reorders things in terms of least scary to most by beginning with “The Telephone”, then “The Wurdalak”, and ending with the scariest of the bunch, “A Drop of Water”. Maybe the filmmakers thought Americans wouldn’t sit through the slower two films and felt the need to front-load the film with the best. Nevertheless, I prefer the Italian order since it feels more like a natural slow build of scares.
Broken up into three parts, the Italian version of this film doesn’t really tie into one another save the lead-in bits by Karloff, who revels in the terror like a pig in slop. Karloff only stars in one of the stories--“The Wurdalak”, a Tolstoy tale of vampiric undead. Karloff is great in this segment as a patriarch of a family who returns to the home as something less than living. The story is actually quite chilling, with Karloff making the most of his furry hooded robe and pale skin makeup. The colors are bright and vivid and the forests are dark and serpentine as Bava shows that he does atmosphere better than most. More so than any of the other segments, “The Wurdalak” feels much more akin to BLACK SUNDAY in mood and gothic ambiance.
The least effective short of the three is by far “The Telephone”, about a woman tormented by a caller she thinks is a spurned lover escaped from prison. There’s a lot of suspenseful moments in this one, especially a shot of two eyes peering in at the woman from behind a screen, but ultimately, this one just didn’t hit like the others. Interestingly, the Italian version has additional scenes not in the American one that adds a subplot of a lesbian lover, but even that didn’t spice this one up for me. Despite the shrill ring of the phone which is amped to deafening levels in the film, “The Telephone” left me cold.
The best of the three was “A Drop of Water”, about a nurse who comes to a home to look over a dead body. The thing that makes this little number so effective is the absolutely horrifying dummy used as the corpse of the dead woman. The piercing eyes and horrifying grin are something that will make lesser experienced viewers scream and will even twinge the nerves of some of us more jaded folk. I have to admit, every scene with this corpse got me, and I can’t watch this sequence in a dark room. The Serling-esque ending wraps it all up nicely, making this a perfect way to end the film (if you’re watching the Italian version, that is).
Bava went out of his way to toss out as many scares and gothic horrors as he could with BLACK SABBATH. Though the Italian version opens and closes with some goofy dialog from Boris Karloff that would make the Crypt Keeper blush, it makes for a fun way of wrapping a bow on it all. The behind the scenes look in the final moments really works well in letting us all know it’s just a movie, which after some of the scares in BLACK SABBATH, we may need some reassurance.
Find it on Netflix here!
CREEPSHOW (1982)Directed by George A. Romero
Written by Stephen King
Starring Hal Holbrook, Leslie Nielsen, Adrienne Barbeau, Fritz Weaver, Carrie Nye, E.G. Marshall, Vivica Lindfors, Ed Harris, Ted Danson, Stephen King
Reviewed by BottleImp
I’m going to be bluntly unapologetic about this: I fucking LOVE this movie. CREEPSHOW has been a staple in my Halloween horror movie tradition since waaaay back when your old pal the Imp was a kid growing up in southern Connecticut. Back in the days of aerial antennae, before cable television was the ONLY way that you could get a picture on the boob tube, my brothers and I would eagerly await that time of year when WPIX Channel 11 would begin its annual “Shocktober” horror movie programming. In our eyes, George Romero and Stephen King’s ode to EC Comics was the star of that fright flick lineup, so much so that one year we finally recorded CREEPSHOW on VHS (remember those?) and watched that grainy, edited-for-television movie all year round. And now that I have my own unedited copy on DVD, I STILL watch the damn thing all year round. For whatever flaws the film may have, CREEPSHOW remains, as its tagline proclaims, “The most fun you’ll ever have being scared!”
The nod to EC’s classic “Tales From The Crypt” line of horror comics is evident right from the beginning of the framing story: an angry father (an uncredited Tom Atkins) throwing out the “crap” horror comics he finds being read by his son Billy (Stephen King’s son Joe, who today is a successful horror author himself). As a storm rages outside, the comic book flips open in the wind and rain, giving the viewer a shot of the opening pages of each story in this anthology (like EC’s Crypt-Keeper, the “Creepshow” comic book has its own host in the skull-headed “Creep”).
