Holy fuck! Who’s that creepy motherfucker and what is he doing here?? Something tells me he wants to strangle me with my own intestines…which is VERY unhygienic, so EW. Or he could just be that guy from VOLUMES OF BLOOD: HORROR STORIES, the sequel to the kickawesome VOLUMES OF BLOOD. Remember that one? An anthology, but a super fun one with lots of gory good times? (Just click the link if you need a refresher!) But we all know that the killer always comes back, no matter what, and we also know how it tends to go with the art of the sequel. So does VOLUMES OF BLOOD II hold up to the first? Hmmm…let’s take a look….
Our story starts with a heist. One that’s set in the middle of nowhere (maybe a farm?), which is the perfect place to die. It starts out well enough with three amigos heisting, shooting the shit, and telling spooky stories about the old place they’re stealing from (because one ALWAYS does that during a heist, duh). At least half of our opening story was filmed in apparent complete dark, however, so you’re going to have to rely on your ears big time here. BUT the kill scenes are nicely lit and so long as you get to see people die, I guess it’s all cool, right? (Huh. That last sentence doesn’t make me sound unbalanced at all. ;))
But WAIT, no, omg, guess what?? That whole time we were watching a movie!! I mean, obviously I was watching a movie but then I was watching people watching a movie! Ah, the old movie within a movie trick. (Thank you, CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI) Boy, did you get me. Then we’re off to…watch another movie? But first we need to time jump to the past? And then 20 minutes past the past? Then come back to here to watch the movie? (I think I got that order correct.) There were lots of random images being flashed about, so I wasn’t sure if we were going back to the library and following the immediate aftermath of the first film or if we were jumping into a, um, jumping into movies anthology. It turned out to be neither.
What happened next was an anthology wrapped around a house and the holidays – different holidays and a single house as the centerpiece. We get to experience Father’s Day, Christmas, birthdays, Halloween, and so on and so forth. (We also get to experience the joys of house browsing!) As with most anthologies, certain pieces were better than others. My favorite story featured the girl above, a salesman, and Thanksgiving. It was incredibly atmospheric which helped lift it from the “oh yeah, I have a pretty good idea of how this ends” doldrums. The Christmas piece ended up being fairly good as well with its fun ending and an actress who was able to carry ~10 minutes of screentime alone (and mostly in silence). The downside was that this piece was much too long. I understand the time needed to build tension, to make the audience realize that something isn’t quite right, but it can be done in less time than this. (Also, my god, the freaking carols and Christmas music!!! BLEHCK. I hate this holiday so much.)
Overall though? First and foremost, VOLUMES OF BLOOD: HORROR STORIES reminded me WAY too much of THE PERFECT HOUSE, which is also an anthology tied around a house in which a real estate agent is showing a young couple around. Secondly, it was much less cohesive than the first. This story didn’t flow as smoothly as the first did; didn’t tie together as well; didn’t make as much sense. Especially the ending. I still don’t know who the killer is or where he’s from or why he suddenly popped up and decided to kill every citizen of Owensboro. I also am unsure why there are now unseen forces (or people) seemingly commanding him to kill (not like voices in his head but legit “hey that’s an order!” commanding way). Maybe it’s all just meant to entice in case there’s a third film? I dunno, but I was not impressed. Thirdly, this sequel just wasn’t as much FUN as the first was. This film was really lacking the joy of the first (I know that sounds weird – joy in a horror flick? – but hear me out). The first film was clearly such a product of love and devotion and people were so obviously having a blast that it made the energy of the film into that too (despite the blood and gore ;)).
VOLUMES OF BLOOD II was definitely better LOOKING than the first – it looks like they had a larger budget this time around – but it was lacking. It was missing that joie de vivre and indie spirit, for whatever reason. It also didn’t stick together as well as the original – this one very much showed us that it had been stirred with several hands in the mixing bowl and it made for some lumpy spots.
Is it ultimately worth a watch? Yes. There are the couple of stories that are really enjoyable; there’s a nod to TRICK’R’TREAT (my favoritest anthology series EVER); and there are lots of gooey messes and intestinal effects that are all practical and not CGI. (Big props for the makeup team and fx guys! You guys are wicked awesome!) And, of course, if you’re a fan of the slasher genre, you may totally dig on this. Check out the trailer on the Facebook page and let me know what you think!
This past weekend I had the opportunity to check out some local cinema, in the form of Cesar Cruz’s Dark Passages. Local talent always gets me excited because I used to work a bit in film and it’s always exciting when something you’ve poured everything into finally gets a premiere and recognition. There was also the added bonus of it premiering at the Darress Theatre, where my play will be opening next month (ergo, my new home away from home!).
I arrived a little bit early amidst a throng of people (several of who were clearly involved and running around getting things in order). I bought a soda and settled in to wait for the show to begin. Pre-show involved “The Twilight Zone” (I believe) on mute with some really great music playing.
Now the man behind the magic, Cesar Cruz, is someone I’m not familiar with but it seems he now works at my old company, which is how I found out about this showing. He has a production company called Outworld Entertainment and it seemed that not only was this a premiere but their 14th anniversary so CONGRATS!
The showing opened up with a few general comments and jokes from the MC then it was onto the films. While Dark Passages is my main concentration here I do want to mention Window, the first short that was shown. Window opens with a radio announcement about biochemical warfare and from there the action starts. It’s not a lot of action because the entire movie is set in an apartment but it works. A man with a weird finger tic starts roaming around this apartment. Who is he? Why is he there? He’s clearly looking for something but at the same time something or someone seems to be looking for him. Window was vaguely Hitchcockian, with a tense atmosphere and an ending that left me wondering who was a victim of the biochemical warfare and if the whole thing was merely fantasy. A nice short, perhaps a bit too long.
Next was a music video but I’ll skip over that to the main event: Dark Passages.
Dark Passages opens fast and furious in the center of the action. We’ve all seen (and discussed here in the past) those people in a locked room scenarios. This takes from that and expands to a group of people lost in the woods. They’re not lost together however. We open with heavy conflict in a guy and girl who obviously have a past but haven’t been together in quite a while. They respectively wake up, look around and start to fight about where they are and who’s fault it is. Various other characters start to enter the scene – a screaming, crying woman…a tough as nails, takes no attitude lady…and a guy who looks oddly like Jensen Ackles. Seriously, like dead-on ringer. Insert this guy:
And things get really serious, really quick. While at times the story gets a bit convoluted (I was a little confused at times because the film jumps back and forth through the use of flashbacks and other locations), overall the concept was great and I’d love to see a longer version as I left with questions. The cinematography and makeup were aces and the acting was mostly good (although there was one guy who just did not seem to care that he was about to brutally die. Not even an, “Oh no!”). My favorites by far were the no-nonsense lady and the guy from the beginning that woke up with his ex-girlfriend. Those two actors were fabulous and their character arcs seemed better plotted than some of the others. Here’s the opening scene (note this is a color test so the final version was a bit different):
Overall, an enjoyable time and I can definitely see a future for this filmmaker. I’ll be interviewing Cesar in the near future so be sure to check back for that!