Written by: Daniel McDonald
What’s so cool about anthology films is, yeah if you don’t dig the path you’re on, you’ll soon have the chance of loving the next one, or the next one, or the one after that. But in some wonderful examples, the varied styles, storytelling abilities, and exposure of what each individual creator sees as “fear inducing” can be as bracing as a cold shower after a hot day on the beach.
With this new four episode horror anthology one might think the fact that it was waaay (in my opinion) over sold – yay Marketing creativity strikes (out) again as “WOMEN DIRECTORS WHO ACTUALLY HAVE VIEWPOINTS ON HORROR- OH WOWIE!” That is a direct kick in the (yeah I’ll say it) creative balls of the four strong talents (only one of whom I knew before hand) directing two elusive, open to interpretation and two more straight forward examples of shivers up the spike, to scratching your head while laughing and not knowing why, to grabbing the armrest from the edge of the seat horrors.
The issue is with limited narrative information, it could be quite easy to let a spoiler or two slip, and going into this film knowing nothing about it (except that it was marketed in a totally unneeded misogynistic manner) was a HUGE plus.
I find it interesting that (in my humble opinion) the first and second story were very well put together slow burner creepfests, while three was a stylistic balls to the wall (there I go again but what’s the alternative?) straight up monster (and ohhhh what a monster) movie and the fourth (my personal favorite) had such a strong narrative – honoring a genre classic (sorry can’t say which one) with truly fine acting and technically simplistic but highly effective FX.
Let’s see what I can say…. in Jovanka Vechovik’s THE BOX, the young son of a good old American family is strangely and dramatically affected after taking a peek inside a stranger’s Christmas present while riding on a subway. Much nefarious action follows that ended with me echoing Brad Pitt in 7 (you’ll either get that, or you won’t). The performances (especially young Peter Dachuna) were top notch. In number two, St. Vincent’s BIRTHDAY PARTY one of my favorite (I feel) highly underrated and underused actresses Melanie Lynski gives a terrific horror/comedy performance as a mother who will do and endure ANYTHING (some funny stuff here) to make sure her daughter has the perfect birthday party. My only problem is the director/writer’s choice to give us what (I suppose) is necessary exposition as printed information in the end to justify the tone of the piece itself.
Now onto number three DONT’T FALL, by Roxanne Benjamin which I must say, after the slow burn, dot, dot, dot, open to interpretation elements of one and two, felt very much like a horror B12 shot with it’s fairly quick, rollercoaster ride of horror and violence. Yeppers it’s quite ABC in format, with a great scary as hell performance by actress Rita Wooi and her stunt double along with effectively used monster FX, and a little creepy visual stinger (who said that? Not me!) to wrap it up.
Finally onto number four, and, while I’m not quite sure whose decision the chronology of the pieces was, I do know to end with Karyn Kusama’s HER ONLY LIVING SON was definitely the “end with your strongest punch” winner. Unlike three quarters of the people on the planet, I think Kusama’s JENNIFER’S BODY was excellent, and gets better with repeated viewings. Amanda Seyfried was terrific, but Megan Fox gave such a hysterically funny, understated, totally sexual, “melt the M&Ms. in your pocket” (hey dude, I’m gay but nobody watching this performance can be THAT gay) frightening self-deprecating interpretation as the (pun intended) titular character I was shocked that Kusama’s style and Oscar winner Diablo Cody’s truly original horror comedy never found its audience.
But in HER ONLY LIVING SON, Kusama’s skill with actors – two terrific performances by Christina Kirk and Kyle Allan, also her masterful control of the rhythms, camera angles and movements give her short “based on another film– sort of” quality and flair. The visual storytelling, far above average dialogue and acting end this brisk 80-minute horror entry satisfyingly,
Also of note is the impressive, atmospheric wrap around stop motion film work of award winner Sofia Carrillo. Multiple technical teams all solid and slick.