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Sunday, October 25, 2015

THE HORROR NETWORK -- DVD Review by Porfle

Remember how much fun the anthology horror film CREEPSHOW was?  Well, THE HORROR NETWORK (2013) is an anthology horror film too, and, like CREEPSHOW, it's a pretty good one.  But unlike CREEPSHOW, it isn't fun.  In fact, it doesn't even try to be.  What it does try to do is (a) scare us, and (b) make us uncomfortable.  Which it does, with horror to spare.

Four writers and six directors work together to bring us five stories (one has two co-directors) which I think are meant to be loosely connected somehow (hence, the "network") although I didn't quite keep up with that angle.  I was too busy just being entertained in a perverse way by stuff that shouldn't be entertaining. 

The first story, "3:00 AM", is the scariest.  Right there before the main titles have even crawled by, THE HORROR NETWORK dishes up one of the creepiest short terror films I've ever seen.  It's about a woman staying by herself in a big, isolated farmhouse in the country, waking up at 3:00 AM to strange noises wafting out of the darkness, and then being terrorized by something shadowy that's creeping around outside.

Or is it just her imagination?  This one really plays upon our fear of being in a spooky house in the middle of nowhere late at night, hearing scary noises, and being certain that there's someone or something out there in the dark trying to get in.  It's a short and bitter tale that generates some good old-fashioned fear without jarring us with a bunch of loud noises and jumpscares, although it ends on a doozy of one. 

While I was still shivering over that one, next came "Edward."  This features a troubled young man baring his soul to his psychiatrist on another windy, spooky evening.  Dr. Aleksey must have trouble paying his electric bills since the office is so dark and, frankly, scary.  And so is his patient Hal, who sleepwalks and awakens covered in blood, and doesn't want to go to sleep anymore for fear of what he may do--or what he may turn into.

This one takes more time to build up to what turns out to be a rather horrifying conclusion.  The psychiatrist becomes more and more fearful of his own patient, who seems to harbor a very dark side to his personality that's clawing its way to the surface even as they speak.  When it does, the last thing on Dr. Aleksey's mind is trying to figure out how to bill both sides of Hal's personality seperately.

Next, "The Quiet" lightens things up with the bright, sunny tale of Alice, a little deaf girl who gets off the school bus one afternoon to find that her mom isn't there to pick her up.  As she strolls down a rural roadway, an old blue van starts to play cat-and-mouse with her.  Fearing the worst, Alice flees into the woods as the van's driver, a big, scary man in shabby clothes, gets out and slogs after her.

It's a tense little vignette without much of a storyline, making us nervous for Alice but not really leading up to much.  Alice's deafness isn't even exploited as I thought it might be with some creative sound design or something.  After two chillers, "The Quiet" is more of a filler.

But then there's "Merry Little Christmas."  So far THE HORROR NETWORK has been trying to scare us, but now, with the story of a mother terrorized by a violently psychotic spouse while their mentally-disturbed daughter looks on, we're dragged through a gauntlet of jagged, bristling pain that's as starkly nightmarish as anything I've seen in a while.

If you suffer from sympathy pains you'll really recoil at most of this sadistic little hurtfest.  Self-slashings, brutal razor attacks, and a rape scene that outdoes I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE are just part of the bill of fare here.  What really freaked me out, though, was a "pain" sequence that goes beyond the "flesh ripped out by hooks" scenes in HELLRAISER while conjuring up some freakish imagery that's downright insane. 

Finally, "The Deviant One" just flat-out wants to flabbergast the hell out of us by living up to its title 100%, and pretty much does.  Simply put, it's kind of like what might happen if Jeffrey Dahmer was a big, fat guy with a crewcut who lures his neighbor, an unsuspecting hippie-type dude with long hair, into his house for a little R & R (just think of two things that begin with "R" and are really horrible, including "rape.")  You may not want to watch this one with your mom.

What really links these stories together isn't some amorphous "network" but taut direction and writing, with a sure instinct for what either scares or disturbs us on a basic level.  Most of it is artfully photographed ("The Deviant" reminded me of one of those atmospheric black-and-white short films Shane Ryan used to make) and makes good use of mood and imagery to manipulate our emotions.  Not to mention just plain grossing us out and/or making our collective jaws drop.

The DVD from Wildeye Releasing is in widescreen with 2.0 sound.  No subtitles.  Bonus features include a trailer, a photo gallery, and an extended cut of "The Deviant One" that's even more deviant.

Lean, taut, and to the point, THE HORROR NETWORK is a shuddery spookhouse ride through some very dark territory, with no funny horror host or comedy relief to take the edge off.  It's like CREEPSHOW's evil twin. 

Buy it at


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