A NIGHT OF HORROR VOL 1 **** U.S.A. / Canada / Australia 2016 Dir: Daniel Daperis, Bossi Baker, Justin Harding, Rebecca Thomson, Evan Randall Green, Goran Spoljaric, Evan Randall Green, Carmen Falk, Matthew Goodrich, Nicholas Colla. 88 mins
“A Night Of Horror” is a long running genre film festival held annually in Sydney, and this anthology from Deadhouse Films, a key partner of the fest, compiles ten shorts that earned their place via a competition (Volume 2 is to follow next year). WYRMWOOD’s Bianca Bradey stars in Enzo Tedeschi’s eerie wraparound segment as a young woman wandering around a strange building dominated by creepy white mask motifs, linking together nine otherwise unrelated mini-movies.
As always with portmanteau movies, the stories offer a range of styles and themes: Daniel Daperi’s and co-director Nicholas Colla’s “Flash” is a spin on the haunted forest theme, while Evan Randall Green’s “Dark Origins” is a more subdued psychological piece and Rebecca Thomson’s “I Am Undone” unleashes a broad, gruesome satire of cosmetic surgery as a narcissistic surgeon’s body literally revolts. Most of the shorts sacrifice overt gore in favour of drip-feed dread and effective creep-outs. Carmen Falk’s “Ravenous” has nauseating scenes of elderly eating in its disturbing variation of Stephen King’s short story “Gramma”, and Bossi Baker’s “Hum” generates real unease and moments of alarm in its Lovecraftian tale of a young woman menaced by a persistent, inexplicable noise in her apartment building. Matthew Goodrich contributes “Scission”, the most visually arresting film, with subtle nods to eco-horror, striking imagery and an ambitious, surrealistic colour palette for its disarming nightmare sequences.
Other stand-outs are Justin Harding’s “Point of View”, which pre-empts the morgue-based jitters of THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE as an over-worked, sleep-deprived coroner is tormented by a restless cadaver on her slab ; the moving corpse is alarming, even if the short is so indebted to the DR WHO episode “Blink” that Steven Moffat gets acknowledgement in the credits. Equally impressive on the fright scale is Goran Spoljaric’s “The Priest”, in which an adulterous woman hops on the wrong train home and undergoes a nightmarish experience involving the eponymous character. The creepy antagonist and the moral punishment at the core of the story acknowledge the enduring influence of EC Comics and Amicus anthologies, and this collection is consistently strong enough to represent a worthy latter-day addition to the sub-genre.
Review by Steven West