The first tale, entitled “Father’s Day,” tells the story of the wealthy Grantham family, whose fortune stems from the fact that the great-aunt of the clan (Vivica Lindfors) murdered her own father on the titular day. Thus every Father’s Day the family gathers together to celebrate, matriarch Sylvia (Carrie Nye) tells the young man who has just married into this murderous brood (Ed Harris). Naturally, the vengeful spirit of Old Nathan Grantham chooses this night to rise from his grave…in search, it would seem, of his annual Father’s Day cake. The Grantham family is delightfully slimy, so it’s no great surprise that they get what’s coming to them—justice, meted out in the best EC fashion. The makeup effects on the reanimated Nathan are pretty great, with his dirt-clotted skull crawling with worms, but the scariest part of this segment still has to be Ed Harris’ disco dancing. Brrrr…
Bonus Geek Opinion: If CREEPSHOW were an actual EC comic, I think this story would have been drawn by “Ghastly” Graham Ingels. The wicked, aristocratic family and the rotting cadaver are perfectly suited to Ingles’ fluid inking style.
“The Lonesome Death Of Jordy Verrill” is the second chapter of the film, and probably the weakest. That’s because the title character, a slow-witted oaf of a farmer, is portrayed by none other than the author himself, Mr. Stephen King. King definitively proves that he is no actor as he mugs his way through this story of a strange meteor turning Jordy into a human plant. Still, the tone of this segment is more humorous than the rest of the film (with the possible exception of the black humor of “The Crate,” but we’ll get to that), so King’s bug-eyed performance doesn’t feel too out of place. The other visual gags work well, like when Jordy imagines having to see a doctor about his new condition, and the doctor’s chair rolls across the floor is accordance with the tilted camera angle. Plus, “Jordy Verrill” has the distinction of introducing the phrase “Meteor shit!” to the horror lexicon, so that’s okay too.
BGO: With its humorous tone and the country-bumpkin character of Jordy, this chapter is tailor-made for EC and later Mad Magazine star Jack Davis to have illustrated.
Of all the stories that make up CREEPSHOW, “Something To Tide You Over” feels the most like it could have been lifted directly from an old “Tales From The Crypt” comic. Leslie Nielsen plays Richard, a wealthy sadist who decides to enact a horrifying revenge on his wife (Gaylen Ross) and her lover (Ted Danson) when he learns of their affair. Best known for his roles in AIRPLANE! and the NAKED GUN movies, Nielsen’s natural gift for comedy gives his Richard a charismatic joviality that becomes quite chilling when juxtaposed against his actions. The scenes of Danson and Ross buried up to their necks in sand as the tide roars inexorably over them is also very effectively shot, giving the viewer a sense of helplessness as the water hits the screen. Of course, a shit of a human being like Richard deserves to be punished, and punishment is delivered swiftly and deliciously ironically.
BGO: A lot of artists could have handled “Tide” had it appeared in “Crypt,” but I’m going to go with Jack Kamen on this one. I think his style would work well with Nielsen’s charismatic psychopath.
“The Crate” feels the most satisfying as a complete story; that’s probably because Stephen King had previously published a prose version of it before adapting it for CREEPSHOW. The discovery of an old crate in the dark corner of a university laboratory leads to Professor Dexter Stanley (Fritz Weaver) unwittingly unleashing a creature that had been locked up inside its box for nearly 150 years. Not only is this monster still alive after all that time…it’s hungry. The creature and the special effects are all well and good, but the real monster of “The Crate”, the wife of Dexter’s best friend Henry (Hal Holbrook), Wilma “Just Call Me Billy” Northrup (played to sneering, raucous, shrewish perfection by Adrienne Barbeau). When Dex races to Henry’s home for help in stopping the creature, Henry sees both a way to help his friend…and a way to help him with his own little domestic problem. As I mentioned earlier, there’s a lot of black humor in this story. Henry fantasizes about killing Billy to the applause and congratulations of his colleagues, and their confrontation in the crawlspace where the crate is stored is a masterful blend of tension, hilarity and horror.
BGO: As with the previous segment, I feel that “The Crate” would work well under the pen of multiple EC artists, but I think Johnny Craig’s knack for portraying dynamic tension and emotion would be a good fit for Henry, Dex and Billy.
