Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Is the new fright anthology, THE HORROR NETWORK, a good Halloween watch? Maybe...

...or maybe not. It depends, I should think, on how old you are and how many other "scary" movies you've managed to view over your years. I am fast coming to the conclusion that I've seen way too many of this genre, and an anthology movie like THE HORROR NETWORK serves mostly to underscore that point. Horror anthologies have a storied history, going at least as far back as the 1945 British gem (in its time; much of it still holds up well today), Dead of Night. Later came some fun Hammer horrors, then the more "modern," special-effects-enhanced efforts like Creepshow and Tales from the Crypt, all of which took fear into a different, less subtle direction, while the most recent examples -- the V/H/S group and the even better ABCs of Death -- tend to count on envelope-pushing sex, violence, transgression and gore to do the job. (And, one must admit, they sometimes do.)

Only one of the short films included in this five part anthology rises to the challenge, and that's the penultimate creep-fest, Merry Little Christmas. Directed by Ignacio Martín and Manuel Marín, with the latter handling the screenwriting duties, this 20-minute film is the longest in the bunch, and also the best, as well as the goriest and biggest-budget effort. Involving masked women and what they get up to (not good), spousal and child abuse, agoraphobia and self-destruction, this is one wild, woolly, yucky piece of filmmaking.

Otherwise, the movie contains four perfectly professional scare films, in which everything will remind you of stuff you've seen previously, and you'll mostly want to ask, Could you please get on with it?" Second best film honors go to Joseph Graham's Edward, shown below, in which a shrink and his patient do an eventually tiresome pas de deux, complete with everything from guck and gore to personality transference.

The film begins with 3 AM, in which a young woman in an empty house in the middle of the night is menaced by...something or someone. Sounds familiar? It is. The Quiet, directed by Lee Matthews, a bullied-because-she's-deaf school-girl go from frying pan into fire, as she becomes predator prey in some highly bucolic, beautifully photographed scenery.

The final tale, in black-and-white, offers us a guy, a dog and a killer, plus Bible verses from Proverbs, Jeremiah, Leviticus, Colossians and Revelation. Seemingly dedicated to exposing the hypocrisy of the anti-gay fringe, it's mostly a yawn -- but at least it's a short one.

That's it.  If all this sounds like a productive way to spend Halloween (or whenever), by all means, take a chance. The Horror Network -- via Wild Eye Releasing and running 87 minutes -- made its DVDebut yesterday, October 27, just in time for that favvorite, would-be holiday.

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