Half of what makes a good horror film is a good monster. Without a believable, and ultimately scary, antagonist there’s not much for the audience to latch onto. No film studio – not even the amazing Hammer Films – has ever been able to hold a candle to the classics, and probably wouldn’t have ever existed without the Universal monster movies of the 1930s and 40s.
Volumes of Blood is a horror anthology movie featuring five short films, each helmed by a different director. The overarching story focuses on a college study group in a public library trying to create a new urban legend as part of a class project. As in just about every anthology, some of the stories were better than others, owing to variances in acting, cinematography, and screenplay. Yes, it’s a low-budget film, but that’s not where it falls short: what failed the movie was the writing.
Nevertheless, it’s an entertaining film, one worth your time.
“Some libraries make a killing!”
The Butcher is one of the many, many horror movies that seem to have been inspired directly by the murderous antics of one Mr Edward Gein. For those inexplicably unfamiliar with his work, Mr Gein was a serial murderer who haunted Plainfield, Wisconsin in the late 1940s and early 50s. Though he was from a small town and his “career” lasted barely half a decade, Gein made himself a name in the serial killer community for the – how shall we put it? – joie de travailler with which he went about his work. Almost all of the tropes beloved of the serial killer movie – the suit made of human skin, the mock-crucifixions, the skull crockery – have come from the details of Ed Gein’s trial.
“You are what’s on the menu…”
Conrad Radzoff is a horror icon passed his peak, consigned to resurrecting his celebrated cinematic vampire role for a tasteless advertisement for dentures. After he dies, a group of devotees break into his neon-lit, lavish mausoleum and, in a rather misguided attempt to celebrate the life of their idol, nick his body for a farewell shindig at their place – who wouldn’t?! Unfortunately for them, Radzoff was a dab hand at the ol’ black magic and rises from the dead, seeking payback on those who disturbed him.
“There was Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, and Conrad Ragzoff! They were all stars who lived and died. But only one returned…”
Imagine you’ve received a mysterious summons to a grand old mansion, along with a check for several thousand dollars. Most of us would probably think it was a scam, despite the money, but you’d be terribly curious, of course. It’s certainly a step up from the ‘Nigerian Prince’ scam. Maybe you’d even go out to this grand old mansion, just to see what it’s all about. That’s what Gabby does in The Offer, and she arrives to discover that six other guests like her have already arrived. It’s an intriguing opener to what could be an innovative series.
“The game is simple… Give a wrong answer, lose a life.”
Japanese wannabe actress Mayumi is abducted by an absolute nut-job called Vendenski and his hysterically seedy cult – Capital Messiah. They’re feared throughout the criminal community for reasons that are beyond me, but nobody seems to be able to touch them, until Mayumi’s brother, Kenji, travels over in search of his missing sister. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention Kenji is a Karate Master, wouldn’t you just know it? This now sets the wheels in motion for Kenji to stroll around L.A. all brooding and a fish out of water, but cracking skulls as he’s doing it.
“He is no Mr. Miyagi.”
Joe Ahearne is a British writer and director whose TV miniseries The Replacement was shown on the BBC in 2017 to a warm reception. I caught up with him to chat about this and his other project, the horror/thriller film called B&B.
“This was the first time I’d written something where I was determined that the gay guys were absolutely going to be the stars, and it was sort of a genre piece as well. I was definitely interesting in doing something that had some kind of fantasy or horror.”
Killer Friends features a spectacularly god-awful human being and his best friends’ attempts to put him out of their misery. These attempts, being amateurish and unplanned, backfire in various slapstick ways and the viewer is invited both to sympathise with the frustrated would-be homicides and wonder when they’re going to get their cackhanded act together and put the little shit down. It becomes apparent, however, that their potential victim knows more than he is letting on… Even now, thinking about him, I can feel my blood pressure rising.
“I’m here to love and support my girlfriend… and kill Scott!”
B&B takes as its inspiration a court case that received quite widespread publicity about six years ago for being the sort of thing that makes you go, “seriously, in this day and age?” The set-up is that a homosexual couple have fought and won a court case against a bed and breakfast that discriminated against them by refusing them a double room – a legal battle which really did take place and which was eventually decided in the Supreme Court, because there seems to be a disappointing abundance of legal funding for bigoted wankers.
“They made their bed… Now they have to die in it.”
The more our technology improves, the harder it is to make some classic horror tropes believable. The main culprit here is the cell phone. Everyone has one, and they are constantly in use. For those of us with smart phones, we are able to control almost every aspect of our lives through this little device. As our technology evolves, so must the horror genre evolve to incorporate its use. With smart phones giving us easy access to the internet and a seemingly unending number of apps to choose from, it’s no wonder that dating apps have become so popular.
“It’s a killer app.”
Charles Bukowski once said “Some people never go insane. What horrible lives they must lead!” Clearly this is not the way for the characters in Pazucus: Island of Vomit and Despair, as whilst they seem to act and look crazed and insane their lives are blighted by horrors all around them. Their insanity is reflected in Gurcius Gewdner’s film which is somewhat of a strange piece of underground genre cinema, art house horror, b-movie monster horror, and deliberately maddening genre flick that is deliberately frustrating and uneasy to pin point as to what it actually is about. The plot, if there is one to focus on, follows Carlos who is constantly vomiting…
“You won’t be coming home!”
John Harris works for a property/land development firm in New York City. After his wife Samantha has a miscarriage, his life begins to change. This unfortunate event has traumatized her and John thinks that some time away from the city would do both of them a world of good. Writer/director Courtney Fathom Sell created a film that is less about shocks and horrific moments and more about building an imposing sense of fear. From the moment the Harris’ move into their new house, there is an air of unnerving trepidation.