One of the great things about anthology films is that if you’re not digging the current story, there’s another coming up shortly. The percentage of crap to gold is usually skewed in the direction of the toilet, but at least there’s typically one story in every anthology that makes the whole thing worth checking out. Such is the case with Chilling Visions: 5 Senses of Fear, the latest omnibus to highlight the talents of independent horror filmmakers around a gimmick. The stories here are each based on one of the five senses. The result is a mixed bag, but a completely watchable one straight through.
There’s no wraparound story, but the five shorts are all loosely connected by a mysterious, omnipotent company that seems to have it’s fingers in a slew of bizarre shit. Characters from one short can be seen in the background of others and the film is full of little in-jokes, but these connections are flimsy and each short manages to stand on its own.
In the first story, “Smell,” a Stepford-looking saleswoman from the company drops in on Seth (Corey Scott Rutledge), a miserable sap stuck in a dead end job. Her sales pitch is that he’s lacking the proper pheromones to get ahead in life. She presents him with a free bottle of cologne, but warns him to use it sparingly, for there are some side effects. Seth sprays a bit on himself at work and soon finds himself the target of aggressive friendliness and adoration – particularly from women. The down side is that wherever he sprays himself, the flesh starts melting away. Of course, by the end he’s practically bathing in the cologne and becomes the incredible melting Seth. The effects in this one are fantastic – especially when his face starts drooping of his skull. It’s a fun short that manages to inject some real emotion amidst all the gross-outs.
“See” marks the directorial debut of Miko Hughes, best known as Gage from Pet Sematary and that smart-mouthed kid from Full House. The premise of “See” is really cool, but the short fails to live up to its potential. It’s about an optometrist who collects his patients’ short-term memories (or something like that). He gets overprotective of an attractive female client of his who has an abusive boyfriend. The confrontation between optometrist and wife-beater is pretty anti-climactic, but there are some fun trippy parts to enjoy.
“Touch” was my favorite of the bunch by far. Directed by Emily Hagins (My Sucky Teen Romance), it’s a simple story about a blind boy who wanders into the woods to seek help after his parents are injured in a car accident. As he methodically counts his steps, noting hunting traps along the way, he finds himself at the cabin of a serial killer. The execution and restrained style of “Touch” pay off really well, even if there are some implausibility involved. There’s nothing over the top though and the child actor is really good. Child actors normally irritate the piss outta me, but this kid is great.
Gore hounds will definitely like “Taste,” from Madison County director Eric England. A charismatic hacker is brought into the company’s headquarters for a job interview. When he declines their offer, the manager doesn’t take it too well. England has fun building up to “Touch’s” absurd climax, but it’s an excruciating journey filled with terrible dialogue and a shallow story.
“Listen” is Chilling Visions‘ found footage entry, from YellowBrickRoad filmmakers Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton. This one involves two young researchers attempting to piece together footage of a piano performance that allegedly drives people to kill themselves in fits of madness. There’s some effectively creepy footage of the performance and they were kind enough to cut out the audio at times so us viewers won’t tear our own guts out. Gotta admit, I got caught up in this one and let out a relieved sigh when the audio dropped out. “Listen” makes for a nice final bow.
Overall Chilling Visions is worth a watch. The ratio of decent shorts to misfires is four to one – a most impressive average than most contemporary anthologies. And “Touch” alone makes it worth at least a rent.
A/V: The 1080p HD transfer is solid throughout. Each short has its own look, but the quality of detail and definition remains strong for the entire running time. The DTS-HD 5.1 and 2.0 mixes are also perfectly fine. “Touch,” which takes place entirely outside, benefits the most from the 5.1 ambiance.
Special Features: This is a barebones release for Scream Factory. There’s a one-minute deleted scene from “Smell” and some trailers. That’s all.