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By Mark Bell | December 12, 2013

Horror anthologies are all the rage right now; The ABCs of Death, V/H/S franchise and The Theatre Bizarre come to mind immediately. There’s something to be said for finding a handful of great horror short films and presenting them together in one project. At worst, if you hate a short, at least it’ll be over soon and you’ll get to the next one. At best, it’s like the greatest short film block a film festival could assemble.

Reel Progress’ contribution is the short film collection Horror Anthology Movie Volume One. Unlike other anthologies, that wrap the smaller stories within a larger connecting one, with varying degrees of success, this one just gives you six shorts in a row, credits and all. Thus it is exactly what it says it is, as opposed to a feature film that just so happens to be made up of short films. This is a collection.

Three of shorts are written and directed by the same person, Mike T. Lyddon, which means there are similar sensibilities in those shorts that become clear after watching them. The Cordyceps Principle, Thing in the Shed and Footage Found, Arabi involve, in some way or another, the fantastically horrible associated with either science or technology. It’s an overall feeling that there are monsters lurking around the cracks of scientific breakthroughs or other discoveries. But I’m ahead of myself. Here’s thoughts on the individual shorts, as they are presented.

In The Cordyceps Principle, a man, who has become sick of his overbearing wife, finds a strange fungus in the swamps of Louisiana that infects and zombifies its victim, eventually resulting in strange protrusions. Normally an issue for insects, this is the first time the fungus is found to infect mammals, and the man brings it home for his wife to ingest.

It’s a straightforward tale, and one where the horror is less fantastical and more a case of a browbeaten husband turned to murder. A variation of this tale could just as easily find itself on an episode of Law & Order. It is a good-looking short film, however, and even if the husband character mocks the colors his wife has painted throughout their house, it does give the film some style and brightness.

Another short that entertains a more straightforward narrative is King Jeff’s Five Miles Straight Ahead, which examines the strange sickness that befalls a company of African American soldiers in World War II. Horror in a different sense, the film has a real Twilight Zone vibe to it, while simultaneously looking at a time where, just because African Americans were asked to fight for their country, it doesn’t mean they were treated any better overseas than at home.

While it makes sense in hindsight, the way the film works in a message amid its tragic tale, I will admit to being surprised with an end text card informing me of such. At the time, it seems like the film would be better suited as a standalone dramatic short than one included in a horror compilation, but as this collection shows as it continues, its definition of “horror” covers a lot of ground.

Thing in the Shed looks at a monster born of bio and nanotechnology. Stanley thinks he sees a strange humanoid shape in his shed, only to find a mysterious black box instead. Taking it to his friend Martin, Stanley explains what he thinks the box might contain, or what it might be, before both find out precisely what is going on.

Appropriately spooky, I really enjoyed this one. It left me a little confused with its ending, however, as it hits a very obvious end point and then progresses a bit more. It’s in those extra steps forward that I didn’t quite grasp what it was getting at anymore, and I think it works best when it sticks with being a spooky science story.

The next two shorts, Section 49 and Blood of the Saint, directed by Karl DeMolay and Will Frank, respectively, are off the wall nuts in their own ways. Section 49 is a black and white fever dream from Hell, a series of horrible imagery and sounds that may or may not be on a constant loop for our suffering protagonist. It freaked me out in a number of ways, and I’m still not entirely sure what was going on, or what it all means, but it’s also sufficiently disturbing to not make me wish for additional viewings. If the previous shorts are more traditional tales of horror, this one is experimental, in more ways than one.

Blood of the Saint is insane in both story and execution, as it focuses on Monty, a man who is sick of his small penis. Wanting to impress his wife, who often fucks better endowed men while Monty watches, Monty goes to a doctor to see what can be done. Apparently, quite a bit that is unsettling and horrific.

Did I mention Blood of the Saint stars puppets? No? Well, it does. A bizarre, depraved puppet show about feelings of sexual inadequacy, and the lengths (no pun intended) one might go through to feel better. One of my favorite of the whole lot, just because it is that absurd and disturbing at the same time.

The collection wraps up with the last of Lyddon’s short films, Footage Found, Arabi. The short concerns footage of the descendant of H.P. Lovecraft, who is in the possession of a trunk containing film reels of Lovecraft’s trip to New Orleans in 1932. As the descendant watches the footage, we see what he sees, and then ultimately see his fate as a result of the revelations found in the footage, and the trunk.

One of my least favorite of the collection, the use of the found footage concept plays up the low budget aesthetic too much or, in the case of the film reels, plays up the shortcomings of that older format. Thus the sound isn’t all that crisp, and it becomes confusing less because of what is happening than because of the technical quality. A strange short to wrap up the collection, because it doesn’t leave you wanting more but, then again, better to have that feeling at the very end than halfway through, ruining what is to come.

Overall, I think Horror Anthology Movie Volume One delivers an interesting mix of what horror means to the various creatives involved, and it’s not just a bunch of shorts that try the same ideas out with slight variations. I’m not a fan of the presentation of the shorts, credits and all, because I don’t mind anthologies that have wraparound tales, as it allows you to get in a groove from start to finish, but I understand the choice.

I also think, considering the creativity involved in some of these short films, that they could’ve done much better than naming this Horror Anthology Movie Volume One, as that doesn’t entice one to check it out. Yeah, it is exactly what it says it is, but that doesn’t make it sexy to someone trying to decide what to watch. Still, at least the shorts are pretty good, so if you do get beyond the name, you’re in for a horrific treat or two.

This film was submitted for review through our Submission for Review system. If you have a film you’d like us to see, and we aren’t already looking into it on our own, you too can utilize this service.

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