Judge Patrick Bromley has five senses of fun.
Five short films. Five groundbreaking visions. Five reasons to be scared senseless.
A new horror anthology from four up-and-coming genre directors and the kid who played Gage in Pet Sematary.
Facts of the Case
There are five individual segments in Chilling Visions: 5 Senses of Fear, each connected to—you guessed it—one of the five senses.
• "Smell" directed by Nick Everheart (2012
• "See" directed by Miko Hughes
• "Touch" directed by Emily Hagins (My Sucky Teen
• "Taste" directed by Eric England (Madison County)
• "Listen" directed by Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton
I've said it before, I'll say it again: the anthology format is great for horror, because it requires a minimal plot setup and need only sustain terror or suspense for 15 to 30 minutes before it's on to the next segment. It also has the advantage of resetting three to five times per movie (or 26 if it's The ABCs of Death), so that even when a segment falls flat, another one will come along shortly to possibly win you back. The format comes with a lot of built-in pluses. Why are so many of them so uneven?
I had high hopes for Chilling Visions: 5 Senses of Fear, a new anthology produced for the Chiller Network and now being released on Blu-ray by the wonderful people at Shout! Factory. I like anthologies. The Shout! Factory seal of approval was encouraging. Mostly, though, I was curious to see the segment from Emily Hagins, the young filmmaker who directed her first movie, Pathogen, at age 12 (the production of which is chronicled in the wonderful documentary Zombie Girl: The Movie). As a fan of her previous movie, Grow Up, Tony Phillips, and a supporter of her work, I was hoping she would thrive in the anthology format and come up with something scarier (her last two movies were comedies) while still retaining her voice.
Hagins, like pretty much every filmmaker involved with Chilling Visions, has made a segment that's got some interesting ideas and some good atmosphere but doesn't gel as well as the segments from the best horror anthologies (Creepshow, Trick 'r Treat, the original Tales from the Crypt). The good news is that every short has things to like in it, whether it's the performance of Caleb Barwick in Hagins' piece, or the dark and odd humor of "Smell," the grisly shocks of "Taste" or the creeping dread of "Listen." There's some kind of hook in each of the five segments and even some attempt at connecting them to one another—actors reappear in more than one piece, and slowly the same corporation is revealed to be involved in much of what's going on.
The weakest segment comes from former child actor Miko Hughes (he of "Boys have a penis, girls have a vagina" fame), most likely the result of it being his first effort as a director. Like the others, it has an interesting idea at its center (and doesn't spend any time explaining the supernatural elements, one of the strengths of Chilling Visions as a whole). It's just that the execution is a little big rougher—it feels in part like a young filmmaker finding his way. That's OK. That's what it is. At the same time, it has an approach and an energy that's unique among the short films. Each of the segments has a different vibe, just one of the kinds of happy accidents that can happen in horror anthologies. One plays like dark comedy, another like slow-burn horror. There's definitely some gore on display, but sometimes it feels like the movie is holding back (perhaps there are limitations to the made-for-cable format). It's unlikely that fans of blood and grue will be too terribly disappointed.
Shout! Factory's Blu-ray of Chilling Visions is totally fine, but a far cry from the lavish special editions they've been putting out under their Scream Factory label (literally the best thing ever). The film is presented in full 1080p HD in its original 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio, and it looks decent but far from great. That's not the fault of a bad transfer; this is clearly a low-budget effort that was produced for television, so few of the segments have photography that's particularly striking. Still, the HD transfer has a reasonable amount of detail and appears to reproduce the filmmakers' intended look as close as possible. The lossless 5.1 audio track is serviceable in that it delivers the dialogue cleanly, but most of the activity is relegated to the front channels without much attention to the surround speakers. This, too, could be a side effect of the movie's made-for-TV origins.
The bonus content is slim: one brief deleted scene (less than a minute) from "Smell," plus a trailer and a couple of TV ads that originally ran on Chiller. Too bad there's no commentary from each of the filmmakers discussing their respective segments.
Like practically every horror anthology ever made, Chilling Visions: 5 Senses of Fear is pretty uneven. The best thing about the movie is that it gives a forum to five up and coming genre filmmakers and allows them to work in the short-story format. Maybe someday it will exist as an interesting curiosity—an early "way back when" work from before so-and-so made it big. In 2013, it's still a mixed bag.
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