VHS gets its vengeance

Directors: Alex Lukens, Jason Zink

Starring: Richard Hackel, Colvin Mann, Alex Lukens, Alyssa Benner

4 Knives


An anthology of horror shorts is presented retro VHS style.


NIGHT TERRORS, a harkening back to an era that is very special to a lot of us, is a successful pastiche not only of early indie DIY anthology films but the whole SOV culture itself. The picture has the particular grit distinctive to movies shot on video tape (even if this might be vid-looked digital filming), complete with occasional tape glitches and VHS “snow” present at times. Beyond the retro motif, there is the story itself, a really well done anthology horror film with every story, including the wraparound, being good tales, interesting and suspenseful. The surrounding container story finds a young woman stuck babysitting when she’d rather be at a party. Making the best out of a bad situation, she decides to tell the kid a series of appalling bedtime stories to the kid. Each story is one of the short films. MASSACRE ON 34TH STREET is a killer Santa tale, but rather than just phoned-in riffs built of (now) standard tropes of the mad Santa subgenre, the story finds its own groove and goes with it. Packed with outstanding gore FX and a crazy who manages to be both the (now) classic psycho Santa but also a masked killer – he’s wearing a Santa mask. His little but exceedingly violent story arc is as good as most of the bigger budget, full-blown, feature-length killer Santa flicks out there. BABY KILLER is a particularly nasty tale that takes a classic plot idea – scientist crosses ethical lines trying to save/help ailing daughter – and revs it up quite a bit. The scientist in question is trying to use stolen technology and wrongfully harvested stem cells to stop the march of his daughter’s cancer. After failed experiment after failed experiment – one of which includes the partial dismemberment of a child – and the scientist father is no closer to his goal. His frustration, worry and panic reach a crescendo and he decides he needs, well, “fresher” stem cell sources and starts thinking about his pregnant neighbor. This one, every time you think it’s hit its climax of depravity, has one more turn of the thumbscrews. Your proverbial thumbs will fall off time this is done with you. Then there’s ABSTINENCE, which is a cautionary tale, a riff on cautionary tales and a riff on epidemic and zombie movies. The killer in this case is a particularly nasty and virulent sexually transmitted disease that results in big, flesh-eating, pustulent tumors, sores, whatever you wanna call ‘em. It’s gross as hell. The wraparound story uses its climax to make the entire movie a bit meta, with reality and fiction blurring together for a dark denouement.

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