Pretty straightforward. I stream for a horror anthology scream. Did it work?
WHERE EVIL LIVES (1991)
Nostalgia is all this low-budget film has going for it. It definitely looks like a late 80s/early 90s direct-to-VHS film, so I immediately got that warm and fuzzy feeling inside. But not even the wraparound story helps make its content any better. Claude Akins hits rock bottom in what was apparently his last film, playing a storytelling caretaker of an old building.
In the first story, some crazy dude who killed a bunch of college kids back in 1969 is set free years later. He returns to the building and is terrorized by zombie versions of those kids. Cheesy undead always make things a little better, but the tone of this story is horribly low budget and goofy.
The second story has a woman narrating about her childhood psychic ability and the time her horny brother was seduced by a sexy vamp that lived in the basement of the building. So the sister and other brother teamed up to hunt down and kill the vamp. As hokey as this one is, it’s my favorite because of its gritty feel and creepy atmosphere. Plus, the vamp’s fangs are hot.
The third story has a woman using witchcraft to help cops hunt down a serial killer. This serial killer is actually harvesting organs to give to a mad doctor. There’s a sleazy, sexual angle to this story as she uses seduction (and spells) to get her man. So bad.
And finally, the Claude Akins wraparound has a dark twist that is painfully pointless beyond getting one more gory kill into the film. Okay, I’ll admit it. It’s probably the best kill in the whole movie.
ANTHOLOGY OF TERROR: PRELUDE (2010)
I assume by the “Prelude” subtitle that this was meant to be a series, but I don’t know that there’s ever been another episode. I say episode because this is more like a TV show, running only 45 minutes. Perfect. As a series, it would have some serious potential. It even has a host: a mysterious cowboy in black who calls himself The Archivist.
The first tale has two men doing a hit on a freaky big guy with bloody gauze masking his face. Turns out he can’t be killed. In a brief fifteen minutes, this one delivers a cool crazed killer, suspense, and wicked gore. The second story begins in the 1950s, with an abused wife killing her husband and burying him in the basement. Flash forward to 1998, and that woman sits in her basement with a gun because she’s convinced he’s going to return. She’s right. The final story is set in 2077 and has some drifter dude hiding out in an old fallout shelter. As the power begins to come back on and the lights flicker on and off, the drifter begins to realize he’s not alone.
These tales of terror don’t exactly deliver the kind of zinger twists necessary in anthology shorts, so the plots are a bit flat. However, the production value is tight, the horror aspects are great, and the creep factor is quite effective. I would totally watch a second episode.
The director of The Strangers creates a pseudo-found footage anthology film, with the “wraparound” being that the characters in each story have all received a video camera, with instructions to “keep filming.” It’s a VHS camera, because this movie is set in 1995. Also, the stories aren’t consecutive; the movie jumps back and forth between each one. There are even title cards noting different “sections” of the film.
Mockingbird is almost just like The Strangers in that two of the three stories are home invasion in nature. It also has something in common with Saw in that the characters are fed instructions on what to do to stay alive (one card even says “Let’s play a game.” REALLY?). Very often, those instructions come from a loudspeaker somewhere outside the house. Big problem is, I could never understand what the hell the creepy voice on the loudspeaker was saying. Actually, that’s one of so many problems.
First, there’s a couple with kids. You spend a majority of their story wondering why the kids haven’t woken up and come downstairs screaming, what with all the noise going on. You wonder this way sooner than the couple should have….
Next, there’s a single chick being terrorized at a guesthouse she lives in. This dumb bitch freaks out when someone begins trying to get in the house, so…she sits directly under a window. It’s also disorienting that both home invasion stories feature brunette white women. As the film jumped back and forth (killing any tension in the process), the lines became very blurred as to which woman was experiencing what.
Finally, there’s a loser who lives at home with his mom. He receives a clown costume to wear and is sent out to do a variety of tasks. This story has a notable comic edge to it because this guy is just such a nerd and has no idea what he’s being led towards….
There are some creepy moments and cheap scares, but a majority of Mockingbird is routine and cliché found footage crap to the point of boring. Plus, you can see the converging direction it’s heading the whole time. The entire film seems like an excuse to arrive at the final (unsatisfying, totally implausible) reveal of the shocking party responsible for terrorizing these people.
And seriously. if you found yourself stepping into a house filled with balloons that obscured your view of possible threats, wouldn’t you just start popping the fucking balloons?
You know it’s a bad sign when you use a clown for the art of your horror movie and the clown isn’t even used as a fright device in the film….