Monday, October 1, 2012

Killing You Softly...Then LOUDLY...Then Softly Again: "Killer Shorts" (2009)

Taking its cue from "Tales from the Crypt," "Creepshow," and other horror anthology series, "Killer Shorts" and its creator, Michael Wade Johnson, bite off more than they can chew.

The film is "hosted" by Count Balazar (Ricky Long, looking like what would happen if Meat Loaf ever joined KISS), and his shapely assistant Elormie (Misty Simmons-Poteet). They are squatting in a cemetery, and Balazar is telling her of the neighboring dead. This leads to three short filmed stories.

"Puncture" has Dale (Matthew Turner) and Gwen (Nicole Buck) going to a party at the invitation of Gwen's sister Nicky (Misty Simmons-Poteet). There, they find tons of dead bodies, all killed by two puncture wounds in the neck. They decide to leave and collect vampire-killing supplies, and then return to do battle with the undead. The one stand-out scene here involves an angry priest blessing bottled water.

"The Last Rendezvous" is the best of the three stories. Rubin (Chet Williams) is cheating on his girlfriend Samantha (Shauna Lafever) with Angela (Misty Simmons-Poteet, again) who is in an unhappy relationship with Wendell (Nick Mathis). Rubin and Angela meet for a little lovemaking at an abandoned house, where a masked killer waits for them.

Finally, "Navstar" is the story of an evil GPS system that is leading unsuspecting travellers to their doom at the hands of a monster. Caden (Matthew Turner, again) survives his attack, but insists on going back to rescue his girlfriend, and kill the beast.

Shot entirely on location in Tennessee, writer/director (editor/producer/etc.) Michael Wade Johnson pays lovingly inexpensive homage to the anthology film, but fails to flesh out his film. While the bones and initial structure are intriguing, the microbudgeted gore does not work. The suspense is almost nonexistent, getting killed off after a promising start in "Navstar," becoming predictable in "The Last Rendezvous," and being used as part of a jokey punchline in "Puncture." I was never sure if what I was watching should have been taken tongue-in-cheek or not, but either way, the film would only appeal to hardcore horror fans who must watch everything, or the director's friends and cast (who appear in the short films, or had a hand in it technically).

Finally, the sound here is absolutely horrendous. I saw this on DVD, with one hand holding my pen for notes, and the other to work the remote control's volume knob. Very quiet scenes with unintelligible dialogue are followed by screaming that almost blew my speakers out.

It's a nice try, but ultimately, I'll have to pass on "Killer Shorts." (*) out of five stars.