I know that I’m not the only one when I say that I miss Masters of Horror. Sure, not all of the episodes were spot on, and some of the selections were head-scratchers (William Malone and John McNaughton aren’t what you’d call masters of the genre), but it was still an entertaining ride for its two seasons. Thankfully, what followed were more entertaining anthologies that eventually gave rise to recent fare like The ABC’s of Death and V/H/S, both of which have subsequently gotten the green light for sequels. Hoping to replicate the success that Showtime had with Masters of Horror, NBCUniversal’s 24-hour specialty channel Chiller recently debuted the original movie Chilling Visions: 5 Senses of Fear. Despite featuring a mix of directors like Eric England, Nick Everhart and Emily Hagins, this anthology aims high, but doesn’t quite hit the mark.
First up is Smell, directed by Nick Everhart. Smell has Corey Scott Rutledge as Seth, a guy whose life kind of stinks (no pun intended). Work sucks, he misses his ex and his confidence is in the crapper. One day a strange woman shows up at his door selling a cologne that she says will turn things around for him, so long as he doesn’t use too much of it. Soon after trying it, Seth’s life takes a turn for the better, including a promotion and adoration. Unfortunately, Seth doesn’t follow the directions, and the cologne’s side effects kick in. Despite some humourous moments from Rutledge and a twist at the end, the short is pretty predictable. Nevertheless, any time you get reminded of Rob Bottin’s makeup from Robocop, it’s worth a view for that alone.
Following Smell is See, directed by Miko Hughes. Yes, that Miko Hughes from Pet Semetary and Spawn fame. The short concerns an optometrist named Dr. Tom (Ted Yudain) who has a habit of stealing memories from from his patients through their eyes and collecting them in liquid form. Dr. Tom is then able to relive these memories by taking the liquid drops in each eye. Dr. Tom learns that one of his favorite patients is being abused by her boyfriend. In retaliation, Dr. Tom sprays the boyfriend’s eyes with bad memories. Unfortunately, things backfire and people end up quite dead. Despite some gory eye trauma and an appearance by former pro wrestler Ox Baker, the short is hampered by some rather goofy CG effects and some rather hammy acting by the boyfriend played by Lowell Byers. Overall, it’s nothing too earth-shattering.
I’m not sure if the next entry, Touch, can be seen as being a sign of bigger things or just an idea that’s half-baked. Directed by 20-year-old Emily Hagins (of Pathogen fame), the short involves a family of three geting into a car accident in a rural area. The parents are badly injured, so their blind son Henry goes for help. Henry eventually stumbles upon some abandoned buildings, and a killer who doesn’t like to be touched. Unfortunately, this short wasn’t great. The story drags in spite of it’s short runtime, and is generally a convoluted mess with things coming out of left field for story’s sake (where did the killer get firecrackers?) and generally nonsensical.
In Eric England’s Taste, Aaron is a hacker who is picked up by a limo and driven to a sprawling corporate campus. In spite of not knowing why he’s there, all the secretary can tell him is that Lacey Sharp, a head hunter for a company called Watershed, wants to interview him. At the interview, Aaron is presented an offer to lead a project and work with two teams to recover a “treatment”. Unfortunately for Aaron, he declines the offer. What follows involves some unique headgear and a lot of red stuff. Starting out as being a bit of a mystery, Taste ends with a bang of black humour and the next candidate.
Finally, in Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton’s Listen, we have a found footage motif that involves two guys hired to document and piece together a song that once completed, kills people. Again, the sense of mystery about the whole thing is what drives this short, along with the increased tension being given off by the two filmmakers as they realize just what they’ve gotten themselves into. Plus there’s a part about purposely rupturing eardrums that made me wince, as well as reactions from test subjects once they’re forced to listen to the song in its entirety.
Overall, the anthology’s weakest segments (the first three) really don’t make the entire package worthwhile. Between Smell and See‘s run-of-the-mill predictability and the mess that is Touch, you could literally watch Taste and Listen by themselves and get more out of those than you could watching the entire anthology. It’s a shame, since there’s an overarching theme that was kind of a nice twist when it was revealed. But for that to really get through, you’d have to sit though the first three segments, which threaten to ruin the experience before you get to the last two. Hopefully Chiller tries again, but next time gets more consistency from all of it’s participants.