Published Oct 22, 2013Stick it out past the obnoxious, tonally misrepresentative opening credits (a scene of arbitrarily stylized torture synched to brostep beats) and you'll be treated to a clever and playful horror anthology closer in quality to the nasty magical whimsy of Trick 'r Treat than the grimy '80s nostalgia of the V/H/S franchise.
Individually tied to one of the five senses, these five shorts smartly interweave a shared mythology, precluding any need for a forced wraparound segment. This saves precious screen time for each story, keeps the momentum flowing and gives the entire project a greater sense of thematic cohesion. With the atmosphere of a collection of dark fables — think Tim Burton directing a Troma film — each chapter serves as an admonition of sorts.
Smell applies the idiom "be careful what you wish for" to olfactory potency. An office drone down on his luck in work and love is approached by a travelling scent saleswoman promising success in a bottle and advising moderation. You can guess the end result, but the way director Nick Everhart takes us there is by turns comical, disgusting and unexpectedly resonant.
In See, we not only get a compelling tale of fringe science and vengeance gone wrong, but also the first hints of the interconnectivity between the stories. These hints take the form of memories an aging eye doctor extracts with a special machine and drops like acid for a lonely hearted shut-in. It is effective integrative filmmaking and as a single piece, See is a promising directorial debut for Miko Hughes.
Emily Hagins (My Sucky Teen Romance) delivers one of the highlights of the set with Touch, a simple but effective survival story with a protagonist you'd have to be pretty damn cold-hearted not to root for. Following a car accident, a blind boy must find help for his severely wounded parents and stumbles into the lair of a sadistic serial killer with a thing for traps. Without resorting to visual gimmicks, Hagins lucidly conveys the boy's reliance on the titular sense and manages to generate a lot of tension to go with the easy-to-achieve sympathy for a brave blind kid.
Taste starts a little slow, but winds up being the funniest offering by far with a cheeky piss-take on corporate culture and an absurd climax that takes the title literal in a way nobody will see coming.
The final sense-based short, Listen, makes good use of the mock documentary format. A group of friends working on a research project about an urban legend involving a piece of music purported to be fatal to anyone who listens to it uncover footage of a performance of the song conducted as a secret government experiment. It's not particularly frightening, but it might be able to trick especially gullible viewers and the idea and music itself is quite interesting.
Unfortunately, this under-seen offering to the annals of horror anthologies comes with just one deleted scene for supplemental material. No matter the label, television promo spots are not "special features." While it'd be nice to learn more about the considerable thought that went into putting this whole thing together, the film itself is more than enough to warrant a purchase. Chilling Visions: 5 Senses of Fear deserves to join the ranks of reliable Halloween party viewing titles. (Scream Factory)