October the 24th finds the release of the low budget, psychological orientated horror anthology and despite the less than subtle artwork, fans of horror might just find the entertainment they are looking for within one of the 5 short stories on offer.
The ‘Horror Network’ kicks off with the short but encouragingly spooky ‘3AM’, a tense sequence which opens with a young lady, home alone in a remote cottage in the dead of night being persistently terrorised by entity or entities unknown. The persistent darkness and effective use of eerie sound effects cumulate in a build-up which ends abruptly in a fairly telegraphed jump scare.
The sequence does well enough as an ice breaker, with good use of traditional horror techniques to set the scene, however, its more cliché and predicable that the rest of the story, and for me the weakest of the shorts.
Following 3AM comes ‘Edward’, a bizarre and wholly psychological tale which for me truly kicks off your journey into madness. We are introduced to two characters, one a psychiatrist, the other Edward, his patient. Little is told about either subject, however we quickly understand that Edward has stopped taking his medicine and that the psychiatrist is quickly going to be experience why this was not the recommended way to go. There is something in Edward which wants out. It’s an odd story which makes little effort to contextualise any of the events either prior or aft and whilst there is plenty to enjoy, including two outstanding performances by the two leads, coupled with some intriguing it is probably best taken as ‘one to think about’ rather than worrying about trying to decipher it whilst watching.
That said, with clever arrangement, with Edward surpassing 3AM in almost every aspect – although it’s not quite as scary - the next episode ‘The Quiet’ again takes the anthology up a notch in both quality and storytelling.
This episode is even more unnerving than the last, introducing us to a young deaf girl whose cruel victimisation by classmates on the bus leads to further isolation and vulnerability as she ends up walking home alone. She quickly becomes the target of a predator, and with a cleaver framing narration between scenes we get the uncomfortable experience of watching her actual demise as her worried mother attempts to put together the circumstances of her disappearance. As with any portrayal of child abuse, things are already pretty nasty, and this is enhanced further with a rather poignant metaphorical doll sequence adding to the pot.
Still, not as nasty as what is about to come.
As if the previous three episodes were just testing the water, the next section ‘Merry little Christmas’ is both one of the most disgusting segments I have ever watched, and one of the best shorts I have ever seen! A truly twisted and outright brutal tale of spousal abuse, rape, suicide all viewed partly in the third person, and partly through the eyes of a mentally disturbed child. This section is nothing short of madness. Its gratuitously gory and sexually deviant content is only saved from the outright sick by some clever metaphors and symbolism reminding us that there is more of a point to the section than it being a down right dirty gore-fest. The cinematography and acting it pitched perfectly to portray the grimy voyeuristic nature of the section, and the practical effects are outstanding. This section alone is worth buying the anthology for.
To finish off we have ‘the Deviant One’ (extended cut) a story which I am still not sure how I feel about it. Having been blown away by the previous segment, this felt, well a little underpowered. It’s a deliberately stripped back (no pun here seriously!) episode, filmed in black and white the story is possibly one of the easiest to decipher in terms of its story. A big fat man basically kills, bums and buries his neighbour and then goes to church. I got the point, but not really the purpose of the episode. There are some paragraphs quotes from the bible, which I suppose could be considered as an attempt to ‘deepen’ the impact of the piece (seriously, that’s not a pun either). For me it was a little to basic and in your face, and following the powerhouse ‘Merry little Christmas’, as I’ve said, a little underpowered
Overall, anthologies are always going to be hits with horror fans, and assuming the selection is of a good enough calibre, horror fans should expect all killer no filler. That is certainly true here. Sure some episodes are better than others, but they all have their highlights. ‘The Horror Network’ is available on DVD from the 24th of October.