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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Chillerama (Blu-ray)
Chillerama (Blu-ray)
Image // Unrated // November 29, 2011 // Region A
List Price: $29.97 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted December 6, 2011 | E-mail the Author
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Just look at it. I mean, the cover art for Chillerama is a pretty much pitch-perfect homage to Mad, that's a cariacture of Troma high sheriff Lloyd Kaufman off to the side there, and...oh, yeah, that is a giant sperm
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monster diving into some chick's rack. The movie itself, meanwhile, is kind of like Grindhouse, only this anthology plays more like a blood-and-cum-stained Valentine to trashy drive-in flicks. It's dumb, sleazy, sopping with splatter, and right at two hours straight of dick jokes. So, yeah, that's fair warning, although that "ultimate midnight movie!" tagline and the names of the guys behind Hatchet, Wrong Turn 2, and 2001 Maniacs all over the top probably clued you in that this isn't some existential arthouse flick with penetrating insight into the human condition or whatever. ...and hey, I'm kind of an easy lay. I like blood, I like boobs, I like a good dick joke, and something like 80% of what I review anymore are schlocky, campy horror flicks, so I guess what I'm getting at is that I was really, really looking forward to Chillerama, and I really don't want to be the one to have to tell you that it kinda sucks.

There's kind of a story stringing this whole thing together. The Kaufman Drive-In is about to get bulldozed, but rather than go gentle into that good night or whatever, they're going out with a bang. Four bangs, even: a marathon of four schlocky horror movies so hopelessly obscure that the only prints in existence are unspooling tonight. 'Sjust that one of the guys at the drive-in got his dick chomped off while trying to jizz on his zombie ex-wife's corpse (that tired old story), and...well, it's kind of contagious. I'm not gonna get into that right now, though.

After a long, laughless, and kind of tedious setup for the wraparound story, the first flick on the bill is Adam Rifkin's Wadzilla. It's a sendup of '50s atomic monster movies, only instead of Godzilla stomping all over Tokyo, it's an oversized cumshot trashing the Big Apple. On paper, at least I oughtta love Wadzilla. The Chiodo Brothers -- they of Killer Klowns from Outer Space infamy, a movie that honestly kind of changed my life -- did the cum monster effects. Ray Wise and Eric Roberts chime in with cameos. The look of the thing is pretty incredible, big on ridiculous camera angles and hypersaturated colors. Adam Rifkin isn't afraid to toss in those Mo Fuzz-style production values, casting a gaggle of gorgeous women, including...hey, Summer Altice! The idea of a dweeb trashing his blind date's bathroom while chasing a spunk monster seems like it's kinda in my wheelhouse too. It's just...Wadzilla never really figures out how to translate any of that into a laugh. It's big and dumb and ridiculous but...not...funny, exactly. I will give Adam Rifkin credit for coming close to making me retch right at the end there, and that's gotta
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count for something.

Tim Sullivan's I Was a Teenage Werebear is a sunny, chipper, Beach Blanket Bingo-style '60s teen beach musical, only the star is a Zac Efron-type who hadn't clued into the fact that he's gay until a greaser werewolfbear bites him on the ass. Kinda like Wadzilla, if you were to just tell me that's the premise, I'd cackle maniacally and be totally onboard. This, though...? Ack. It's unwatchable. The rest of the segments in the movie put every dollar of their pretty much non-existent budgets on-screen, and they manage to make their chintziness into something kinda stylish. I Was a Teenage Werebear, meanwhile, looks like someone grabbed a camcorder off the shelf at Best Buy, pulled a few hundred bucks out of the ATM, and decided to put on a show. It's the bad kind of cheap. It's also a musical where the actors can't carry a fucking tune, so when I say this is painful to sit through, I mean that in pretty much the most literal possible sense. (That's a drag too since those bouncy '60s numbers would be pretty damned catchy if not for the tonedeaf vox.) It's just a bunch of really obvious, lazy, broad, gay jokes strung together. I guess it's supposed to be a spoof on gay stereotypes, especially being set against the backdrop of an era where that sort of thing wasn't exactly socially acceptable, but at no point to I Was a Teenage Werebear threaten to get a laugh. Tim Sullivan just latches onto the same couple of gags and hammers them into the ground again and again and again and again, and the whole thing is so lazy that Sullivan whips out record scratches twice to punctuate his jokes. There's a special circle in Hell for people who use record scratch jokes, and I Was a Teenage Werebear does it more than once. Unforgivable!

