It's clear the assembled directors behind "Chillerama" love movies - old-school horror romps, to be precise. But an anthology mash note to the Ghost of Horror Films Past needs more than just unabashed genre love.
"Chillerama," available now on Blu-ray and DVD, apes the trashiest elements of pre-grindhouse genre films in the hope of drawing sympathetic laughter. Instead, we suffer through four near calamitous shorts which short-circuit an otherwise clever conceit.
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The directors behind the film - Adam Green ("Frozen"), Joe Lynch ("Wrong Turn 2: Dead End"), Tim Sullivan ("2001 Maniacs") and Adam Rifkin ("Detroit Rock City") - clearly spent their formative years watching every B-horror movie telecast in their home towns. Their collaboration yields a pastiche of horror movie tropes with little effective storytelling to paste them together.
Several "Chillerama" segments start with a stroke of ingenuity only to quickly stumble - if not collapse outright. Sullivan's "I Was a Teenage Werebear" uses a closeted gay teen's brush with lycanthropy to comment on the era's sexual mores. What emerges is a laugh-free endurance test.
Green's "The Diary of Anne Frankenstein" boasts a great title and some tasty comic hits. The segment is in German with English subtitles, but it doesn't take a trained linguistic to hear some authentic gibberish mixed in. The gimmick ensures "Diary" won't offend, but the gags still have a short shelf life.
Rifkin's "Wadzilla" tries to mock the atomic age monster movie, but we're left feeling sorry for Eric Roberts' decision to make a stilted cameo. A nerdy man takes an experimental drug that makes his sperm grow to gargantuan size. Yes, watching the overtly cheap special effects is a hoot, especially when the bulked up sperm tries to mount the Statue of Liberty, but it's like a funny "Saturday Night Live" sketch that doesn't know when to quit.
At least "Wadzilla" cranks up the cinematic time machine with sets and film stock which evoke the '50s in clever fashion.
Lynch's wraparound tale, that of a drive-in theater's last night of operation, also squanders its potential. It's here where Lynch pays the most obvious tribute to his horror influences, fusing a standard zombie movie with several shout outs to film's rich past. The theater's owner (Richard Riehle) wants to go out with a bang, but what he doesn't know is that an employee bitten by a zombie will change those plans.
One short segment dubbed "Deathification" is all about ... fecal matter, and it's as gross and pointless as one might fear.
You think making a good movie is hard? Try making a bad movie on purpose. It's a reason why "Troll 2" matters - the minds behind the film were honestly trying to make a great film but a complete lack of talent stopped them cold.
"Chillerama" travels a similar path without ever crossing the boundary from terrible movie into terrific tribute.
The generous Blu-ray extras include directors’ video commentaries, the making of "The Diary of Anne Frankenstein," plus deleted scenes from "Wadzilla" "I Was a Teenage Werebear" and "Zom-B-Movie."