Just like zombie movies, if there’s an anthology film available to stream, it’s going into my watchlist for sure. This time around I even stumbled upon one from the 1990s that I’d never seen. So let’s look at The First Date, Herschell Gordon Lewis’ Bloodmania, Do You Believe?, Terror Tales, and With Friends Like These.
THE FIRST DATE (2017)
Beginning with the wraparound, The First Date has some strong concepts that never quite pan out. But it’s not the obvious low budget that’s at fault.
A guy takes a girl to his home theater to show her a bunch of short films…which she insists must only be horror. Yet she quickly proves between tales that her supposed diehard love of horror is fricking weak! She whines after every story, from complaining one is too dark for children to wanting horror with a love story! I would be pissed if my date claimed to be a hardcore horror fan then turned out to be a pussy. Of course, I wouldn’t date pussy to begin with…
So here’s a breakdown of the tales before I get to the problem that plagues pretty much all of them:
1st story – This one is narrated in verse like a children’s nursery rhyme. A young girl runs away from home and finds a doll at an abandoned house.
2nd story – In terms of concept, this is my favorite, offering something unexpected to the overdone clown genre. Two guys sit around playing video games, then one tells a legend of what happens when you say “Sucko the Clown” in a mirror 3 times…
3rd story –This is the “love story” the girl asks for, dialogue free and set to a strumming guitar ballad. Unbearable.
4th story – The narrator of this tale stalks a woman he’s obsessed with through a park, found footage style.
5th story – A couple takes off to a cabin in the woods, but we begin to learn from their alternating narration that they have very different perspectives on why they are there.
6th story – Because this is strictly a cheesy/campy superhero geek scenario with no horror, I couldn’t bring myself to follow any of it, so I just enjoyed the cuteness of the bear.
7th story – A silent film (aka: an ADHD wet dream when it comes to tuning things out).
8th story – My second favorite simply because it literally takes a human being and makes him walk around playing a survival horror game like a video game character, circa 1998.
While some of the ideas are really creative and it’s cool that there are various film styles and formats used to tell the stories, there is absolutely zero in the way of atmosphere or scares, so don’t expect your horror temperature to rise. The bigger issue is, virtually every time a story concludes, you have no clue what the ending meant until the wraparound couple works the explanation into the dialogue. For instance, after one tale the guy says something about “the creature ate him,” and I was like…WHAT??? WHAT CREATURE? THERE WAS NO CREATURE! Really, if you have to explain the twists to your stories between stories…rewrite your stories.
HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS’ BLOODMANIA (2017)
Touted as gore king Herschell Gordon Lewis’s final film, this anthology is half fun and half horrible. I could barely make it through the first two of four stories. Lewis directed two of them…and I only liked half of those…
The intro is fun: a black and white silent film gore porn set to a rockabilly theme song, complete with follow-the-bouncing-ball lyrics.
Herschell is our host, introducing each tale.
1st story – Lewis’s first tale is an absolute mess about a guy with a hook hand. The gross out humor is about as successful as something you’d see from Troma these days. In other words, I shouldn’t have used “successful” in this sentence at all.
2nd story – While there’s some good gore here reminiscent of classic Lewis (even though he didn’t direct this one), it’s generally a plodding story about a woman who takes a man’s gruesome abuse until she finally loses her shit.
3rd story – I think Lewis saved his best for last with this mini masterpiece. It’s campy, it’s creepy, it’s gory, it’s fucking weird.It’s the perfect blend of everything that made 80s horror the stuff of my generationX’s nightmares. And it’s based around one of the most basic premises…family moves into a new house, something freaky as fuck is living in the vents. Sleep paralysis is thrown into the mix, making this like the gritty, nightmarish, throwback Dead Awake wasn’t. Plus, the young daughters fricking rock. I wish this one had been a full-length!
4th story – The third story and this one are the reasons this movie will be a must-add to my collection if it hits DVD. This is slasher schlock at its best and nails the feel of early direct-to-video horror of the 80s. The leading man is awesomely over-the-top as he snaps and goes on a killing spree after he can’t satisfy his deaf girlfriend in bed.
Things only get worse when he’s fired from his job managing an all-girl metal band. Actually, that’s when things get even better for us, as he goes around a music studio slaughtering them.
There’s lesbian sex, goofy gore effects, slapstick horror humor…this one fricking rules and is the perfect way to end the anthology.
DO YOU BELIEVE? (2017)
Holy shit, even 71 minutes is too long for this collection of short films gathered into an anthology film in which teens sit around telling stories—most of which are far from horror and barely even pass as bad Twilight Zone tales since they fail to deliver a surprise or twist.
The more stories that came my way, the less ability I had to comprehend what the hell was going on. By the end it seemed the wraparound was trying to shoehorn them all into a psychic powers theme.
Here are the few stories I made any sense of:
-A magician has a relationship with his female assistant…but also has a male assistant who seems sort of like a gay third wheel. This one was subtitled.
-A model being photographed in an empty building suddenly realizes she made a really bad career move. There’s absolutely no resolution, to the point that even the kids in the wraparound have to make reference to the fact. Still, this is one of the only ones that felt like horror so it’s a winner in my book.
-A “stuck in a cycle” story about a little girl dreaming about a couple dreaming about the little girl dreaming about them. Ouch, my head.
-A guidance counselor who reads minds seems to have a major malfunction, otherwise he would have heard that student saying to himself, “I’m about to stab my guidance counselor.” Sigh.
-A psychic support group meets and talks. One member is a big queen, another member is a doll.
-A lesbian uses a Ouija board and has psychic powers. But then it appears she’s straight? Then she’s attacked by a demon woman covered in mud who wants to know how she got her powers.
I was as confused as her sexuality, but there are a few really effective and chilling moments when the mud woman first comes on the scene.
TERROR TALES (2014)
This is some serious homebrewed horror—the kind in which it looks like friends and family all participated, running around their own hometown streets with camcorders and cases of beer on the weekends because they thought it would be a hoot to make a horror flick.
As with most movies of this sort, it looks like it was made by a bunch of heavy metal dudes in 1987. This type of indie film is a fascinating, genuine portrait of how unbelievably little humans have progressed in at least 30 years. This time warp phenomenon is endearing and nostalgic…while also being simultaneously terrifying.
Some of the stories are just gibberish and goofiness, but there was a highlight for me. A dude finds a guitar on his doorstep…and it turns him into a psycho killer. Actually, the guitar itself is a killer, spitting out deadly guitar strings left and right. And the guitar POV rules. Not to mention, that victim is fricking cuuuute.
Another oddly memorable tale is about a Christmas mummy.
Ater various encounters of Troma-like quality (a Santa shitting in the park, the mummy throwing a dog into a river), crashes a Christmas party and begins to massacre the partygoers…including a queenie guy! The queens are getting some recognition in the horror anthologies this time around.
WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE (1991)
Despite the fact that Mr. Roper himself Norman Fell narrates this anthology, it’s a no frills flick that feels more like 3 lost episodes of Tales from the Darkside tossed together to make a movie. Rather than horror, they’re more like tales of the campy and weird (and forgettable).
1st story – A guy buys a car that begins to talk to him…and to ruin his relationship with his woman.
2nd story – A sloppy dude essentially conjures a slimy trash monster version of himself.
3rd story – Generally the most compelling because you don’t know exactly what to expect, this one is about a woman who begins dating a guy her friends set her up with…only to find he has some really strange patterns of behavior.