Visions of Horror Volume One:
When I was a kid I would go crazy for the grab bags that were always available at coastal establishments; Duebers for Variety and The Pixie Kitchen mostly. The bags were cheap for my parents to buy, and promised so much. But they were always a little disappointing too.
Such is the case with short film collections on DVD, and it's mostly for two reasons. One, the more subjects per disc, the greater the chance of getting a few duds. Two, short subjects are usually tackled by first-time filmmakers, so the quality is almost guaranteed to be of a lower tier. Oh yeah, and like the grab bags, short-subject DVDs are by nature partially just tarted-up packages of junk that didn't sell.
Visions Of Horror Volume One rates a pretty high junk-to-gold ratio, while nevertheless maintaining a solid level of entertainment. It's nothing to beg your parents for, but when you're in the mood for a quick hit of indiscriminate horror variety, it will probably satisfy your craving.
My Skin packs a fairly clever concept - what happens when you horn in on the Grim Reaper's turf - with so much style that it becomes overwhelming. I actually had to watch it twice to grasp it fully. Neither very scary nor horrific, it's undeniably slick and features a fantastic scenery-chewing Reaper.
Slumber starts poorly with an ultra-cheap titles sequence, and continues to show its low-budget roots throughout. The story of a beat-writer getting deeply involved in a gory murder is further hampered by amateur performances and an old-hat, switcheroo ending. On the plus side it makes great use of a temp-tracky soundtrack and has nicely effective dream-sequences. It would be nice to see with a proper budget.
Whatever Happened To The Zombie Killers? is a blissfully short romp on the notion of a roller-derby-styled zombie killer crew of hot chicks invading a zombie dance club. Weird dance sequences, dollar-store gore and gallons of watery blood spraying everywhere don't hide the fact that this is just a silly exercise in amateur goofing - looks like all involved had a great time, though.
Callous Sentiment presents its pat (though tragically apt) morality tale with smooth confidence. Shocking portrayals of intimate violence being too intently absorbed by a teenager will shock and stick with you even if the internal logic of the story barely holds up.
Trick Or Treat hearkens back to a brand of EC comics' goofy-spoofy creepy goings on that makes no sense at all but solidly delivers silly thrills. The story of a malicious trick-or-treater garners extra points for its take on the 'evil kid' phenom crossed with a nice Trilogy Of Terror Vibe. Cheap but fun.
Hooligan's Valley ups the comic book vibe (more Frank Miller than Crypt Keeper) as two costumed bounty hunters eventually end up sharing a rock-a-billy hipster dance party with a goofy kid playing Twist Fever on guitar. I have no idea what this one was actually about but had more fun watching it than should be allowed.
Scream For Me (by the same gent who brought us My Skin) wraps things up on a high note with a truly twisted splatterpunk tale delivered with deadly professionalism. One degenerate murder begets something far worse and gives us a sicko Frank Booth-esque performance that's astounding in its awful verisimilitude.
Video is another aspect of the grab bag aesthetic for this collection. Only the first and last stories are even worthy of DVD, with slick definition, deep blacks and saturated colors. The rest are either washed out, grainy or so 'shot-on-video' it's like you're watching porn.
Sound: Same goes for sound. The sources are all over the map, bottoming out with horrid recorded on location audio. Again the first and last features are pro-enough but not exactly home theater challengers (not that I have home theater audio or anything.)
Extras: We're in the land of the meta-extra here. We have three interview segments, one with Christopher Broadstone, director of two of the shorts. He entertainingly fields questions for about 13 minutes, relating to his two short films, his love of horror, and working with his intense actors. The next interview is with Denise Gossett (Founder of Shriekfest Festival) who answers similar questions for about 10 minutes, and finally an interview with host Tiffany Shepis, of similar ilk. All interviewees are interesting and forthcoming. Next up is 6 minutes of bloopers, all relating to the assembling of this collection - same as with the interviews - which aren't all that funny, and reveal that Shepis practically rehearsed her interview. A short behind-the-scenes extra details the efforts of putting together Shepis's wraparound intros, and a production stills gallery highlights shots from each feature. So, if you are eager for extras that highlight mostly the making of the framework for the collection, rather than the shorts themselves, this is a decent handfull of stuff.
While Visions of Horror boasts only three shorts that come close to being pro-quality, and only two that are halfway scary, it's fun throughout, and features wraparound intros by the skank-liscious Tiffany Shepis. Only at the end is the taste soured as we're sent off into the good night with admonitions to go check the website to learn how to submit films or, better yet, buy film-making equipment from the people who presented this collection. Worth a rent if you're hard up for some indiscriminate horror fun.
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com