Now this is what I call an anthology horror film; Brian Dorton’s collaboration with three directors amounts to a mature, complex, and terrifying series of short horror segments. And though the budget is low, the directors use the chance to explore the human monster, rather than mythical ghouls and goblins. There’s nothing scarier than the evil humanity is capable of, and “The Horror Network Vol. 1” is a fantastic display of talents, exploring the humanity collapsing in on itself in five incredible tales of horror. If any indie horror film deserves distribution, it’s “The Horror Network Vol. 1,” an anthology horror film that will appeal to horror fans that appreciate subtext, and ambiguity.
The film begins with a boom called “3:00am” a brutally scary short by Lee Matthews. Filmed on one location, “3:00am” is a movie dependent on sound design and darkness, and Matthews’ direction matched with the amazing score make “3:00am” a sign of events to come. Filled with ambiguity and a creepy final scene, “3:00am” centers on a young woman who retreats to a cabin for a getaway and realizes she’s not alone. Plagued with odd calls, and weird sounds, she’s cornered by her fear and victimized. I loved the way the narrative unfolded with “3:00am,” and it’s a brilliant way to open the compilation. “Edward” directed by Joseph Graham is another small scale tale about human horror, involving a psychiatrist seeking to help a young man with mental health issues involving an uneasy fixation on his mother and murderous urges. As the psychiatric session continues, the doctor soon realizes the young man’s claims of dual identities and personal demons may not be simple excuses for his violent instincts.
The performances from both actors are pitch perfect, and the special effects involved with the ultimate unraveling is grotesque and oozing symbolism. The best of the bunch is “The Quiet,” the ultimate story of paranoia and hysteria centering on a young deaf girl. After riding home from school, she is set to meet her mother at a bus stop, but leaves her phone behind. Tasked with walking home, she’s soon followed by a driver in a large blue truck who is persistent on tailing her on her way home. Filled with fear, the young girl seeks escape in to the woods resulting in a great cat and mouse game with her assailant. The cinematography in this segment is superb, as director Matthews turns a beautiful scenic area in the country in to a dangerous ground for a fight for survival against an unknown stalker. I guessed the ending early on, but that doesn’t detract from what is an excellent example of what happens when we’re vulnerable and allow our imagination to control us.
“Merry Little Christmas” is the segment I had a difficult time sitting through, if only for being so brutally disturbing and bleak. Set during Christmas Eve, a young mother is preparing her daughter for a Christmas get together, and her abusive husband runs a rampage of anger after feeling slighted by his inability to find shaving cream. If you can stomach the vicious depictions of spousal abuse and rape, “Merry Little Christmas” is a remarkable look at the long lasting effects of familial violence. The make up and prosthetics from Inside FX is masterful, and the editing makes the narrative seamless. Finally, “The Deviant One” from director Brian Dorton is a well placed book end that defines the entirety of “The Horror Network” in a nutshell. Centered on a man who lives his life by the bible word for word, the final segment is a sickening and interesting look at the demented passages of a very hallowed book. “The Horror Network” is a wonderful and stellar horror anthology. If you’re a horror fan that loves brain food with their tales of terror, Brian Dorton’s collaboration with other fine directors is a must watch.