One thing that is usually good about anthology film is if you don’t like one of the stories presented you are bound to enjoy one of the others. This format seems particularly for horror stories. The latest installment in this fine tradition is ‘Trapped Ashes’ written by Dennis Bartok and featuring the talents of five well known directors well versed in the horror genre. You can go either of two ways with an anthology flick; either present the different stories as short films completely on their own or make up something, usually a flimsy excuse, to tie them together. In this film the latter was the chosen pathway. While the premise that binds the tales of terror is the merest wisp of connective tissue the stories themselves are for the large part noteworthy. The beauty of this format is the onus is not on the writer to come up with a fully developed, long story. Instead he can concentrate on short, to the point stories. In each case they certainly give this gifted set of directors something to work with. Overall the film has a cheesy feel to it but that is okay in this case. It is part of the fun to sit back and just enjoy each segment as they roll by. By the time you may be tired of a story it is over and the next one has begun. Actually, if you take this flick for what it is; an emulation of ghost and goblin stories around a campfire; you will find that you will have a very good time.
Dennis Bartok is fairly new to writing screenplays for films. His only other credit to date is a short comedy film, ‘The Red Herring’. So many writers try to jump right from short scripts to feature length movies that they find themselves unable to hold the plot for the length of the flick. Bartok has made the excellent choice of going the anthology route. This allowed him to basically write five short stories and merge them into a feature length movie. His forte is the short format and here he goes with his strengths. The quintet of stories presented here are not the strongest possible. They do, however, provide more than a modicum of entertainment value. The directors hired to translate the scripts to screen have all done better than they have in their previous works but they all rise to the occasion and make the stories seem just a bit more palpable then they otherwise would have. It helps a lot if you grew up reading those old pulp comic books; the kind that served as the basis for ‘Tales of the Crypt’. They were fun mostly because they were cheesy. Just set your expectations accordingly then you will be able to have fun with the ‘B’ flick horror provided here. A ‘B’ movie can be great entertainment as long as it doesn’t have pretensions of being greater than it is. This film knows its limitations and audience and plays out accordingly.
Directed by: Joe Dante
Dante is best known for movies like ‘Gremlins’ and ‘The Howling’ but is no stranger to the ‘B’ horror flick. He has done such midnight flicks as ‘Amazon Women on the Moon’ and worked on anthology series ranging from ‘The Twilight Zone’ to ‘Night Visions’. This segment is what binds the other stories together. A group of tourists; Andy (Jayce Bartok), Julia (Lara Harris), Henry (Scott Lowell), Max (Dick Miller), Nathaline (Michèle-Barbara Pelletier) and Phoebe (Rachel Veltri), take a tour of an old movie studio. They are interested in seeing the set used for an infamous haunted house flick, "Hysteria’. Something in the house traps them and forces them to each tell their most horrifying tale in order to earn their freedom. This segment also provides some much deserved work for some great, veteran character actors like John Saxon, Henry Gibson and Dick Miller. It is, unfortunately, the weakest of the segments but Dante obviously has a great deal of fun doing it. The original film had some twenty somethings trapped and the new set of young folk find that history is repeating itself.
The Girl with the Golden Breasts
Directed by: Ken Russell
When it comes to cheesy flicks there is none better than Russell. He combined horror and sexploitation as a master although he does seemed to have preferred the later for his works. If there was to be a segment with the breasts as the subject it was only natural to think of Russell to direct. This is the story presented by Phoebe. She is a struggling actress and like many in her situation felt that some enhancements in the breast department would greatly expedite her chances of success. She goes to a well known plastic surgeon that has enough pictures of naked female chests on the wall to make any 12 year old boy drool. The one catch is the source material is neither silicon nor saline; this doctor uses material from the recently dead. Phoebe is alright with her decision until while in the shower, Russell always did love young women in the shower, when she cuts her hand. There is nothing sharp in there with her so it is a mystery until she realizes that her nipples are alive and want blood. It was funny and had the two main ingredients of any horror flick; blood and boobs.
Directed by: Sean S. Cunningham
He is best known for producing the pair of ‘House’ movies and the last few ‘Jason’ flicks and of course, directing ‘Friday the 13th’. This is the story told by Julia and Henry. Here the married couple travels to Japan where they met a strange young woman, Seishin (Yoshinori Hiruma), at a party. She brings the couple to a painting that leads to Julia being seduced by a monk. Henry has to go literally to hell to save his wife.
Directed by: Monte Hellman
He was one of the grindhouse directors with films like ‘Two Lane Blacktop’. This segment had been released in a slightly different form as a short film of the same name. It is told by Leo (John Saxon), okay not one of the younger cast members. When Leo was young (played by Tahmoh Penikett) he is a screenwriter and becomes friends with Stanley (Tygh Runyan). Stanley introduces him to his girlfriend, Nina (Amelia Cooke). Eventually Leo beings to have an affair with her and things get real creepy real fast.
My Twin, the Worm
Directed by: John Gaeta
Okay, he is not a well known director of horror flicks. In fact this is his first time as a director. He is famous for being the visual effects supervisor for the ‘Matrix’ movies and the recent ‘Speed Racer’ flick. This is Nathalie’s contribution to the stories. She tells of when her mother Martine (also played by Pelletier), was pregnant with her. While carrying Nathaline her mother is also infected with a tapeworm. She the pregnancy rules out getting rid of the parasite she has to keep it as the baby grows inside her.
The bottom line is this a nice choice for a rainy Saturday night while having some friends over. It may not come out on top of the genre but it was great, easygoing faire. This is one of the better horror releases in awhile and is brought to DVD by Lion’s Gate.