The final tale of CREEPSHOW’s quintet is “They’re Creeping Up On You.” This segment was edited from the televised version that I had grown up watching; most probably the cut was due to a combination of trimming the film down to a more appropriate length for broadcast…oh, and the fact that this story about a cruel Howard Hughes-like millionaire (E.G. Marshall, giving a wonderfully hateful performance) facing retribution for his actions via swarms of giant cockroaches is ONE OF THE MOST HORRIFYING THINGS EVER MADE. Seriously, I dare you to watch this chapter and not get itchy and paranoid that bugs are crawling all over you. Remember, too, that this was back in the day before actors and directors had the luxury of relying on CGI to cover them in insects. Sure, there were probably a few dozen plastic roaches for background scenes, but the majority of the footage features real, live, giant cockroaches crawling all over Marshall and his Spartan apartment. Geez, just writing about it makes me squirm. Let’s get out of here now, okay?
BGO: The horrifying realism is what really sells this segment, so an artist with a less cartoony drawing style—someone like George Evans—would be able to sell the creeping terror of the cockroach revenge.
CREEPSHOW wraps up with a final stab of EC brand horror as little Billy gets even with Dad, bringing the wraparound story firmly into the pages of the movie’s title comic book. Scary, funny, and most of all FUN, CREEPSHOW is one of those movies that should be in everyone’s must-watch Halloween horror list.
New this month on BluRay! Find it on Netflix here!
CREEPSHOW 2 (1987)Directed by Michael Gornick
Written by Stephen King (stories), George A. Romero & Lucille Fletcher (screenplay)
Starring George Kennedy, Lois Chiles, Philip Dore, Domenick John, Dorothy Lamour, Frank Salsedo, Holt McCallany, David Holbrook, Don Harvey, Paul Satterfield, Jeremy Green, Daniel Beer, Page Hannah, Stephen King, Richard Parks, Dan Kamin as Ol’ Chief Woodenhead, Tom Wright as The Hitchhiker, & Tom Savini as The Creep!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
While CREEPSHOW 2 is nowhere near the level of awesome that the original CREEPSHOW reaches, I still kind of love this fucked-up little film. Sure, the music is horrible and sometimes ruins all sense of mood and tone the film is trying to go for. And yes, the animation is about as rudimentary as it comes, but there are some moments of real terror and gore that achieve all levels of cool throughout this off-kilter masterpiece of the macabre. This is very much a worthy successor to the EC horror comics of old, though more rough around the edges that its predecessor.
“Ol’ Chief Woodenhead” starts off the trio of terror tales, and though the story is a simple revenge tale, it’s the setting and the monster itself that sets it apart. George Kennedy and Dorothy Lamour are shopowners in a dried-up town. Their good nature is taken advantage of by a group of punks with aspirations to make it out of the town who rob and kill them in their store. But the dime store wooden Indian out front won’t let them get away with it. The effects here are pretty amazing as Chief Woodenhead comes alive with some fantastic make up and some stilted movements. For some reason the concept of a wooden Native American enacting vengeance on those in need of it is a concept that that seems ripped straight from an EC comic. Light on story but heavy on cool, “Ol’ Chief Woodenhead” is a great starting point for this anthology.
And like that, we’re at the middle story of the film. If there is a major flaw in CREEPSHOW 2, it is that instead of the five stories in the original, the sequel only has three. But the middle story by far is the best executed. “The Raft”, another Stephen King tale, deserves to be seen by all as it is downright nail-bitingly, pants-shittingly scary at times and a barrage of amazing (and simple) special effects. Four kids, not ready for summer to be over, decide to go swimming on a cool autumn day, but once they make it out to a raft in the middle of a secluded lake, they find a weird oil slick circling them. When one of them is sucked into the toxic sludge, the rest are stuck in the middle of the lake with nowhere to go and a ravenous blob of ooze surrounding them. In such a short time, this story lets you get to know these kids pretty well and actually has you rooting for them instead of the monster. The story even delves into some pretty dark themes, as friendships are betrayed and boundaries are crossed among the survivors on the raft. The blob itself looks like a garbage bag with branches draped across it, but some clever reverse special effects make it pretty dangerous looking. The frantic race for the beach in the final minutes will have you jumping out of your chair. This is a good one.