...and now we're, what, an hour and ten minutes in? It took a while, yeah, but I finally get to write something that's not quite so bitchy. Far and away the best segment in Chillerama is Adam Green's The Diary of Anne Frankenstein. Great title; even better everything-else. I don't want to say much about it to keep from spoiling any of the surprises, but the short version...? Joel David Moore has a take on Hitler that's 30% unrepentant mass murderer and 70% Larry from the Three Stooges. You're looking at a Jewish golem. The secret shame of the Frank family is at long last revealed. Unlike the earlier segments that lean too heavily on shock value as a crutch, Adam Green gets that he's kinda playing with fire with a touchy premise like this, and he plays it brilliantly. Howlingly funny, wickedly clever, and the very best flavor of ridiculous. The rest I'll leave for you to discover. So damned good that I'm kind of tempted to recommend picking up Chillerama
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just for this segment and mashing the 'skip chapter' button over and over through the rest of it. Since I've gone almost a whole paragraph without complaining, I guess I should still mention that even with as much as I dug The Diary of Anne Frankenstein, you've gotta wade through more than an hour of laughless shit to get to this segment. That's kind of exhausting, and I'd just about given up on the movie by that point. If the wraparounds had been heavily trimmed down and if I Was a Teenage Werebear were chucked out entirely to really keep things moving -- basically just to get to Frankenstein more quickly -- I think my reaction to Chillerama would've been a hell of a lot more cheery.

After that, though...? More ack. Maybe it's just because I'd watched Salo earlier that same morning and had my fill of shit, but Chillerama lobs out literally several minutes straight of nonstop poop sight gags, and I was pretty much ready to cower in defeat. Right about then, though, all the wraparounds I found kind of tedious started to click. Again, I don't want to give away too much about what happens from there, but the two leads in Joe Lynch's Zom-B-Movie wind up being surprisingly likeable and compelling, and there's kind of a metric ton of dementedly creative splatter being sloshed around. Whole lotta gutmunching and a whole lotta fuckin': two great tastes that taste great together! It's still way too top-heavy, and the movie reference after movie reference after movie reference after movie reference thing gets really old really quickly, but...whatever. Took a while, yeah, but Zom-B-Movie eventually won me over.

If I were rating Chillerama based purely on Joe Bob's Drive-In Totals or something, a movie this sleazy and schlocky would kind of rank off-the-charts. I like dumb, trashy, juvenile camp and everything, but Chillerama very rarely figures out how to pull that off in a way that's actually funny. I don't know what the saturation point is for cock jokes in a single movie, but Chillerama hits it pretty early on and doesn't really feel like finding another nail to hammer into the fucking ground. I like...oh, let's go with 1.5 of the 4 segments in this flick, but is it worth slogging through the rest of that shit to get to the good stuff...? Not really. Skip It.


Video
Kinda like Grindhouse, big chunks of Chillerama have been beaten and battered to
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look like film prints that've been caked under a foot and a half of dust in a musty basement somewhere. So, yeah, sparkling high definition eye candy it's not so much, and that's kind of the point. ...but also like Grindhouse, there's still more than enough of a leap in clarity and detail for this Blu-ray disc to outclass anything DVD's gonna deliver, so it's worth the few extra bucks. The look varies pretty wildly from one segment to the next. The wraparounds have a cheap prosumer HD look to 'em with anemic black levels and not a whole lot in the way of contrast. Wadzilla is a pretty dead-on riff on '50s giant monster flicks with all those Dutch angles and a bright, vivid, Technicolor-flavored palette those movies wish they could've afforded. It looks cheap, yeah, but in a good way. I Was a Teenage Werebear cranks up the colors even higher but has a distractingly chintzy, overly digital look to it -- cheap in a bad way! -- not trying to pass itself off as film like the segments that bookend it. The black-and-white Diary of Anne Frankenstein is easily the best looking stretch of the flick, showing off considerably more in the way of definition and detail than any of the other segments. I guess the short answer goes something like "uneven, yeah, but it's supposed to be that way".

Between the movie itself and its feature-length stack of extras, you're lookin' at right around three and a half hours of high-def video on this single layer Blu-ray disc. Kinda goes without saying, I guess, that the disc's AVC encode doesn't hold up to super-close scrutiny, but if you're just leaning back and watching, chances are those little hiccups in the background won't get in the way. The fake grain and speckling that's been heaped on hide a lot of that stuff anyway. Oh, and for anyone keeping track at home, there's no matting or anything: it's a straightahead aspect ratio of 1.78:1.


Audio
Chillerama is lugging around a 16-bit, six-channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, and it's...yeah, not that great. The Diary of Anne Frankenstein gets a pass because it's clearly supposed to sound thin and tinny, but the rest of it...? An awful lot of the dialogue is harsh and clipped. The dialogue and vox throughout I Was a Teenage Werebear are bafflingly low in the mix, not really gelling at all with the rest of the flick. The subwoofer snarls every once in a while to beef up all that synth bass but is otherwise pretty blah. Okay, okay, I guess you weren't really getting a thunderous low-end at the drive-in either, but whatever. The use of the surrounds is pretty uneven. The Diary of Anne Frankenstein shrugs 'em off completely in keeping with the rest of its aesthetic, I Was a Teenage Werebear tosses in a couple of effects like lapping waves and a car whipping around, and Zom-B-Movie not surprisingly has screams and undead growls attacking from pretty much every direction. Even for a flick that's not meant to sound like glistening sonic whatever, the lossless audio here is kinda sloppy, but it's listenable.

