“LATE NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE” (Film Review)Movies/TV,News,Reviews Trevor Parker
What is it about the anthology format that sings a siren’s call to so many aspiring horror filmmakers, plumping their imaginations and then luring their visions to sit in bite-sized confines? Despite having only a handful of truly classic examples to lionize, there is no shortage of independent attempts at reviving a storytelling structure longsince fallen out of fashion in the studio system. Canadian indie LATE NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE is the one of the latest darts flung hopefully towards a bulls-eye occupied by the finest of episodic frights: TRILOGY OF TERROR, TALES FROM THE CRYPT (the Amicus picture), CREEPSHOW, TRICK ‘R TREAT, and precious few others.
The FEATURE spiel is as follows: two short films are embedded as part of ‘Doctor Nasty’s Cavalcade of Horror’, a cheap and localized television showcase hosted by the debauched Doctor Nasty (Brian Carleton) himself. FEATURE depicts the entire fictitious broadcast, including a hodge-podge of fake commercials and movie trailers, as well as digging into the behind-the-scenes antics of the Cavalcade and its repugnant, temperamental star.
The first of the two shorts is Zach Ramelan’s “Dinner for Monsters”, wherein a failing restaurateur (Nick Smyth) receives a catering assignment for a party to be held at a remote hunting lodge. Once there, our hapless chef is ordered to prepare a meal containing a very specific ingredient, as his decadent bosses tease and test his moral conscience throughout the evening. There isn’t much in “Monsters”’ theme of literally feeding upon the lower classes that has not been dealt with many times before, and the twist ending is no big stunner. Ramelan does provide agreeably dark and shadowy visuals, and the revolting sight of fingers splaying up from a dinner roast like a blackened rooster’s comb is a nice touch.
Torin Langen’s “Slit” is the better film of the two, and shot with moody intent. It’s the tale of a man (Colin Price) with an unusual vocation- cutting into the flesh of a gritty clientele in order to provide them with some sort of emotional release- as he meets with a challenging new assignment. “Slit” has an appropriately gloomy, filtered look and the gory bits of mutilation ministration are good for a cringe, but it’s a case of style over substance as the narrative doesn’t come off as entirely clear by the end.
The third part of FEATURE focuses on the Cavalcade show itself, directed by Navin Ramaswaran. These parts have more of a comedic angle, as well as an excess of TALES FROM THE CRYPT style revenge-melodrama. It all builds to an unexpected and bloody climax, so we do get to fade out on a high. The anthology format serves FEATURE well, as the shorter films are required to be edited tightly and thus avoid the aimless filler that sinks so many indies that try and force themselves into having a feature-length running time.
However, what hurts FEATURE is that unfortunate hallmark of indie cinema, that of performance quality fluctuating drastically. For all the thrill in seeing a new talent like Jamie Elizabeth Sampson (as the put-upon Nurse Nasty) ably enliven her pulpy FEATURE part, viewers must also cope with jarring elements like the classy cannibals of “Monsters”, whose acting goes several notches north of “arch”, though to be fair, arch seems to be what Ramelan is going for in this segment. With that mentioned, the low-rent broadcast gimmick of FEATURE does make for an undeniably fun late night, and though LATE NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE doesn’t quite nail that anthology centre circle, it hits close enough to be worth a look.
LATE NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE screens as part of the Canadian Film Fest in Toronto on March 26th at 9:30 p.m.