From Independent Media Distribution, comes this region-free DVD of a no-budget anthology consisting of three short stories.

Each one is written by Jennifer Loomis and directed by Tyler Benjamin. The latter cut his teeth working as assistant director on bargain basement titles such as I AM VIRGIN and STRIPPERLAND, before graduating to making a couple of horror convention documentaries - and then this.

CHILLERS begins with "A Haunt", a tale in which professional woman Carrie (Jessica Jackson) decides to find her own entertainment one evening when her husband Charles (Russell Faulk) is waylaid at the office.

Carrie happens upon a haunted house attraction and, being a sucker for such things, parks up her car and waltzes right in. The host who greets her, Creepy (Guthrie Taylor), does his upmost to live up to his name. Undeterred, Carrie makes her way into the attraction's darkened corridors.

Before long she's bopped over the head and drugged by Creepy. It transpires his realistic attraction relies on genuine victims for the sake of authenticity - and he has Carrie earmarked as the next star of his show.

Can forlorn Charles find her before it's too late? Perhaps, with the help of bearded detective Myers (director Benjamin).

Some terrible acting comes with the no-budget territory. That aside, this is actually engaging fare. The late Jackson makes for a likeable lead, and there are few surprises here in terms of writing. For a start, Myers is an unusually helpful and encouraging cop - especially as Charles is black (given the recent racial tensions between police and civilians stateside, it would've been all too easy to play on such - it's credit to Loomis that she avoids such cliché). Then there's Charles' reaction to his wife's disappearance. Okay, Faulk can't act for toffee, but at least he gives despondency and even tears a good go.

We even get a couple of punk rockers (nice Fucktard T-shirt on the male!) who are played against stereotype.

Best of all, the attraction footage is unexpectedly spooky. Okay, it relies essentially on a combination of creepy clown masks, handheld camera work and library horror music, but ... it works.

Next up is "Soul Mates". This finds wimpish Jason (Jason Lewis) plagued by nightmarish visions of him clasping his hand against strangers' chests and sucking out their souls, following a mugging that left him physically unharmed but scared of his own shadow.

As the visions intensify, he becomes horrified to learn that the people in his dreams are actually dying for real. In each case, they appear to have died from natural causes. Jason is compelled to investigate further, and starts racing to the scene of the latest death ... only to find a most unexpected denouement awaiting him.

The acting's of a generally better calibre here and the storyline does keep its viewer intrigued as to what's going on. I liked the twist ending, and - without wishing to give anything anyway - I liked Erin Ferris in her pivotal role too.

Of the three stories on offer, this was the lesser one in terms of dramatic impact. Having said that, I still enjoyed it.

Finally, we move on to "The Couple".

In this, petty crooks Freddy (Art Tedeschi, who recalled Ryan Gosling to this mind) and Barbara (Darcy McMullen) have stolen a wad of money and are currently hiding out in his uncle's woodlands-based cabin. They're fretting when we first meet them because they've had to take two girl hostages along the way - presently locked in the boot of their car outside - and realise they have to pluck up the courage to kill them if they're to get away with their crime.

The situation is worsened when a knock comes from the door. Freddy answers, only to find unassuming couple Christine (Jennifer Loomis) and Michael (Pavel Antonenko) looking for somewhere to stay on account of their own car having broken down.

Freddy lets them come in, but almost immediately takes Barbara to one side and insists that they now have to kill these witnesses too. But Barbara and Freddy are anything but natural born killers...

A fair bit of tension and some welcome humour distinguish this final segment, as well as the fact that it's both gorier and sexier (the crow-barred shower scene starring McMullen's obvious body double Tank, complete with Vangelis-type synth strains, is hilarious). The twist was predictable, although bringing Charles and Carrie back into the action was a nice linking touch.

Well-lit and reasonably well edited, there's nothing approaching high art here. Neither is there any suggestion that Benjamin aspires to achieve anything of the sort. That's fine by me: what we get is an unpretentious, sincere and enjoyable micro-budget horror anthology which dares to treat its themes seriously and imbue its characters with better dialogue than usual. It's a shame that the actors aren't always capable of realising said dialogue, but you shouldn't hope for miracles.

The film is presented uncut (it's quite short too, at just 64 minutes in length) in its original 16x9 ratio and looks good here. Colours are deep and warm, blacks are solid, depth is impressive: there's nothing to grumble about.

English 2.0 audio offers a proficient, noise-free playback throughout. Muffled wailing at the very start of the programme did set alarm bells ringing, but fear not - all is clear from then onwards.

The disc opens to a static main menu page. From there, a static scene selection menu contains 10 chapters.

Extra features include two slideshows - a 'behind the scenes' reveal, and a pictorial tribute to Jackson - as well as a 5-minute promo for Toxic Zombie's song "Run for your Life" (also heard over the main feature's closing titles) and a 'horror trivia name game'. The latter ties in with the main film too, and plays on the fact that several characters in CHILLERS are named after characters from classic films...

The disc also defaults to open with a trailer for Benjamin's documentary I HEART MONSTER MOVIES.

I didn't expect to enjoy CHILLERS as much as I did. Its production values are down there with the likes of the Polonia Brothers or Sean Weathers, admittedly, but - as with those filmmakers - it shows that you don't need a shedload of cash to produce something worthwhile.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Imdfilms
Region 1
Not Rated
Extras :
see main review