Chillers is one of those movies that brings back memories, so forgive me ahead of time while I indulge myself in the first person and stroll down memory road. The movie, as low budget and goofy as it is, had one of those VHS covers that used to leap out at me as a kid while roaming the horror section of Jumbo Video in Niagara Falls. It stuck in this young viewer's mind and made a much stronger impression than it would have if viewed as an adult. Nostalgia is a powerful thing and it does tend to let us revisit certain movies and TV shows as an adult through, shall we say, rose tinted glasses. Chillers was an anthology film that, in my younger days, successfully scared the crap out of me and the half a dozen or so friends who had all gathered in a basement, VCR humming away, to watch it. Revisiting it recently made me realize just how bad my taste was in films when I was a kid, and seeing as I enjoyed it almost as much last night, I'm not all together convinced that's changed in adulthood.
At any rate, the book-end's in this Twilight Zone or Tales From The Crypt styled tale follow a group of people hanging around an otherwise empty bus station doing what you tend to do in bus stations - waiting for a bus. To kill some time while they're sitting there doing nothing, they discuss their recent nightmares. This isn't something you'd normally do with a group of complete strangers, but it sets up the anthology format well enough. The first story comes from a young lady who had a bad dream about a swimming pool of the damned wherein she had relations with a buff young man who turned out to be deader than a doornail.
A young boy roughly twelve or so years old is up next as he tells us the story of his nightmare - he dreamt he went camping with two friends, boy scouts of some sort, and that their leader turned out to be a murderer. Trapped alone in the woods with him, they had to work together to get out of there alive before he murdered them the same way they same him murder the hunter who was unfortunate enough to cross his path. Lots of murder in this one.
Story number three is told by a woman in her thirties who had a dream in which she became obsessed with a late night news anchorman. When she called in to his show, he ended up coming to visit her and they immediately hit it off - too bad for her he was a vampire.
The penultimate story is told by a teenage man who dreamt that he was given the power of resurrecting the dead. When he first learns of this he brings back a young boy who was killed too soon but after tinkering with his ability a little bit, he starts to spread out and ends up accidentally bringing back a serial killer. Bad call. Serial killers tend to kill people and all that.
The last story is courtesy of a learned man whose nocturnal ramblings told of a mythological creature called the Ixpe that existed, or so we're lead to believe, only in Spanish legend. The creature ends up coming back to modern times when the ancient spell was recited and it took over the body of one of his students.
With a cast consisting of no one of note, looking at the film objectively and without those aforementioned glasses on, this one is better left to nostalgic memories. While the first story has a creepy moment or two, the rest of the material is pretty laughable and the many serious scares I remembered from my younger days were nowhere to be found. The nostalgic factor made a fun watch, however, and it's at least an entertaining slice of low budget eighties video cheese but obviously without your own childhood experience to back this one up, your mileage is probably going to vary. The production values and gore effects are as good as the average low budget horror film of the time and the performances certainly aren't any worse but there's nothing particularly frightening here. The anthology format at least allows the cast and crew to show a little creativity in each of the vignettes but it isn't enough to make the movie actually qualify as 'good.' Fans of the VHS horror boom and eighties straight to video schlockfests should at least enjoy the 'fleshy tooth font' used for the video generated credits, however - there's something inherently cool about them, but then, that could be nostalgia creeping in again...
Chillers arrives on DVD and looks about as good as it did on VHS many moons ago. The fullframe image is murky during the darker scenes but otherwise looks okay considering its age, budget and origins. Don't expect much in the way of ultra sharp detail but the movie is certainly watchable enough so long as you know what you're getting into. Does it look great? No, but it looks like Chillers has always looked, no better, no worse. Wonky colors, iffy black levels, and odd fluctuations are found throughout, but you can't polish a turd.
The only audio option is a Dolby Digital 2.0 track in English, there are no alternate language options or subtitles provided. The audio quality is on par with the video quality in that it really isn't very good but it gets the job done considering what we're talking about. There are a few spots where the dialogue is a bit muffled but for the most part you can understand everything easily enough.
Extras are slim here, limited to a trailer for the feature, trailers for a few other Troma DVD releases, a quick PSA from Troma head honcho Lloyd Kaufman expressing the importance of Net Neutrality. There's also a bit called Chaw-Zer in which a 'Tromette Of The Month' talks about how she got the job while screwing up her lines and exposing her admittedly very impressive breasts for the camera. Aside from that, the often seen but rarely understood Radiation March performance art piece that Troma has included on countless DVDs since the inception of the format is recycled here, and we get some static menus and chapter selection options.
Chillers is, without a doubt, a horrible film but there are those of us out there who will enjoy it for what it is (at least I hope there are, I can't really be the only one... can I?). With that said, however, it really is tough to recommend this one. If you're a fan of the low budget VHS horror hits that were released seemingly every day during the VHS boom years, rent this one - if nothing else, it'll bring back memories of late fees and 'Be kind, rewind' stickers - but in all fairness to those who don't fall into that category, this is a terrible movie, despite the fact that on a personal level I could watch it over and over again.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.