It’s hard to make an anthology that works these days. So few seem to actually be fully fleshed out stories and more like clips of bigger movies. So when I got my copy of Volumes of Blood I crossed all 10 fingers and toes that I wouldn’t be in for another snooze fest. Happily I realized PJ Starks, Nathan Thomas Milliner, and Jim Blanton love the anthology just as much as I do! And let me get one thing out of the way, this flick is super self-referential/meta and you know what, fuck it I love that in horror movies. I like getting the jokes, I like recognizing when characters are named after famous horror icons, I eat that shit up! If you aren’t a fan of that kind of thing…watch it anyway.
If you read my article on its release you’re familiar with the plot but in case you missed it:
Five tales of dread interwoven when a sociology student gathers several of his friends on Halloween night at the local library to help him create a new urban legend with deadly consequences; Lily is in for a late night of researching and needs something to keep her going. It isn’t until she’s approached by a mysterious stranger that her luck may change… for the worse; a typical night of work for a librarian becomes a classic ghost story with a modern twist. Sometimes you can’t keep a bad book down; Sidney is allowed to stay after hours to study for a test. It’s not until she suddenly awakens in the darkened library that she realizes the horrifying truth of what lurks among the stacks of books after midnight. She better pray she doesn’t become the prey; Paige faces regrets that she’d do anything to take back. When an ancient and arcane spell book literally falls into her lap, she decides to make a grave decision. Be careful what you wish for, it might just kill you.
Because this is an anthology I’m reviewing it by segment, let’s start with…
“That’s A Wrap” Dir. Lee Vervoot
As always an anthology needs a wraparound- I’m looking at you ABCs of Death– and this one is pretty damn fun. At the start of the movie, we are psyched out by an 80s overload with a fake movie. The characters are too old for their parts, they are parked in the dark woods making out, there are awesome 80s-isms like “mall maggot” and “road pizza”, they have it covered. We soon realize this is just a movie someone is watching on their phone while in class. I don’t want to give away the end so I’ll just say don’t believe everything you see. “That’s A Wrap” does everything a good wrap around should. It holds the movie together and keeps it going from story to story. It’s pretty damn funny too!
“A Little Pick Me Up” Dir. John Kenneth Muir
Oh, college life, how I don’t miss thee at all! This first segment featured in Volumes of Blood showcases college in all its glory, late night study sessions. As our lead struggles to keep her eyes open a mysterious man arrives wearing sunglasses indoors – so we know that’s bad right off – and offers her an energy drink called Ka-Pow! to ease her studying needs without jitters and a caffeine crash. I wasn’t blown away by this first segment, I would have preferred it to have slightly less dialog considering we are only following one person a majority of the time. That aside though, it’s a fun gory tale and don’t worry all the gore effects are practical. And Ka! Pow reminds me of the days of Surge, that shit used to make my head explode.
“Ghastly” Dir. P.j. Starks
Starks made this segment specifically for me I think. Obviously as horror fans there are few things in movies that really scare us anymore but we all have one or two things sure to get us every time. For me, it’s the Asian style hauntings and “Ghastly” has a bit of a nod to that which creeps into my brain. A young man is putting books away at the library and comes across one titled “Ghastly”. The cover depicts gnarly looking ghosts and no matter how many times he puts the book back it keeps following him. Not only is the book stalking him we also get glimpses of a woman in black, mouth hanging open like a dislocated jaw. I should mention this segment was shot in black and white which only adds to its foreboding atmosphere.
“Encyclopedia Satanica” Dir. Nathan Thomas Milliner
Milliner’s segment is just good old-fashioned Halloween fun. We meet our lead as she is being berated by an angry woman on the phone. With tears in her eyes she slams down the phone into it’s cradle (for those of you who don’t know what that is, we used to have phones that had cords attached to them and little holders to put the end you talked in on…ancient technology) and cries. After she and a kindly co-worker discover a tattered book called “The Encyclopedia Satanica” that promises to grant you wishes her friend advises her not to use it no matter what. The urge is too strong and after her co-worker leaves our distraught librarian decides she will risk it and summons her boyfriend- who committed suicide shortly before- back from the dead. “Encyclopedia Satanica” is the most visually fun segment for me. Down the odd clothing worn by lead actress Kristine Renee Farley to the Halloween decorations, I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. Milliner also does a great job setting up one character only to completely dismantle them later on. The whole time I was watching this segment I could just feel the atmosphere and story oozing from my TV. I won’t spoil the ending, but it’s a fun one.
“13 After Midnight” Dir. Jacob Bilinski
A young woman is trying desperately to study for an exam when her dude-bro, Jack swilling, loser boyfriend comes to visit. After offering her a shot from his jacket, (this bro is serious about his liquor) she finally manages to get him to leave so she can finish studying. Flash forward to our bookworm who has passed out in her chair, the lights have been shut off, and no one seems to be around. Stumbling through the library in search of help she is met by a giant monster of Bigfoot proportions. For me, I found this story be a tad predictable, but the style of the second half is quite disorienting but in a good way.
Volumes of Blood feels like The Twilight Zone in modern time. It’s simple but effective and the scares really work, not to mention the buckets of fake blood and awesome masks from Richard Mabry made me giddy with glee. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a Volume 2, but really I just want to see all of these filmmakers go on and make great movies.
Side note: There’s a pretty sweet death involving pencils and to my knowledge I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pencil death.