Future Shock (1994)

Sadly, this isn’t the documentary about the legendary British comic “2000 AD”, released under the same name in 2014 – I don’t think I could watch that and not just spend several thousand words gushing over how important it was to a whole generation of British nerds – but an out of time example of the anthology movie.

Anthology movies enjoyed a period of popularity in the 80s, with stuff like “Creepshow” and “Cat’s Eye” giving us three or four short horror tales (based on short stories, usually). Then, they had another brief renaissance in the late 00s, as low/no budget horror companies discovered they could package short films they’d been offered into these sorts of products, like “V/H/S”, “Hi-8” and many many others – they did pretty good business for their distributors.

And then there’s this (okay, I’ve obviously left loads out, but I’m trying to make a vague narrative here). I’ve really got no idea why it was made or for whom, and the best guess is some enterprising company was given a short film, had absolutely no idea of what to do with it, then the anthology movie idea popped into their head.

Today, this is probably only of interest to fans of the work of Matt Reeves, who directed “Cloverfield” and has done the most recent two “Planet Of The Apes” movies; this represents his first job of any sort, as he wrote and directed the third segment (which, honestly, isn’t even the best of the three).

The wrap-around is therapist Martin Kove, who has a virtual reality machine in his office which he uses to help his patients, or something. Well, it looks like a painted plasma ball with some mesh round it, but never mind that right now. The first segment involves a housewife whose paranoia involving the rampant levels of crime in LA manifests in her being attacked by a pack of wild dogs (while in her house, so they really just run round until a series of stupid events forces her to go outside); the second segment is a nebbish-y student who needs a roommate because he can’t pay his bills (the roommate being played by Bill Paxton, sort of channeling the unhinged character he did so well in “Near Dark”); and the third is about a guy who has a near death experience, then becomes obsessed with figuring out how it could have been avoided. Or something.

As well as Kove and Paxton, we get a very small appearance from James Karen, best known for his OTT performance in “Return Of The Living Dead”. We also get a scene where the housewife watches “Return…”, and I’m sure like everyone else who saw this, my primary thought was “I wish I was watching that movie instead of this”. Brion James, ISCFC Hall of Famer, pops up in a very out-of-character role as the dull businessman husband of the lady from part 1.

According to the trivia I read, there’s a cut scene from the beginning which actually explains the plot, so rather than being left in the dark for the first thirty minutes for no good reason, you might have had some interest. But then, I suppose they’d have needed more of a reason for the wraparound segment to exist, and it doesn’t seem like anyone was bothered about that. It’d have been cool for Kove’s machine to have had some reason to exist, I suppose? It did feel a little bit like Kove should have sat down at the beginning and gone “here’s just one wacky day in the life of a psychiatrist with a magic machine”, as he seems like a good guy, or that they were going to do an anthology TV series with him as the main character, but then got bored after three episodes and decided to make it into a movie.

I’m just making things up. Sorry, reader, but this was really pretty dull and I feel it can’t be recommended, even if you’re on some odd quest to watch every movie with “Future” as the first word of its title, or every anthology movie.

Rating: thumbs down

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Tales Of Halloween (2015)

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Nothing says late March like a Halloween movie! We have the enormous good will built up by Mike Mendez with “Big Ass Spider!” and “Lavalantula” to thank for us watching this movie – he directed one of the segments in this, which is our first proper portmanteau / horror anthology movie. I mean, we suffered through “Red Lips: Eat The Living”, but that doesn’t count because it was so terrible it made me want to invent a time machine so I could go back and stop all movies from being made, ever.

 

Anyway, producer Axelle Carolyn had the idea, so she assembled a decent crew of actors and directors – most prominently Neil Marshall, but he is married to her so it was probably an easy “get”. Ten different stories, billed as “interlocking” but not really (it’s not much more than the star of one segment being in the background of another), are they any good?

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I’m not going to list the ten stories, because you could just go to Wikipedia for that stuff. Also, I’ve just looked at it myself, 24 hours later, and I can’t remember one of the segments. It must have really been no good! Anyway, the first is “Sweet Tooth”, about a neighbourhood legend of a kid who had his candy stolen by his parents, so killed them and turned into a monster, who must be appeased every Halloween with the gift of candy outside your door. This is the segment which features the return of Greg Grunberg and Clare Kramer as their characters from “Big Ass Spider!”, and…I wish they’d not bothered, for their 20 seconds on screen and the exceedingly miserable “end” to their story.

 

The only good segments were the ones that had a beginning, middle and end, non-coincidentally enough: “Ding Dong” (about a man discovering the evil witch spirit that lives in his wife); “The Ransom Of Rusty Rex” (a couple of criminals kidnap a millionaire’s son, only to discover he’s a bit different); and the last, Marshall-directed segment, “Bad Seed”, about a killer pumpkin. The others were little more than fragments, really.

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Think of the classic horror anthology movies – “Creepshow”, “Dead Of Night”, “Tales From The Crypt” and “Cat’s Eye”, for instance. What did they all have in common? Well, they didn’t have ten segments, for one thing. Five stories seems like a limit (and most of them have only three or four), because when you’re getting into the single figures of minutes for your story, something serious is going to have to be jettisoned, and with most of the stories from “Tales Of Halloween”, that something is the endings. And the “why is this happening?” parts.

 

I feel bad being down on this. It looks great with strong special effects, and I like the cast (as well as Grunberg and Kramer, there’s Barry Bostwick as the devil, standup Dana Gould, Lin Shaye, Joe Dante and John Landis). It just seems like a pointless experiment, and answers that critical question “can you make an effective horror short film that lasts five minutes?” with a definitive “no”. One of the more positive reviews talks about the “EC Comics” attitude, but with their stories, you always knew why the characters were getting the punishment they got, but this asks you to fill in too many blanks. Oh, and the one movie based explicitly on EC stories – “Tales From The Crypt” – had five segments and gave them all chance to breathe.

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Rating: thumbs in the middle