May 6, 2020 Weird Fiction (Movie Review)
Why have one short story when you can have four? Wild Eye Releasing will be bringing Weird Fiction to the public through DVD and VOD on Tuesday, May 12, 2020.
A collection of four short films written, edited and directed by Jacob Perrett (Spine Chiller 2019), but this is no one-man show. He was aided by producer and co-writer Taylor Rhoades, assistant cameraman Matt Nale, electrician Christian Styborski and others working as both cast and crew. Most of whom either made their cinematic debut here or carried on to Perrett’s other work, Spine Chiller.
The film is an homage to classic Horror flicks from the 1970s and 1980s, complete with classic genre tropes like teens in the woods, lonely babysitters, etc. It gets more apparent with the opening, which really captures that pulpy, video-nasty, Creepshow-esque vibe with its low-res visuals, crackly audio, ’80s synth beats and kitschy fonts. The film is still in HD, so it does not 100% emulate an old VHS tape, but it does a good job going back to those days while still being clear enough for those who cannot recall the pre-DVD days.
The camera work is quite impressive for a micro-budget film. It even goes for some stylized shots, and most of them work out quite well. So, while the film is intentionally going for a cheap look, and one can often see where the film’s budget hits the wall, its cinematography and editing put it ahead of some of its bigger budgeted rivals. The music is nice in a retro way too, though one might be able to tell which is stock and which are the original pieces by Chan Walrus (Dreamscape series, Cwsa series) by ear. So, how good are the stories? Let’s find out!
Before and between each short, Perrett’s Collector does some skits to introduce each short, often with some cheesy puns and maniacal laughter. He really gets into the role, though he is no Cryptkeeper.
The first tale is “Goodnight, Daddy,” a slasher flick where two teens named Zach (Nale) and Ethan (Carson Jones) go searching for a dead body and find more than they bargained for. This is a quick and dirty take on 1978’s Halloween and 1980’s Friday the 13th, right down to the pre-sex death. It is an old-school trope, though a pretty dusty one. The acting is quite wooden overall, given the cast are the crew, though the direction helps work around some rough spots. Nale shows some personality, and Jones fits the bill, looks-wise, as the lovestruck Ethan. Overall, it is a simple start to the package.
Next up is “Night of the Sitter,” where a babysitter named Liam (Rhoades) helps Cade (Nale), the teen he is looking after, fight off a demon in the house. The short is funny in how self-aware it is. It is upfront about the babysitter’s intentions, and Nale’s Cade is no innocent (“How am I supposed to fuck your sister if the house is burnt down?!” “Dude…gross…”). The acting even takes a step up as the cast do better bringing in the comedy than playing it straight. Still, the horror is quite mild here, as the demon does not do much beyond some growls, moving some items, and making a spooky appearance near the end. That aside, it is still one of the strongest shorts in the set.
“The Incubus” has a pornstar called Dan (Rhoades) getting a nasty neck bite from something supernatural. This short brings the straight horror back with some moody lighting and sound effects. It really builds up a nice, foreboding atmosphere that helps the audience just about suspend their disbelief towards the body horror. The latter is fair, Halloween costume nails aside. The brightly lit daytime scenes are more dispelling by comparison, making it look too modern compared to similar day scenes in the prior two shorts. Nonetheless, it is perhaps the strongest of all the shorts thanks to the overall direction. Even the acting feels a step above the other three on show.
Finally, “Cosmic Terror” is a dark twist on 1982’s ET: The Extra-Terrestrial. Two women, April (Isabella Rodriguez) and Paige (Rylee Prenatt), come across an alien (Rhoades) that has landed on Earth. April adopts it and calls it Squid. However, it does not plan on being friendly. The acting goes back to being as wooden as “Goodnight, Daddy,” and the direction does not hide the budgetary limits as well as the other shorts. Still, its brooding atmosphere, body horror and dark twist are commendable.
Overall, Weird Fiction achieves its goal in being a cheap homage to cheap, retro Horror films. It might be too cheap for those brought up on its more tightly-written and directed forebears in 1982’s Creepshow or Tales from the Crypt, though. However, its strong use of direction and cinematography really go a long way in overcoming its flaws and revealing its charm, making the film a must-see for low-budget Horror fans. For everyone else, Cryptic Rock gives Weird Fiction 3.5 out of 5 stars.