Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #162
Number of Views: One
Release Date: September 11, 2012
Sub-Genre: Horror Anthology
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 94 minutes
Directors: Bob Badway, Michael Emanuel, Igor Meglic
Producers: Michael Emanuel, Igor Meglic, David Reivers
Screenplay: Bob Badway, Michael Emanuel
Special Effects: Nick Reisinger
Cinematography: Bruce Douglas Johnson, Jason Ellson, Igor Meglic, James Lawrence Spencer, Byron Werner
Score: Shawn K. Clement, Claude Fois, Hanna Lim, Christopher Young
Editing: Masayoshi Matsuda
Studio: Canal Street Films, Bleuman
Distributor: Phase 4 Films
Stars: Domiziano Arcangeli, Corbin Bleu, Shannon Bobo, Bob Bouchard, Andrew Caldwell, Alexandra Choi, Charles Rahi Chun, Erik Contreras, Christopher Darga, Xavier Davis, Elizabeth Di Prinzio, Hali Lula Hudson, Derrick Jones, Robert M. Lee, Anna Moon, Nikki Moore, Bill Oberst Jr., Shawn-Caulin Young, John Moran, PaSean Wilson, David Reivers and Azion Iemekeve as Van Helsing
I am rather partial to an anthology. It’s a quick win when stumped for something to fill 90-odd minutes and if one vignette fails to resonate then maybe the next one will succeed where it failed. Unfortunately, for every V/H/S or Trick ‘r Treat, there’s a Creepshow 3 waiting in the wings to take a steaming dump in your Cheerios. Thankfully Badway, Emanuel and Meglic’s five-piece Scary or Die doesn’t fall into the latter category. This particular quintet of terror gets more right than wrong, most notably with its superb fourth segment and certainly ranks amongst the more entrancing entries into the over-populated genre. It uses a barely existing wraparound to take you from A through E and instead procrastinates not in getting to the meat and potatoes. Anthology films are renowned for varying quality and are hard to nail as a cohesive whole so my expectations remained unidealistic.
This succinct opener takes place around the US-Mexican border, centering around the ‘cleansing’ of illegal aliens and is most noteworthy for a menacing turn from John Hawkes lookalike Bill Oberst Jr. His bigoted character could so easily have become a caricature like his redneck pal but instead he brings limitless verve to the role of Buck, convincing us of his xenophobic wiring. Otherwise, and despite a plucky performance from Hali Lula Hudson as unwitting accomplice Connie, it’s pretty unremarkable.
Once the Mexican blood soaks into the soil it rapidly escalates into zombie madness the shallow graves of their compadres begin to eject their dead. The ending is a nod to Night of The Living Dead and ties things up reasonably soundly but, no sooner have we been seduced by the next portion, than we have forgotten all about it. It is especially troublesome for the first tale out the gate and The Crossing is suitably positioned one feels.
The Crossing Judgement: 6/10
This is where things begin to look promising. There’s an almost Lost in Translation vibe to this tragic tale of lost love, loneliness and, ultimately, blood swigging succubi which washes over the addressee. Aided by Hanna Lim’s dreamlike compositions and slick cinematography from Jason Ellson, we are sucked in just like the lonely heart of the piece, a suitably brooding Charles Rahi Chun.
Alas, it all falls apart by the reveal and cops out with a crowd-pleasing Van Helsing twist which betrays the feel of the piece somewhat. Nevertheless, it tries something different and calls to mind Lover’s Vow, by far the strongest segment from John Harrison’s sketchy 1990 compendium Tales From The Darkside: The Movie, getting more right than wrong.
Taejung’s Lament Judgement: 7/10
By now we are hitting some kind of stride and this cautionary tale of the dangers of whacking a necromancer is perfectly poised at the midpoint. Christopher Darga plays a cigar-chomping wise guy who runs into trouble when transporting a duffle bag crammed with freshly sheared body parts to a suitable drop-off point.
The incessant banging emanating from the trunk gives him cause for concern and we enter familiar Creepshow territory as he learns the error of fucking with one of Lucien’s bitches. There is little remarkable about Re-membered but it’s carried with ease by the ‘what’s that freakish thudding sound coming from the trunk’ scenario and Darga’s well-delivered woe.
Re-membered Judgement: 7/10
Nothing which has passed prepares us for the fourth and, by far, the lengthiest of the vignettes on offer. Michael Emanuel’s segment alone equates to nearly half the running time and the most worthy compliment I can pay is that this should have been a standalone feature. Featuring Corbin Bleu from High School Musical in a real departure role for him, it tells the story of a fairly apathetic pusher who is bitten by a cannibalistic clown at his younger brother’s birthday party.
The bite turns septic and he begins to gradually transform into a similar monstrosity to the clown he is intent on tracking down. What begins with his clothes no longer fitting and feet growing longer soon spirals into full-blown Elephant Man syndrome as he meanders about the streets in search of his tormentor in an attempt to lift the curse before his appetite for his baby bro’s flesh overwhelms him. Cue some genuinely moving moments alongside guffaws a plenty as his situation goes from worse to even fucking worse.
Bleu is outstanding as Emmett and has us unaware as to whether we should be snickering at his tacked together clown shoes and burlap sack or sobbing at his unjust affliction. Just as we have arrived at our shattering conclusion, we are treated to an instance of absolute hilarity and are left with big stupid smiles across our faces like the clowns we are.
Clowned Judgement: 9/10
Lover Come Back
The final slice is nowt more than a slither if truth be known. Masquerading as the fifth vignette, it is no more than a five-minute teaser and suffers from following the genius of Clowned as well as tying everything back to the wraparound, which it does rather haphazardly. It’s not a total misfire and is well shot and somewhat enchanting, but it just feels a little bolted on and anti-climactic coming off the back of easily the strongest entry.
Lover Come Back Judgement: 6/10
Scary or Die is absolutely worthwhile tracking down. Hits and misses are typical characteristics of the beast and it has its share of both. The standout however, and reason alone to make this a viewing priority, is the quite splendid Clowned. Fortunately enough, the surrounding gristle is also worthy of mastication. Not a resounding success then but more than competent enough to warrant a view.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10
Grue Factor: 3/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: Not splendiferous with its grue, although there are some nasty looking chomp-marks and a little hack-sawed human garbage to spice up the dish a dash.
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