TIFF Report: Trapped Ashes review
Six strangers are awarded the VIP Tour of the back lot of Ultra Studios. At their bequest they convince their tour guide to stop by the house of famed horror film Hysteria. Soon they find themselves trapped in the same room on the set of the infamous House of Horrors. No matter which door they take they all lead back to the same room. They assume that the house will only allow them to leave the house if they tell their most terrifying stories, which is reminiscent of the characters in the movie? Will history repeat itself? If they tell their stories will they be allowed to leave? Only after everyone is finished will they know for sure.
Four vignettes brought together recount gruesome, horrifying and hilarious tales of horror in this anthology that harkens the days of horror serials like Tales of the Crypt. Bringing together some of horror film's gratest talents and some new talent each tale is different, each outcome is special, each style is unique and blood is spilled in all of them.
We start with the hilarious "The Girl with Golden Breasts" by Ken Russell, a promising tale of a struggling actress whose breast augmentation not only wins her the roles she has always wanted but she gets more than bargained for. Hard to believe but breasts have never been this much fun. Debatable, I know. "Jibaku" by Sean Cunningham finds a married couple touring Japan when they discover the body of a Buddhist monk hanging by a tree in the graveyard near buddhist temple. Soon the wife is fantasizing about the monk and his corpse comes to her in her dreams and lures her into the depths of hell. Again, more breasts. Monte Hellman directed "Stanley's Girlfriend" in which two friends and filmmakers in Hollywood during the 1950s are soon parted by a mysterious and sensual beauty - to gruesome effect. And wouldn't you know it - more breasts. In the final recounting of horror John Gaeta makes his directorial debut with "My Twin, The Worm" which tells the yarn of a young mother who is expecting a child but also has a monstorous tapeworm growing inside her. I don't recall breasts in this one. Joe Dante directed the wrap-around segments and the backbone of this film.
Everything started off great. You had the camp. The cult icon in a lead role [Enter the Dragon's John Saxon]. You had the fantastic character actor Henry Gibson as the tour guide. Everything was pointing in the right direction for a fantastic romp of horror, sex and gruesome violence. Sadly though, after "Jibaku" the movie lost steam and it became dull, dull, dull. I began to lose interest in the film. I could sense it in the audience around me. I brought my roommate along and he told me afterwards on the way home that if I was showing this to him at home he would have returned to his room before it finished and he's usually very patient with me. Something happened halfway through the film and it ended on a sour note. Was it an imbalance in the stories? Was it too front heavy? Was it too camp and sexy at the start and just lost its steam? I spoke with others who saw the film last night while in line this morning and we didn't like it for similar reasons. Mostly we concurred that it simply cacked out in the second half.
I understand why this film is what it is. I understand what it came from and was inspired by. I get that. Am I just a victim of my own generation and inexperience then? These directors are horror film legends in their own right. They are proven quantities and respected auters in their field. So what happened? Was I just that out of touch with their work that I cannot appreciate what they contributed to this film? But is that a bad thing? Sincerely I think you should be able to go into a film and watch it, regardless of the filmmakers past work, and let it proove itself on its own. Half of these I appreciated and the others I felt were dull as dirt.
This isn't a slam against the anthology framework in which it lies. That framework is often criticized for having its own problems and is often quoted as being inconsistant itself. But I also believe that the beauty of the antholgy is that you can find bits and peices of it to appreciate and ignore the rest. Sadly this film fails in the second half and there is very little recovery from that by the end of it. There was nothing that pulled it from the mire. I liked the first two vignettes, a lot, but you lost me after that and sadly I think a lot of others in the theatre that night as well.