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Horror Network, The
Chalk it up to Wild Eye Releasing to bring us this Brain Dorton and Douglas Conner presentation of The Horror Network, a rarity in the world of anthology horror, in that it's almost 100% good. If you're in the need for some quick-fix scares and uneasy feelings, (and who isn't) but can't decide which movie to throw in your cloud or whatever, cue this one up. Taken as a whole, or in small doses, The Horror Network really satisfies.
Let's jump right in with '3:00AM', a disturbing little vignette that plays like Repulsion on 78 RPM. A woman walks around her dark house. She's jumpy. Scared. Every little thing creeps her out, startling her and shaking her to her core. Just wait until she starts playing with that Jack-In-The-Box if you want to know what delicious anticipation is. Her world of terror accelerates. You drug-users in my audience will know the feeling of a bad trip when you see it, and you won't like it. No explanations, just accelerated fear.
Next up is the story of 'Edward', a cagey lad in psychoanalysis. Simple and truly economical, this short plays cat and mouse with information. What's bugging this boy? Is he off his meds? Or is he a killer. Featuring intense, superlative acting and simple, stylish production design, (check out those branches scraping the window) 'Edward' is literally thrilling; tension is cranked to 11 and chills run up and down your spine. A gooey climax turns away from the psychological tension, but doesn't fully deny this short's gut-check power.
'The Quiet's shaggy dog horror turns on the torment and isolation suffered by a deaf girl. Cruelty and irony will resonate with parents in the audience, while gorgeous photography and fantastic performances mark another short subject of sincere intention and top-notch quality. The Spanish Language (with subtitles) 'Merry Little Christmas' is the epic of the bunch, using graphic horror to tell a mind-bending tale of the cycle of violence so many families suffer through. This chapter also bucks an unfortunate horror-marketing trend, with the revelation that the gruesome creatures on the DVD cover aren't simply part of a generic, totally unrelated design meant to lure punters into renting the DVD.
We wrap our descent into fear up with a somewhat obvious, but nonetheless effective tale called 'The Deviant One'. Yes, the deviant one isn't the one you might think, but he's the one who will make you slap your forehead while shouting 'duh' to your screen, by story's end. Nonetheless, the short is unflinching and disturbing in its own right. As a package, these five short subjects represent consistent quality; scary, gory, smart, high-quality productions sure to scratch that scary itch. Recommended for those who can't get enough terror in their lives.
The Horror Network's widescreen 16 X 9 presentation spans the spectrum of quality, as most anthologies do. 'The Deviant One' comes to us in black and white, is grainy and lackluster in presentation. Other shorts fare better, with 'Merry Little Christmas' sporting a lush look and great colors. '3:00AM' and 'The Quiet One' confound, presenting in something like a 2.70:1 ratio that appears to be compressed vertically, so while the frame is extra-wide, the images within appear slightly too-thin. Strange.
Dolby Digital Stereo Audio is used quite effectively in most of these short subjects. Keyed-up sounds and shock cues abound in '3:00AM', while subtle dimensionality creates dimensionality in 'Edward'. 'The Quiet' uses silence effectively, especially in contrast to the sounds inherent in the 'hearing' world. 'Merry Little Christmas' is just creepy, though 'The Deviant One' is free of dialog. There aren't any distractions or instances of distortion, and everything is mixed pretty nicely.
Extras include an Extended Cut of 'The Deviant One' with clunky dialog included and a little more graphic content. A Photo Gallery and other Wild Eye Trailers complete the sparse package.
The Horror Network collects five short subjects of generally high quality. That in itself isn't always easy to find in the world of horror anthologies. As a package, these five short subjects represent consistent quality; sometimes scary, sometimes gory, almost always smart, high-quality productions that are sure to scratch that scary itch. Recommended for those who can't get enough terror in their lives.