No dubs or alternate mixes this time around. Subtitles are limited to English (SDH) and Spanish.


Extras
  • Video Commentary: Chillerama does the whole picture-in-picture video commentary thing with its four directors: Adam Green, Joe Lynch, Adam Rifkin, and Tim Sullivan, as if you really need me to rattle off their names
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    again. As you could probably have guessed without me saying anything, this commentary is hypercaffeinated and infectiously fun. A few of the highlights: Martin Scorsese indirectly shaping the look of Wadzilla, bribing a bunch of classic car enthusiasts at a Bob's Big Boy to get a little extra production value, Bobby Vinton writing his first new song in ages for I Was a Teenage Werebear, accidentally out-of-sync dialogue getting such a big laugh in preview screenings that they didn't bother to fix it afterwards, and the reveal that the zombie apocalypse was originally gonna be set against the Charlie Brown theme. Totally worth a listen, although I've gotta admit that the 'video' end of the video commentary didn't really do much for me...kinda static and bland. Doesn't really add much to have that visual element, and it didn't take me long to start ignoring it. It's kinda cool to have that as an option, yeah, but in practice...::shrug::.

  • Deleted Scenes (24 min.; HD): Three of the four segments score their own reels of deleted scenes. Clocking in around four minutes in all, Zom-B-Movie piles on shit-blasting outtakes and some more establishing stuff. Next up is Wadzilla, which only has a couple of deleted scenes in the sense of...y'know, deleted scenes, such as the rambling scientific explanation about why an oversized cumshot is trashing Manhattan. The rest of it's a bunch of placeholder creature effects and blue screen shots, and that's kinda cool to see. Finally, the deleted scenes for I Was a Teenage Werebear drag on for fourteen hellishly excruciating minutes, including another record scratch, a gag reel, the full end credits montage, an alternate ending, and a bunch of extended musical numbers.

  • Behind the Scenes (45 min.; HD): ...and if you have a frown and boo-boo eyes that The Diary of Anne Frankenstein didn't get a deleted scenes reel, don't fret. There's an additional musical number -- the same one that plays over the end credits, although here it fills up the whole screen -- in its 22 minute making-of featurette. Running about as long as the segment itself, "The Making of The Diary of Anne Frankenstein" is comprehensive and a helluva lot of fun, the same as you're probably used to getting out of the behind-the-scenes pieces on Adam Green's flicks. On the hit parade this time around are how Green found himself attached to this segment, working with a premise that could so easily go irredeemably, catastrophically wrong, makeup effects, production design, the kinda-sorta
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    German dialogue...awesome, awesome, awesome. The making-of for I Was a Teenage Werebear breezes through the premise, the mildly controversial casting, splatter effects, music, choreography...hits pretty much everything. It's one of those behind-the-scenes pieces that's so earnest and upbeat that it makes me really wish I liked I Was a Teenage Werebear more, but...no.

  • Comic Con Interviews (14 min.; partially HD): There are also two interviews from Comic Con a few months back. The first is an eight minute chat that's been upconverted from YouTube-ish quality standard-def to 1080p for some reason, and the four directors introduce their segments and chat about what else they're looking forward to seeing at the Con. The other interview -- this time really in high-def -- comes courtesy of famousmonsters.com. That kinda works out since one of the first topics of conversation is how the concept for Chillerama started out as a Famous Monsters of Filmland movie. The four directors also talk briefly about how the anthology started to take shape. If you only have time to sit through one of these interviews, my vote'd be for the Famous Monsters one; the other conversation keeps it pretty cursory.

  • Trailers (7 min.; HD): Last up are three trailers: one for I Was a Teenage Werebear, another for Wadzilla, and then a clip for Chillerama as a whole.

Oh, and I just want to say one more time that Phil Roberts' poster art is amazing. It's such a dead-on Mad homage that I seriously thought Mort Drucker painted it until I spotted the credit in the corner.


The Final Word
I'm pretty much the target demographic and all for Chillerama, seeing as how I'm hammering out this review in a room with Grindhouse one-sheets plastered all over the walls and thirtysomething Troma DVDs within arm's reach, plus I'm kind of a frothing-at-the-mouth fan of Adam Green's Hatchet and Joe Lynch's Wrong Turn sequel. So, yeah, I was really, really looking forward to Chillerama. I'm sure this anthology was a blast to make, but to watch...? Not...really. It confuses outrageous! dick and cum jokes with funny, and the laughless first half of the movie kinda drags down the better stuff near the end. As much as I dug The Diary of Anne Frankenstein and -- after a while, at least -- Zom-B-Movie, it's such a slog to get there that it's not really worth it. It's kinda frustrating because I really did want to like Chillerama, but...nah. Skip It.
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