The final story is called “The Hitchhiker” and is a gorehound’s delight as a woman returning to her husband after a rendezvous with her lover hits a hitchhiker with her car and is then haunted by the same hitchhiker over and over again on the drive home. The best thing about it is that the hitchhiker gets more roadkilled as the story goes on until he’s just a blobby mess with a tongue and stumps by the end of the story. While the term, “Thanks for the ride, lady!” isn’t the most famous horror quote, after seeing this little segment, you’ll never think of anything else when you hear those words. Wonderfully acted and sporting a cameo by Stephen King himself, this one is a whole mess of fun.
The animated sequences tying this story together are pretty painful to sit through, as are the pitiful opening sequences. I wish the filmmakers would have spent a little extra to bookend this film with some live segments rather than the cheap animation. I think if that were done, CREEPSHOW 2 would have been better received and get the same level of respect that the original does. While CREEPSHOW relied on creature effects for the most part, this one relies a lot on maximum blood spillage. Still, the sheer deviousness and originality of the horrors makes CREEPSHOW 2 stand out as one of the better follow-up films out there.
Find it on Netflix here!
TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE MOVIE (1990)Directed by: John Harrison
Screenplay by: Michael McDowell and George A. Romero, based on short stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Stephen King
Starring: Deborah Harry, Christian Slater, David Johansen, William Hickey, James Remar, Rae Dawn Chong, Matthew Lawrence, Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore
Reviewed by: BottleImp
Though its lineage is clear, TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE MOVIE winds up being a lesser child of greater parents. The film takes its cues from predecessors such as “The Twilight Zone” television series, EC horror comics, the CREEPSHOW movies and even its own previous incarnation as the “Tales From The Darkside” TV show, but for the most part fails to live up to the standards set by these inspirations. Nevertheless, this movie does have a few good moments that make it a worthwhile addition to the ranks of horror anthology films.
Much like CREEPSHOW, DARKSIDE presents its trio of tales within the contents of a wraparound framing story, in which a modern-day witch (Deborah Harry of Blondie fame) is getting ready to roast a young boy (Matthew Lawrence) and serve him for dinner in the best Hansel and Gretel fashion. Little Timmy tries to distract his captor from her culinary endeavors by reading her stories from a large, heavy book entitled—you guessed it—“Tales From The Darkside.”
The first of Timmy’s stories is “Lot 249,” based upon a story written by Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Steve Buscemi plays a wronged university student who uses his knowledge of ancient Egyptian magic to resurrect a mummy to take revenge on those who betrayed him. This first segment is unfortunately the weakest of the bunch; the mummy comes across more cheesy than scary, and Buscemi’s portrayal of the obsessive Bellingham borders the campy. Still, “Lot 249” is notable for no other reason than to see a young Buscemi acting alongside his future BIG LEBOWSKI costar Julianne Moore.
DARKSIDE ramps up the scares for the second tale, the bluntly-titled “Cat From Hell.” Pharmaceutical magnate Drogan (William Hickey) hires hitman Halston (David Johansen, lead singer of the New York Dolls, aka Buster Poindexter, aka the Ghost of Christmas Past from SCROOGED) to kill a black cat that haunts his mansion and has caused the death of Drogan’s sister, her friend, and their butler. Believing that the cat has been sent from Hell to avenge the actions of Drogan’s company (he reveals that animal testing of a new drug caused the deaths of 5,000 cats), the wheelchair-bound Drogan offers the hitman $100,000 to kill this beast before it kills him. What follows is a dark and suspenseful cat-and-mouse (or more appropriately, cat-and-also-cat) game of life and death between Halston and the unkillable cat. The final shots of this chapter are a triumph of gross-out special effects as the final outcome is revealed to the viewer.
The final story, entitled “Lover’s Vow,” is a bit of a departure from the previous segments, as it eschews the black humor and tongue-in-cheek attitude for a more earnestly told horror tale. Down-on-his-luck artist Preston (James Remar) stumbles upon a vicious murder committed by a creature that resembles a stone gargoyle come to life. The gargoyle spares Preston’s life, but only upon the condition that he never tell anyone of what he saw. The next day begins an upward swing in Preston’s life: he meets a beautiful young woman named Carola (Rae Dawn Chong) and falls in love with her. The two eventually marry and have two children, Preston’s artistic career blooms and he enjoys success at work and at home while the memory of the oath he swore to the gargoyle weighs more and more heavily upon his mind. Finally Preston can’t bear to keep his secret any longer and tells Carola about that horrific night. As promised, the gargoyle returns to punish the artist for breaking his oath, though it’s not in a way that Preston expected (though any viewer familiar with twist endings will have seen this coming). Though the seriousness with which “Lover’s Vow” is presented knocks this segment slightly out of line with the other, campier tales, the melancholy underlying the horror gives this chapter a deeper resonance than the previous installments, and makes it an effective way to end the stories-within-a-story before the entire film wraps up its framing sequence.
TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE MOVIE is not by any means a great film, but it still makes for some fun viewing. I wouldn’t go out of my way to seek it out—for a better percentage of quality short films I’d even recommend checking out the “Tales From The Darkside” television show first—but it’s still worth a gander if you happen upon it during the Halloween horror season.
Find it on Netflix here!
TRICK ‘R TREAT (2007)Directed by: Michael Dougherty
Written by: Michael Dougherty
Starring: Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Dylan Baker, Quinn Lord
Reviewed by: BottleImp
Every time I watch this movie, one question plagues my brain: why was TRICK ‘R TREAT never released theatrically? Sure, I understand the prejudice that Hollywood has against anthology films. And on one hand I can agree with the mindset that says that audiences don’t have patience to sit through what amounts to multiple short films; we live in an age when attention spans seem to be smaller than—hey, is that a squirrel?
But TRICK ‘R TREAT not only boasts a great cast, top-notch special effects and one of the genre’s best new movie monsters, it stars Anna “Sookie Stackhouse” Paquin, who at the time was riding high along with the insanely popular “True Blood” television series. It seems like a theatrical release (sometime early to mid-October, naturally) would have been a no-brainer for box office success.
Especially since this film has done what no other anthology format movie had done before: interwoven what could have easily been self-contained, standalone stories into one cohesive film set on a single Halloween night in the fictional town of Warren. Just take a look if you don’t believe me—the costumed couple from the movie’s prologue are part of the street parade as the Big Bad Wolf takes his first female victim of the night. Rhonda (Samm Todd) is almost hit by a car driven by Laurie (Paquin) and her friends, coming home after their own “party” in the woods. The story of the murdered children that Macy (Britt McKillip) tells her friends quite literally comes back to haunt the man who drove their bus into the old rock quarry thirty years before. And the pint-sized, burlap-headed Sam is there through it all, passively observing (and, one feels, approving) the horrors being shown on screen. Passively observing…until the final minutes of the movie, that is, when Sam takes a much more active role in dispensing a hearty helping of tricks for treats.
The film showcases a great cast and morbidly fun characters, from Brian Cox’s hermit-like Mr. Kreeg to one of my favorite character actors Dylan Baker’s frazzled psychopath and single dad Steven. But the real standout star is Sam, played by child actor Quinn Lord. As the embodiment of the spirit of Halloween, Sam perfectly encapsulates both the fun and the frights of the season. He combines the childhood joy of dressing up in costume and getting candy with the older, darker rituals of blood and sacrifice. Plus, he’s visually stunning—both with his burlap mask in place and when it’s finally removed for the big reveal.
I’m not usually one to advocate for the Hollywood sequel machine, but I would love to see TRICK ‘R TREAT turned into the next Halloween franchise. Now that Michael Myers, Freddy, the SAW movies and all that PARANORMAL ACTIVITY have run themselves into the ground, I think that a yearly Halloween-themed film would be a fantastic treat for all of us horror buffs…especially if it’s overseen by the little Spirit of the Season. And if you missed this little direct-to-DVD gem when it came out and you still haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and add TRICK ‘R TREAT to your lineup of required Halloween viewing.
Find this on Netflix here!
LITTLE DEATHS (2011)Directors: Sean Hogan (“House & Home”), Andrew Parkinson (“Monster Tool”), * Simon Rumley (“Bitch’)
Writers: Sean Hogan (“House & Home”), Andrew Parkinson (“Monster Tool”), * Simon Rumley (“Bitch’)
Starring Luke DeLacy, Siubhan Harrison, Holly Lucas (“House & Home”), Daniel Brocklebank, Jody Jameson, Christopher Fairbanks (“Mutant Tool”), Kate Braithwaite, Tom Sawyer (“Bitch”)
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
LITTLE DEATHS is an anthology pairing sex and death in interesting, imaginative, taboo, and deranged ways by some of the most inspiring horror-meisters in the biz today. Structured as three separate stories, the film zags when zigs are expected and will most likely offend you on one level or another.
