Friday, April 24, 2009

Experiments in Terror 3 (2008)

Experiments in Terror 3 is a collection of horror shorts covering a wide variety of time periods and sub-genres. From silent slapstick to avant guarde, there are six shorts (plus one extra) and within these is something for anyone looking for something slightly off-kilter than the usual horror-fare.

The short films in Experiments in Terror 3 are on the surreal, hallucinogenic side, offering glimpses into the dark unknown and into the very blackened heart of evil. Let me introduce you to each of the six short films contained in the collection…

First is the clever The Psychotic Odyssey of Richard Chase by Carey Burtt. Made in 1999, the film utilizes Barbie-type dolls, stuffed animals and sets made out of construction paper to tell the true story of cannibal-killer Richard Chase, “the Vampire of Sacramento”, who believed he needed to drink blood to stay alive and killed many people (and animals) to sustain his “need”. The way Burtt decided to tell the story with dolls instead of actors was really effective. It was creepy the way the innocence of toys was used to tell the story of such a twisted individual as Chase. I really got a kick out of this inventive short!

Next is Satan Claus, a nightmarish fairy tale created by cult director J.X. Williams in 1975. The short is told in a very surreal way and tells the story of a young boy who is left alone on Christmas Eve by his neglectful parents and summons “Satan Claus”. This hallucinogenic orgy may only be three minutes long, but it is nonetheless one of my favorites of this collection. Williams made this short, cobbled together from other films, to get back at a theater owner he worked for and who owed him money. When he didn’t pay up, Williams showed Satan Claus before a children’s film and many angry patrons demanded the theater owner refund them for the “traumatizing” experience! Everything from the washed-out appearance of the film to Satan’s otherworldly Hell and even his garish appearance reminded me of a Rob Zombie music video in the best possible way!

An excerpt from the full-length feature film Loma Lynda is next, titled “The Red Door”. This is a nasty, grim scene that shows an evil old scumbag belittling and then raping a young woman before her alter-ego gets revenge. Shot in HD, this film looked professional and slick. The disturbing subject matter along with the dark characters reminded me of a David Lynch film. I especially liked the odd music used as well as the blacked out eyes of the girl’s alter ego. Though this was one nasty piece of work, I can’t wait to see the full-length film from filmmaker Jason Bognacki (it is currently still playing in film festivals, but should be released on DVD soon).

In Ben Rivers’ Terror!, he deconstructs the horror genre by splicing together countless scenes from different horror movies like Friday the 13th, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Burning, The Beyond, Halloween, Zombi and many more to show the genre conventions of horror. He follows the structures and clich├ęs of horror films, showing similar scenes from different movies and how they all add up to the big, messy finale. Though the beginning is a bit slow and repetitive as Rivers shows all the similar “set-up” scenes used again and again in horror, this really makes the viewer take a hard look at our favorite genre and understand why we love it so, even if it is sometimes predictable. Besides, you’ll have a ton of fun playing “Name that Horror Movie” with each clip shown and the bloody finale is well worth the wait!

After the first four stellar shorts, the remaining two are a bit of a letdown. Born of the Wind is a cheap 1961 film about a scientist that falls in love with a mummy princess he has resurrected, but its slow pace and amateur production make it hard to sit through. Then there is 2007′s Manuelle Labor, another silent film that tries to mimic the style of ’20s vaudeville. The story, about a sister that gives birth to a pair of hands, just feels like its trying too hard to be cutesy and artsy and comes off just plain boring.

There is also an extra short in the “Extras” portion of the disc, entitled It Gets Worse. It too is shot like a silent film, but features plenty of lowbrow gags to overcome its slow pace.

All in all, Experiments in Terror 3 is a fine collection of varied styles of horror. It has something for everyone, and though my favorites included the first four films, I’m sure that even the silent films will find some fans! It is usually very difficult for horror fans to find such a diverse collection of shorts, but Provocateur Pictures has indeed assembled some shorts that are definitely worth your time!

Available from Amazon!

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