There's a funny side to all this...
REVIEW BY JEREMIAH
Most Anthologies typically thread their body of films together thematically, using a common characteristic or device to add cohesiveness to the overall presentation, sometimes circling back to this commonality in between the stories themselves. With Creepshow it is was a pissed off kid and his forbidden comic book, with Body Bags it was the morgue, and with Tales from the Hood, sociopolitical events filtered through the experience of African Americans. In the case of Jason Tostevin's Hellarious — a telling title in this regard — it's an anthology compromised of horror films which feature primarily, a dark sense of humor.
There isn't a host to speak of (or to speak for) any of these films which, on one hand, takes a little bit away from the personality department (we're merely given a title card with chapter numbers as introductions), but on the other hand, affords us more actual content and less fluff. And in the spirit of cutting to the chase, here are spoiler free impressions of the seven stories contained within.
'Killer Kart' opens up the film and perfectly sets the tone for what's to come. It's an exactly as advertised monster film about last shift small-town grocery store employees battling to survive against an evil, blood-thirsty, fully articulating shopping kart. Shot in my own sweltering stuffy home state of Florida, Director James Feeney does an admirable job ramping up the pace, tightening the tension, and keeping the energy level (and blood spray) pretty high. It's also pretty damn funny, with one scene in particular having the squeaky death-kart rip a car door clean off it's hinges in pursuit of it's victim. I laughed really hard at that; a great way to start.
In the case of Jason Tostevin's Hellarious — a telling title in this regard — it's an anthology compromised of horror films which feature primarily, a dark sense of humor.
Chapter 2 ramps up the laughs with Robert Boocheck's 'Horrific'. A very short, but still very effective entry, the Director's eye for slapstick (Boocheck started his career as an intern for Sam Raimi, so you can guess his inspiration) shines through as a sloppy, horny, trailer-home resident fights off an invasion of chupacabra. Highlights include a wack-a-mole segment involving a gas stove, a pantomimed attempt at shaking the creature off, and the hilarious futility of flipping the bird whilst being short a digit. My only complaint is that it ends just as it starts to get really good.
Next up is the first of two Jason Tostevin contributions, 'Till Death'. A bloody smile-and-nudge at the institution of marriage, the (for some) bleak prospect of total commitment, and finally the petulant manchild navigating it all. Four of 'em in particular (having seemingly stumbled off the set of an unreleased Hangover film) deciding that the only way out—is to take out, each other's wives (as in to the grave, not to dinner). It's dark, a little mean-spirited, but ultimately still very funny thanks to an abundance of gory sight gags.
Chapter 4 is Death Metal; Chris McInroy's second short film (book-ended by Bad Guy#2 and We Summoned a Demon) and really, there isn't much left to say that we haven't already, but I'll go ahead and add that this is without a doubt, one of the absolute highlights in what's already a quality stacked anthology. It's also—with perhaps the except of perhaps 'Born Again'—the film that plays closest to the spirit of Hellarious.
Chapter 5 brings us Lunch Ladies—another entry we've covered extensively on our site (we also have an interview with its creator Clarissa Jacobson coming fairly soon). If you're a fan of the kind of darker sensibilities found in a Tim Burton film (Sweeney Todd especially), and can appreciate the bombast of an Elfman-sounding score, you are going to be blown away by Jacobson's violently playful romp in the school cafeteria.
And then there's werewolves. Or rather, weredogs. In Sarah K. Reimers' audacious contribution, 'Bitten' flips the furry sub-genre on its tail when a battered stray is taken in by a lonely woman during a full moon, only to then transform into a howling, panting, testicle swinging human party animal. A party animal which consequently, turns out it be the "man" of her dreams. Bitten is clever, gross, and oddly charming, and at ten minutes flat, one of the breeziest films in the anthology to get through. I liked this one a lot.
Closing out the ceremonies is the second of Tostevin's short films, 'Born Again' (staring the always awesome, always game Ellie Church). As I pointed out earlier, this and McInroy's Death Metal are the two shorts which best embody the spirit of Hellarious best. Comedy in this particular horror nugget comes by way of sheer ineptitude, when some devil worshipers attempt to bring forth the apocalypse by accelerating the birth of the Antichrist. Blood is spilled, incantations chanted, upside down crosses misused, and religious books misread, leading to some intense and unexpected results.
If you're even vaguely familiar with Christianity and its associated prophecies, then you'll recognize the miscalculation here. An apocalypse, at least one rooted in biblical scripture, can only mean one thing and one thing alone -- a guffaw inducing conclusion to an already silly short, and the perfect ending to Tostevin's wonderfully curated anthology.