“CHILLING VISIONS: 5 SENSES OF FEAR” (DVD/Blu-ray Review)
With the readiness of digital filmmaking in the independent world, and the growing number of unique voices attracted to the creative freedom of horror, there’s been no shortage of anthology projects arising in the genre world. These projects are affordable, challenging and often strong showcases for young, emerging voices—essentially collections of calling cards, as well as opportunities to show off resourcefulness and ambition under time and finance confines, without the overbearing pressure of feature filmmaking. This year has seen the release of several impressive omnibus movies, including THE ABCs OF DEATH, V/H/S/2 and now CHILLING VISIONS: 5 SENSES OF FEAR.
Possibly the most watchably DIY of these releases, CHILLING VISIONS (new on DVD and Blu-ray from Shout! Factory following its Chiller TV premiere this past summer) assembles a series of scary tales, with the condition that each contribution revolve around one of the five senses. The results are mixed, as in most anthologies, but definitely lean toward the better side of the horror spectrum, and while none of the shorts necessarily reach levels of pure terror, they are captivating at times and definitely eerie in small doses. The gimmick of the piece rarely takes away from the enjoyability of each segment, as most have an inherent sense of pacing and story structure. Most impressive is how ambitious many of the shorts are, especially given the constraints of the production itself, and the results are indicative of the filmmakers’ passion.
With Nick Everhart’s SMELL, the collection gets off to a strong start, a “be careful what you wish for” tale with an almost storybook sense of extremes in its depiction of the characters and universe. However, when the piece (about a scent that drastically improves a man’s life…for a while) starts dipping into horror territory, Everhart wisely focuses further on making it an example of extreme modern body horror. In this regard, the despair-and-grue-filled third act of the story is surprisingly emotional, albeit predictable. However, SMELL sets a high bar for what’s to come, as its creativity and wit are absolutely infectious.
However, SEE, from former PET SEMATARY and WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE child star Miko Hughes, is shockingly underwhelming, especially considering the potential of the inspired premise. A creepy tale of an overprotective eye doctor with a wickedly strange secret life of voyeurism, it steams along in the right direction before becoming disappointingly talky in its second act. There’s a great philosophical angle here, but unfortunately, it develops into an anticlimactic shouting match rather than the psychedelic trip that’s hinted at throughout. The saving grace of SEE is its horrific punctuation mark, a great and gory moment that almost salvages the short as a whole.
The third, and arguably best, segment is teen Texas filmmaker Emily Hagins’ TOUCH, which is incredibly simple in style and execution yet very impressive in terms of the mileage she gets from the concept. A story of a blind boy who wanders into the world of a backwoods serial killer, the story is tasteful, gorgeously shot and practical, even if the catalyst of the boy’s journey is hard to swallow. But overall, the tension and suspense are handled extremely well, while the acting and cinematography never take things over the top. For fans of patient, slow-burning horror, TOUCH will be a highlight of CHILLING VISIONS, and marks Hagins as a genre talent to be watched.
Unfortunately, it’s followed by CHILLING VISIONS’ most disappointing entry, Eric England’s TASTE, a technical wonder that’s unfortunately too hollow and misguided to succeed as effective genre storytelling. England, who did much more impressive work in the upcoming feature CONTRACTED, here opts for a long-winded bait-and-switch that ramps up the blood and gore and knocks down sense and catharthis. Playing off of gender stereotypes with uninspired dialogue before launching into a completely absurd final act, TASTE (about a hacker on a job interview gone wrong) was arguably the hardest short to pull under the CHILLING VISIONS umbrella, and unfortunately, its camp level of shock-horror is not nearly as effective coming after the simpler TOUCH.
Lastly, LISTEN, from YELLOWBRICKROAD’s Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton, is a fine closer, teasing a found-footage approach only to fall into levels of Cronenbergian madness and a perspective-changing narrative structure. As a group of collegiates look into a mysterious tape said to contain a deadly song out of order, the effects of the tune soon become evident as the footage reveals the horror that awaits. Although plenty of similar stories have been told in the genre realm over the years, LISTEN is still reasonably effective, and the footage of the recording itself is chaotic and believable enough to make this segment an engaging curtain call.
While it’s not the scariest or most reckless recent anthology, CHILLING VISIONS never aims to be, aiming instead for a more subtle sort of brooding fear and disturbing scares rooted in voyeurism. The central gimmick is approached seriously rather than playfully in most cases, and with three solid chapters, one interesting yet disappointing piece and one misfire, CHILLING VISIONS is mostly a fine independent omnibus and should play well to all of your senses.