Following up from last weeks post regarding the progressive change in horror films from entertainment to shock whoring, I'd like to talk about what seems to be the lost art of the anthology film.
I'm going to sound like the Comic Book guy here, cynical and needlessly critical, but what I'm trying to do is reveal the bare arse of the anthology film and why they managed to deliver wholly engrossing stories while a lot of box office billboards failed.
Sometimes a film, not just in the horror genre, can ask a lot of you, the viewer. It asks that you invest yourself so heavily in this one long-winded story that doesn't always deliver in the pay-off department. Let me set the scene; you've been sitting on your couch for nearly three hours watching the Editor's cut of "The Cousin of the Bride of Frankentits". It's been a long haul and you haven't really been enjoying yourself, the movie has dragged on for the past hour and all you've seen so far is the kind of arthouse snobbery that reeks of café ashtray and Baja hoodie. Though disorientated, you soldier on, hoping for some awesome money-shot at the end. You want to see the protagonist, Frankentits, wreak his unholy vengeance upon those who wronged him, but that doesn't happen.
Instead, Frankentits walks into a telephone booth and dials up a number. The scene drags out for a little while, keeping a clear shot on Frankentits sober grimace. Then, credits. You've just been fucked, my friend. The movie has just taken you out for dinner at a cheap restaurant, thrown you into the back seat of its car and put the boots to you like Vince Neil on half a pound of cocaine. This doesn't happen with all movies, but it does happen.
With the anthology movie, you get three to four short films that do as best as they can to chew you up and spit you out in their half an hour allotment. It's short, it's sweet, it's to the point. It's essentially punk rock. These segments snatch you off the side of the road, hoist you onto a motorcycle and burn rubber full-speed down the highway until there are flies stuck in your teeth and your fingernails have dug deep into the bike's seat. The next thing you know, you're being kicked off the bike, the rider spits in your face and continues on his way. You've just experienced something awesome, fulfilling, and in a very short space of time.
With the anthology horror film, you're getting a variety of stories that each manage to do the job of a feature film in a compact time allotment. Some of the stories might be boneheaded and knuckle-dragging, but then again, you could say the same thing about movies clocking in at 90-120 minutes. Anthology films have variety, speed and no matter how camp and idiotic they may seem, they get the job done. In fairness, who watches a horror film to be intellectually stimulated?
Fucking hipsters. That's who.
I've just started watching HBO's Tales From The Crypt that ran from the late 80s to the mid 90s and ran for 93 episodes. Each episode was dedicated to a different horror story that runs for about 21-22 minutes a pop and so far, each episode has delivered what I call "the money shot". You can invest yourself in the story, it's compact, and it so far hasn't failed to entertain.
Now, I've got about another 80 episodes to go and no television show can continually impress and deliver, that would be like asking Ozzy to play two shows in a row, but if Tales from the Crypt has proven anything to me; it's that some stories (Be it film of novel) are best left as short as possible. I'm not saying everything should be short and compact, imagine if Cujo was JUST a story about a rabid St.Bernard and a mother and child shitting themselves in a broken down car. It would suck.
Trick r' Treat, Tales from The Hood, Creepshow and From Beyond the Grave are all great examples of anthology movies that no horror fan should go without seeing. We all have different tastes in horror, but I think you'll find that each of these films offer up something new to sate your gluttonous appetite for bad things happening to good people. You sick fuck.
For any of you interested in giving the ol' anthology movie a try, whether for entertainment or to formulate a counter-argument to shove up my ass, the above list of movies are a great introduction into this style of horror movie format.
And if spending 20 minutes on a single horror story sounds too daunting to you, I might suggest you visit a porn site. That's at least three minutes well spent.