There has been a mushrooming of the Amicus-style horror anthology lately, thanks to the V/H/S and ABCs of Death franchises, the themed likes of XXX, Tales of Halloween and A Christmas Horror Story. This, however, is just a branding exercise for a disparate bunch of horror shorts – and feels just like watching a film festival program of shorts, only with fewer standouts. Aspect ratios, country of origin, etc. chop and change (the last episode is in black and white and without dialogue). Given that assemblers Brian Dorton and Douglas Conner must have seen many of the shorts I have at various genre fests or in competitions, I wonder whether they tried to get some of the stronger titles but couldn’t manage it. So, here’s what we get.
Lee Matthews’ 3AM, with a woman (Charlotte Armstrong) menaced in a farmhouse by sound editing and general creepiness with not much payoff – this is slipped in before the opening credits. Joseph Graham’s Edward is a (mostly) two-character chat as patient Hal (Nick Frangione) pours out his inner evil to a shrink (Artem Mishin), before turning out to be (spoiler!) possessed. A mention of Jekyll and Hyde and the title foreshadow pointlessly – J&H’s first names are Henry and Edward, remember – and there’s a flurry of predictable activity after a long talky theatrical scene. Matthews’ The Quiet, about a deaf schoolgirl seemingly stalked in the woods, is actually the best thing here – it has a simple misdirection premise and an economy of narrative that recalls British theatrical support shorts of the 1970s like Dream House and Panic, and Jenni-Lea Finch is solid as the appealing but not sugary innocent. All the tricks Matthews used in 3AM play much better with a stronger lead and a simple premise.
Manuel Marin amd Ignacio Martin Lerma’s Spanish-made Merry Little Christmas gets the cover image with a spectacular monster effect and has a couple of strong actors (Macarena Gomez, a Spanish horror regular who makes interesting choices) but turns out to be an exercise in pointless boundary-prodding – full of rape, gore, abuse, flesh-twisting and misanthropy but unfocused, incoherent and impossible to give a shit about. It’s the best film here technically, but would be the most annoying – if Dorton and Connor didn’t add their own minimalist effort, The Deviant One, as a coda. With portentous Bible quotes to underline the message, we follow a creepy guy who rapes and kills and rapes another guy then goes to church (yep, that’s it).
Off the top of my head, I can think of half a dozen better horror shorts seen at festivals or as screeners – maybe if there’s to be a Vol 2, some of these could be included.