I like anthologies for the same reason I like short story collections: sometimes you get utter bullshit, and sometimes you get something amazing. (The ratio of terrible-to-amazing-to-tepid varies by case.) Luckily for me, they happen to be coming back into vogue these days, especially in horror. Which means it's time for Capsule Reviews! (Or, you know, I was waaaaaaay too lazy to do full write-ups on each.)

Deadtime Stories 1-2: Hoo boy. I decided, after looking at the list, to do these in ascending order, which means worst goes first. And these certainly qualify. It's--imagine a shitty low-rent Tales From the Crypt without the morality plays, and with George Romero as the Cryptkeeper. Complete with puns. I am not certain, having seen both, that they didn't literally just use the same three intros for both movies. (I would check, but I frankly don't want to. THAT BAD.)

1 is the worst of the two, featuring three stories: A woman looking for her husband in the jungles of--okay, they say it's Africa? But it legit looks like they went to a State Park. Seriously. David DeCoteau movies have a bigger budget than this, and that man makes movies in his house. It ends just as trite as you'd imagine, although I sort of...you know how sometimes, mostly in horror movies but occasionally in other genres, they do something that's supposed to provoke one kind of feeling but it accidentally trips and ends up on Accidentally Really Creepy? That's this one.

1.2 has to do with mermaids. It's not a bad idea, but the execution sure is...about 45 minutes. Wow.

1.3 is arguably the best of the first lot, and that's really, really iffy. The story of a man dealing with whether or not to kill his brand-new werewolf son is directed by Tom Savini, and--okay, look, we'll get into this more in TTB below, but Tom Savini is branching out into filmmaking, with various degrees of success. I like what he was going for with this one, but it still falls short.

If you have to watch one of these--say you lost a bet, or there's a gun to a loved one's head--choose the second one. They manage to bust out three decent shorts--group of cavers turn to cannibalism, teacher sleeping with student is haunted by her jilted ghost, security guard's dying wife is transformed when he begins shooting her up with dust from Mars (no, really)--again, almost by accident. They were still clearly made for change left over from the catering budget of one of the Mission Impossible movies, and occasionally the sound drops out for, like, no reason, but it's a lot better than the first one.

...not that that makes it good, per se. Let's not talk crazy.

Little Deaths: This one and the next are tied in terms of quality; I put LD first because there aren't as many stories, and because I sort of have to be in the mood for a British sex-and-death anthology, which this is. "House and Home" is my favorite of the three, featuring a bored married couple whose kink involves picking up street girls for nasty little evenings, only to find that they've picked up the wrong one this time.

"Mutant Tool" tells the intertwined stories of a doctor making a disgusting (and addictive) brand-new drug, ostensibly to fund his research into the source of said drug, and our heroine, a former sex worker turned temporary drug dealer who gets hooked on her own stuff. Equal parts horrifying and interesting, this one--I actually don't watch the ending of this one a lot, mostly because it really pisses me off. Strong reactions don't happen to me a lot these days, with horror.

"Bitch" is arguably the most satisfying of the lot, though I freely admit that it won't be for everyone. Pete, fed up with being humiliated and dominated by his office worker girlfriend Claire--Claire has a particular fetish, y'all--loses his shit after a threesome turns into straight-up cheating, and gets revenge. I don't want to say any more, because that would spoil the ending. I will say that if you don't like knowing something awful happens to a lady (we don't actually see it), maybe skip this one.

The Theatre Bizarre: --so yeah, a bunch of people made a Grand Guignol anthology with a wraparound story featuring creepy puppet Udo Kier. You should be able to tell from that sentence whether or not this is your thing.

"The Mother of Toads" is first and manages--somehow, magically--to make Lovecraft interesting to me. (I think the whole Lovecraftian thing is terrifying, but the actual prose doesn't do a lot for me.) Extra great when you realize director Richard Stanley lives in the French Pyrenees and is trying to find the Necronomicon. No, really.

"I Love You" is one of my two favorite segments in the film: a man finds that his wife is leaving him, only to realize that everything we've seen is an extended flashback. It's mean, bitter, poisonous, and gorgeously lit. I love it.

"Wet Dreams", Tom Savini's short, is...kind of boring? In theory it's good--man keeps having dreams about hot women (including his wife) castrating and/or murdering him, and realizes too late that they might have been warning--but the execution feels unfinished, like another five or ten minutes were edited out for some reason.

"The Accident", directed by Douglas Buck, features a mother talking to her child about death. It's beautiful and creepy, and manages to keep up a sense of dread for what's essentially the conversation every parent eventually has with his or her child. That's all thanks to Buck, who's been out of the game for a while; I will admit, some of the tension on my part came from having seen "Cutting Moments" not too long ago, which JESUS CHRIST DON'T DO THAT. It's amazing, but--yeah. Bleak and creepy and well-known in horror circles for very good reason.

"Vision Stains", which involves a blind woman killing homeless people and stealing the vitreous humour from their eyes to shoot into her own so she can temporarily see, is creepy while not being my cup of tea. Hell of an idea for a feature-length, though.

And now, my other favorite: "Sweets". Woman addicted to desserts breaks up with her boyfriend. Sounds boring! IT TOTALLY ISN'T. Just--the first half is shot like weird food porn (if "food porn" also consists of a variation on being into "crush" videos) mixed with a Katy Perry video. The second half, though, looks like something Clive Barker would dream up coming off a long weekend of cold medication. I keep having to fight the urge to write fic about this one, mostly because A) I don't know enough about it (in a good way!) and B) it wouldn't be anywhere near as good as the actual short itself. Just--that last wink! The Last Supper seating! WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS? Amazing. Genius.

V/H/S: And now, we come across the Magical Pixie Dream Girl of the group: the found footage horror anthology. I KNOW. But hear me out: it's really, really good.

The plot itself isn't complicated: a group of petty criminals are hired by a man to break into a house and steal a videotape. Upon arriving, they find that there are a bunch of tapes, not just one, so logically they have to go through the bunch and try to find the one they're looking for. And that's...all I'm going to say, because this one doesn't come out in theaters 'til October and I'd rather not ruin it for anyone. I will say it doesn't revolutionize horror...but neither did Trick 'r' Treat, so V/H/S is going to have to settle for just being an example of both of its styles--anthology and found footage--that does it credit. If you get the chance to see it in a theater in October, do it; otherwise it'll be available on VOD in September.


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