I’d highly recommend you check out these two horror anthologies and put them on your Halloween party playlist for 2016. In the Dark and The Horror Network are very different in tone, so you get a great variety of horror styles and subgenres. For a an extensive list of horror anthology films, check out my multiple horrorgasms page.
IN THE DARK (2015) nails the horror anthology formula with a combination of scares and horror humor. The wraparound story concerns two chicks that have just committed a crime and lie low in a hotel room, where they find a bag of VHS tapes! I know. It’s a familiar gimmick, but it works every time.
“The Keeper” – The first story involves a foursome of criminals hanging out in an empty club. An old man comes in, tells them he’s there to judge them…and then unleashes a wicked cool, oversized Reaper-like creature on them. No CGI monster here, and there’s one kill that is a gory, campy delight.
“Dummy” – This one’s a treat for slasher fans. We meet a little boy who only communicates through his puppet. Actually, it’s Slappy the Dummy from Goosebumps, but we’ll just keep that between us. Anyway, there are some kids who taunt and terrorize the little boy, so years later, the dummy comes back for revenge—in the form of a killer in a damn creepy dummy mask. This is seriously one of the most fantastically detailed masks ever in a slasher. I wonder if they had it made especially for the film or just picked it up at a high-end costume store.
“To Be Loved” – Rather than keeping with the straightforward horror tone of the first two stories, this one is a total exploitation farce. A geek moves into an apartment and soon discovers that it’s equipped with a talking VCR, which promises to find him true love…as long as he feeds it. That’s right, it’s Little Shop of Horrors with an Audrey VCR. The geek even looks like Rick Moranis at times. Expect gross out gore and sexual situations.
When the wraparound draws to a conclusion, as you’d expect, the two bad girls learn the price of watching those videos.
THE HORROR NETWORK (2015) is a much darker, more serious anthology that often focuses on figurative, intangible, or real-life horror rather than concrete horror movie conventions. Because of that, it was a smart move to go without the usual wraparound story, which tends to give anthologies more of a campy, midnight movie feel.
This one definitely sets the perfect tone for the film. The atmosphere is off the hook as a woman alone in a house at night is subjected to numerous creepy occurrences—noises in a dark vent, a random Jack-in-the-Box appearance, frightening phone calls. However, the “shocker” moment at the end doesn’t bring any cohesion to the situations that came before it, and the short is also guilty of overusing jarring sounds & orchestral stabs to create faux jump scares. Still, it’s a good warm up for what’s to come.
A young man is discussing his fear of monsters with his therapist, which includes references to various horror movies and serial killers. In a way, the scary story here is actually told through the young man’s dialogue as he describe his personal encounter with a monster. But the therapist does take center stage at the end, because he meets the young man’s monster face-to-face in a rather icky scenario. As a bonus, both of them end up shirtless.
This story is essentially an entire chase scene through the woods. A deaf schoolgirl is on her way home when she realizes she’s being followed by a blue vehicle. So she runs into the woods and is soon being pursued on foot. This tale scores some good jump scares, and one in particular will definitely stick in your mind and do a little damage to your brain!
“MERRY LITTLE CHRISTMAS”
And now for the story that will do a shitload of damage to your brain. It seems like it’s going to be totally about the very graphic and disturbing abuse a woman faces at the hands of her husband while her little daughter watches, but it takes a metaphorical, monstrous turn that will absolutely ruin you. Honestly, this “thing” needs its own full-length feature.
“THE DEVIANT ONE”
Brian Dorton, the director of this final short (who also put this horror anthology together with his filmmaking partner Douglas Connor), stars in his piece as well. Presented in black and white with no dialogue, this short injects title cards featuring various Biblical quotes throughout to carry the narrative to its fucked up twist.
Playing out like a day in the life of John Wayne Gacy, The Deviant One stars director Dorton himself as the creepy guy next door. He lures a young man into his house and, well, it’s for the best that the young man is murdered prior to the assortment of violations inflicted on his body.
The presentation of “the homosexual as vile predator” is much more complex than it seems, and the story’s conclusion succeeds in challenging viewers in a way that brings to mind the infamous film Irreversible.
Dorton and Connor are currently working on remaking the cult film Crazy Fat Ethel. Find out more here.