”House & Home” is a fun but somewhat predictable entry, introducing the concept of sex and death which permeates the entire film in a nice way. I guess “nice” is somewhat misleading, though, since the events in this film are about as un-nice as you can get as a husband and wife mislead a homeless woman into their home then use her as a sex slave. The final moments are somewhat out of left field, making the film feel more like an entry from the old TALES FROM THE CRYPT HBO series than any of the other entries. With copious amounts of blood and a jet black sense of humor, “House & Home” is a good first course, preparing one for the dire tones to come.
”Mutant Tool” is about as perverse as they come involving drugs, Nazis, prostitution, and giant dongs. Director Andrew Parkinson does a fantastic job intercutting between a prostitute in therapy and a secret drug ring which gets its secret ingredient from the spunk of a chained mutant creature with a giant dangling dong. As the prostitute begins to feel some kind of psychic connection with the chained leftover of Nazi science, her world begins to unravel. The ending is both shocking and unexpected and the level of perversion at play will definitely raise the bile in one’s throat. This is some twisted shit, but Parkinson makes it all a fascinating trainwreck to witness.
The highlight of this trio of sexually sadistic shorts is “Bitch” by RED, WHITE & BLUE’s Simon Rumley ( check out the interview I did with the director here!). Though the relationship between the two lead actors, Tom Sawyer and Kate Braithwaite, may echo the troubled romance between Amanda Fuller and Noah Taylor in RED, WHITE, & BLUE, the story takes this pairing to much seedier and more psychologically murky depths in “Bitch.” Filmed in vivid and devious reds and tranquil and troubling blues, “Bitch” shows how much a feature filmmaker can put into a short film. It’s a testament to Rumley’s handling of dementedly tricky emotional situations that he is able to allow us to care for both characters in such a short amount of time. Though on the surface the perverse sex shared between Sawyer and Braithwaite might cause snickers, you end up feeling heavy sorrow for both characters at how fucked up their definition of love is. At its core, this is about how weak one can feel in a relationship and how angry that can make one feel. I’m being vague about this story because it simply has to be seen to be believed at how heavily the material is handled. Needless to say, it makes for some of the most provocative moments I’ve experienced cinematically in quite a while. Though this story may be categorized as the story of the worst girlfriend ever, “Bitch” is so much more!
Not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach, LITTLE DEATHS goes where few horror films dare to. My only criticism is that this film lacks something tying the shorts together. I’m not looking for a syphilitic Crypt-Keeper style horror host announcing each short, but something creative would have made this feel more like a complete film rather than a collection of horror shorts. As is, it still deliver shocks, awes, and scares on every level and will leave you squirming in your seat at the dark avenues and seedy motel rooms these filmmakers have chosen to take us. Though it might entice you to take a shower afterward, LITTLE DEATHS delivers horrors you more than likely have never experienced before.
New on DVD & BluRay from the Shout Factory!
CHILLING VISIONS – 5 SENSES OF FEAR (2013)Directed by Eric England, Nick Everhart, Emily Hagins, Jesse Holland, Miko Hughes, Andy Mitton
Written by Eric England, Nick Everhart, Emily Hagins, Jesse Holland, Andy Mitton, Miko Hughes, Jack Daniel Stanley
Starring Nicholas Tucci, Symba, Caleb Barwick, Sean Leser, Danae Nason, Sean Carmichael, Ace Marrero, Hilary Greer, Lowell Byers, Thea Trinidad, Ox Baker, Gwen Kosak, Doug Roland, Alexander Hauck, Robert Sciglimpaglia
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Making an anthology that isn’t just a bunch of random stories stuck together is kind of tough and these days not so common. This is all the more reason to give a little notice of the ones who go the extra mile to try to make a cohesive thread through the entire anthology. CHILLING VISIONS: 5 SENSES OF FEAR may not be as good as some of the anthologies above, but I found the five stories set to each of the five senses (kind of like THE ABC’S OF DEATH only with less entries and more attention to…you know…the senses) to be a refreshing and simple anthology to get behind. The intro, which doesn’t have a Crypt Keeper or anything like that, simply opens with some violent music set to a man tortured in a chair with each of his senses assaulted and then sewn shut. Rather morbid, but while there are entries with some sense of humor, this is an anthology aimed to disturb one or all of your senses. And, to varying degrees, it works.
