Every time Appellate Judge Tom Becker opens a greeting card, he finds himself face to face with schlock.
To avoid fainting, just keep repeating, "They made it with camcorders."
Tales from the Crypt—YouTube style.
The original Faces of Schlock was a collection of homemade short films thrown together for the Cinema Wasteland Horror Convention in Ohio in 2005. It was successful enough that it spawned a sequel, the cunningly named Faces of Schlock Vol. 2 just a few months later. The latest incarnation of these nano-budget odes to the grindhouse is Faces of Schlock: Boobs and Blood Edition, featuring a quartet of DIY schlockers.
• "Blood Witch" (Directed by Andrew Shearer) When an annoying goth girl gets ticked off at her strait-laced roommate, she summons a centuries-old witch to take care of Miss Goody Two-Shoes, as well as pretty much every other person who gets on her nerves. Unfortunately, she finds that having a 17th Century killing machine isn't all it's cracked up to be.
• "Mike Wuz Here" (Directed by Justin Channell) When Derek is hired to manage a movie theater, he discovers that the place is haunted by Mike, a former employee who hung himself in the basement. Apparently, death changes nothing for some people, because Mike is as irritating in the afterlife as he was before he roped himself up.
• "One Foot in the Grave" (Directed by Chris LaMartina) A dancer is being treated—by a doctor named Scholl—for a foot infection. When the infection spreads, she's horrified to learn that she must lose the appendage. After the operation, she takes the foot and freezes it, hoping to find someone to reattach it. But someone else has her eye on that foot—a local witch, who needs it to complete an eternal-life potion.
• "Slay Ride" (Directed by Henrique Couto) A horrid high school girl is left home alone on Christmas Eve by her fed-up family, with only a geeky classmate to keep her company. But aggravation turns to horror for our young anti-heroine when she suspects her creepy, chainsaw-wielding neighbor might have an unpleasant holiday surprise in store for her.
The "new breed" of no-budget filmmaker isn't really all that new. In the '70s, you could make an exploitation-level mini-epic with Super 8 film; in the '80s, with VHS. Of course, these formats were far more crude than what's available today, and home computer editing was a fantasy of the future. It used to be that, besides private showings, local public access cable was the best place to get your basement tapes seen.
The Internet and the proliferation of direct-to-home-video, of course, have changed all that. Every week seems to bring another "viral sensation," though most of these are flash-in-the-pan freak shows.
While there's definitely a freak show vibe to Faces of Schlock, there's also a level of integrity. Sure, some of the schlock is a bit too schlocky, and occasionally, the attempts at "shocking" humor come off as a bit desperate, but there are some pretty cool and fun films to be found here.
While not the most polished products out there, even in the DIY realm, the films contained in Faces of Schlock are overall pretty well done. The tech is stronger than it appears at first glance. Sure, there are lots of stray shadows, "dark" scenes often don't read all that well, audio is pretty hit or miss, and the "special effects" are just a few steps up from what you could produce with a grade schooler's magic trick kit, but these films aren't here to be admired for their technical aesthetics. They're short stories, post-millennial versions of the kinds of things we used to get on Tales From the Darkside. "Fun" is the operative word here—no grandiose statements or pretensions. A lot of the humor is pretty juvenile, and in-jokes abound, as do, expectedly, references to other films. In their own way, they work as well as "real-budget" anthology films like Campfire Tales or Grim Prairie Tales, and it's a pleasure to see the anthology format used so well.
The DVD is hosted by "Slutpira"—a kind of low-rent Elvira/Vampira type—doing groan-worthy shtick and introductions.
"Blood Witch," the first episode, is a funny take on the old vengeance-through-invoking-a-demon chestnut, with Countess Samela appropriately heinous as the goth girl with a bad attitude. Cleverly nasty, with a decent punchline, it's a good beginning to the set.
"Mike Wuz Here" is the weakest of the four, in terms of both tech and story. Tech-wise, the biggest offender is the audio, with the film often taking place in rooms that are just too lively, so dialogue is echoey, muddled, and often hard to understand—a big problem, since "Mike Wuz Here" is awfully dialogue heavy. It's also just not that funny, its story of a loser guy who loses his loser job, kills himself, and comes back as a loser ghost a one-joke idea that's stretched way too far.
"One Foot in the Grave" suffers from a few too many dumb jokes—most of them from "Dr. Scholl" (strike one) who makes every sentence a quip about feet ("Well make sure you put your best foot forward!" "Watch your step!" and other such eye-rollers). It also gives us a bit too much shoddy-looking gore. On the up side, it's very well shot, gets much better as it gets rolling, offers a cute (for lack of a better word) animation effect, and features a nicely twisted ending.
"Slay Ride" was my personal favorite thanks in no small part to an accomplished central performance by Ruby Larocca (Cloak and Shag Her) as the snotty "high school" girl—who insists on being called "Trash"—and some cheerily absurd plot twists. It's the most professional looking film in the bunch, and the most consistently funny, as well.
The disc from Independent Entertainment is a very nice affair. Inherent technical limitations of the source material aside, we get a strong transfer. Audio is reasonable—sound tends to be a bigger problem with DIY projects than most people realize—though subtitles would have helped.
We get all kinds of extras. All the films have commentaries from the filmmakers; there are behind-the-scenes featurettes for "Slay Ride" and "Blood Witch," and outtakes for all the films except "One Foot in the Grave." We also get behind-the-scenes footage of Slutpira, featurettes from the film's premiere and from Cinema Wasteland 2009, a music video, some webisdoes, and a trailer.
These films are not going to be for every taste, but if you're not bothered by bargain-basement production qualities and occasionally indulgent silliness, you'll find this set worth checking out. Three good short films, one not-so-good one, and a full line of supplements make this one not guilty.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Studio: Alternative Cinema
Review content copyright © 2010 Tom Becker; Site design and review layout copyright © 2015 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.