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By Jeremy Knox | July 31, 2008

2008 FANTASIA FILM FESTIVAL FEATURE! Horror anthologies have always been shunned by audiences, at least in North America, which is something that has always baffled me. Regular anthology movies like “Pulp Fiction” win Oscars, but as soon as you add a few scares to the thing it’s like taking a dump on the table during Christmas dinner. Nobody likes you anymore.

The first and best horror anthology movie I can think of is “Dead of Night.” A British quintet of stories filmed in 1945 that set the template for all future films in the genre. For example, one story should be about revenge, another about the supernatural, one should be funny and you should always end with scariest s**t-your-pants one. Simple technique, but it works.

Let’s look at the segments one at a time:

A lonely woman with a broken leg is text messaged by an unknown caller one night and begins a friendship with him that turns a bit sour when they trade pictures and instead of sending one, he simply sends her own picture back with the message “Look closely, I’m standing right next to you.”

The cinematography in this one is literally as good as anything I’ve ever seen, and the whole segment from start to finish is simply gorgeous to look at. Not to mention that it’s scary as all hell. Not only does this have tons of jump scares, but the director slowly amps up the mounting dread until it’s nigh unbearable. By the end you’re watching this through squinted eyes hoping you don’t soil yourself when the inevitable “Final scare” occurs.

Without a doubt, this is the most effective (And, in my opinion, best…) segment of the bunch. Which is why our next story is so disappointing.

“Tit for Tat”
After having almost killed him, a group of bullies is tormented by a Nerd who uses black magic to get back at them.

The weakest segment in the bunch, by far. It’s not that it’s bad, just that it tries way too hard. The filmmaker unwisely throws every camera trick at you, sometimes all at the same time, and it becomes very visually tiring. Put another way, this suffers from Michaelbayitis, which is a deadly disease of the cool gland. The symptoms include busy camerawork, an obsession with being cool rather than good, turning your movie into a long music video, lots of orange colors in your visual palette, rock music as a soundtrack, an over-reliance on CGI, and having really nice f*****g hair.

This is so kinetic and A.D.D. that it actually feels longer than it is. You’re exhausted by the time it’s over. I do want to say that this isn’t bad, merely loud and busy. I’m probably making it sound worse than it is, but I was not a fan.

Luckily, things pick up marvelously in the 3rd part.

“In The Middle”
While laying in their tent one night, Four buddies out on a river rafting expedition in the jungle get on the subject of whether or not they’d be scared of ghosts if one of them died. This proves rather prophetic when they have an accident the next day and one of them seems to die, or did he?

You wouldn’t think that such a funny segment could be so consistently and genuinely creepy, but it pulls it off. The four actors have great chemistry together and all the jokes are funny as hell. Most Asian films have humor that you need to meet halfway in order to grasp. This, however, is very accessible and very amusing. And let’s not forget scary, this is straight up “HOLYSWEETMUDERFUKENJESUSWADAFUKWASDAT?!?” jump inducing. This is as good as the first one, but in a wholly different way.

“Last Fright”
A stewardess is forced by her airline to accompany a spoiled/bitchy Princess straight out of a Disney cartoon on a flight where she’s the only passenger. When the fussy Princess pushes her too far, the Stewardess plays a trick on her that result’s in the woman’s death. Under investigation for negligence, the stewardess then has to ride on the empty plane back home with the dead Princess’ dead body as the only other passenger.

Like the first segment, this is a no-holds-barred scare-a-thon that starts out creepy and ends with you covering your eyes because you know something’s coming that’s going to make you shriek like a ten year old girl with a spider crawling down her arm. It’s not as well done as the first, but then again very few things are.

Overall, I’d give 4 stars to the first and third segment, three and a half stars to the fourth and two and a half to the second.

It’s a shame that probably no one reading this will ever see it with an audience. When I watched this at the Fantasia Film Festival with over three hundred other fans it blew me away. This is one of those things that’s best appreciated when bathed in other people’s fear, not just your own. Alone at home in your well lit living room my whole review may seem like I’m making too much out of nothing, but sitting in a dark theater surrounded by a bunch of terrified people it’s pretty accurate description of how well this works.

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