First up is SMELL from writer/director Nick Everhart, which follows a down on his luck dude who is visited by a door to door salesman hocking a special perfume. At first the new scent seems to be working wonders, but, as is the way it works with these types of stories, with fortune comes a price. Though this may be a clichéd story of be careful what you wish for, it does have some great melty effects and will definitely have you being thankful that smell-o-vision has yet to be invented. Cleanly filmed and slicky produced, this was a nice and wicked opener that sets the dark tone for the chapters to come.
SEE from Miko Hughes (Gage from PET SEMETARY all grown up) is a moralistic tale which again is not the deepest, but has some great ideas. An optometrist develops a machine which extracts images from the lens of the eye and takes pleasure in watching the experiences of others. When the doctor sees something happening with one of his favorite patients, he sets out to save her, but the good doc makes a better eye doctor than he does a vigilante. Those who have problems watching eye torture may want to cover their own eyes at this one. Hughes is able to pull a lot of cool imagery and twisted turns in the latter half of this short to make it worth your while.
Emily Hagins (MY SUCKY TEEN ROMANCE) brings us TOUCH, and in her sophomore effort she shows a lot of growth as a filmmaker. This story follows a young blind boy who survives a car crash in the forest and sets off to find help. With his parents unconscious on the side of the road, the kid uses his uncanny ability to feel his way around to get out of not only a dangerous forest filled with trees, holes, and bear traps, but also a hunter whose game is human. A nice cat and mouse game occurs in this short between the kid and his pursuer, kind of like HOME ALONE yet with higher, more dangerous stakes. This one’s got some decent bloody bits as well.
TASTE by Eric England (ROADSIDE, MADISON COUNTY) offers up the shortest of the five shorts as a man is invited to take a job at a high class firm and finds himself on the menu instead of the payroll. While the story is easy to sum up, the bear trap teeth the businesswoman wears are something out of the worst nightmare and the damage she does with those chompers on this poor guy is going to make you wince a few times. Just for the imagery alone of this pristine and well-organized office turned into a bloody massacre it’s worth seeking this little ditty out.
The last one is LISTEN from Jesse Holland & Andy Mitton (co-writers/co-directors of YELLOWBRICKROAD) and it’s one of the most compelling. I admit, because I have a sweet spot for found footagers, I immediately was taken in by this short in which three investigators try to seek out a legendary song which drives the listeners insane immediately upon listening. Though one would think that all sense of reason would tell these guys to stop deciphering the videotapes they keep receiving in the mail, like telling your teenage daughter not to date someone, these guys are compelled to do the opposite. This one is ripe with vivid and disturbing imagery, and when the melody is finally pieced together the carnage that ensues is pretty epic.
CHILLING VISIONS is not anywhere near the classic that some of the other anthologies are in this column, but the film is a decent watch and new on BluRay/DVD this week. Unless you caught the premiere on CHILLER Network, you most likely haven’t seen this one and if you’re looking for something you haven’t seen before, this one is going to be a somewhat pleasing treasure to unearth. It’s slickly produced, and the films are actually subtly tied together with characters from the tales showing up in the background and sometimes the foreground of each of the stories. I found CHILLING VISIONS: FIVE SENSES OF FEAR to be better than average modern anthologizing.
And finally…another one from the contestant pool for the M spot in THE ABC’S OF DEATH competition. This time I’ve got Peter Podgursky’s M IS FOR MORMON MISSIONARIES! Enjoy!
See ya next week, folks!
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 12 years & AICN HORROR for 4. Mark’s written comics such as THE TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, DEATHSPORT GAMES, NANNY & HANK (soon to be a feature film from Uptown 6 Films), Zenescope’sGRIMM FAIRY TALES Vol.13 & UNLEASHED: WEREWOLVES – THE HUNGER and a chapter in Black Mask Studios’OCCUPY COMICS. FAMOUS MONSTERS’ LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (co-written with Martin Fisher) will be available soon in trade. Mark also wrote the critically acclaimed GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK and its follow up THE JUNGLE BOOK: LAST OF THE SPECIES! Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller.
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