Megan Riakos’s anthology “Dark Whispers” touts itself as a horror film with tales directed solely by women. The last film “XX” that explored the concept was a swing a miss, so I had my doubts this time. Thankfully “Dark Whispers, Volume 1” is a very good anthology with some outstanding horror shorts that often feels episodic like “Vault of Horror” and “Tales from the Darkside: The Movie.” The gallery of female filmmakers on display here are all sharp storytellers, and bring something new and unique to the table that frighten while also evoking genuine emotions every now and then.
The story frame involves a young woman who receives a story book “The Book of Dark Whispers” from her deceased mother. Said book invokes elements from the stories she reads through unique ways. Among my favorites, “Birthday Girl” by Angie Black is a heartbreaking and just soul crushing tale of a grieving mother recounting the happy eight years she spent with her young daughter. As she descends in an elevator, she recalls every year with her small daughter. The twist will leave you looking for tissues. “The Man Who Caught a Mermaid” by writer/director Kaitlin Tinker is a brilliant tale of a man who is convinced he can catch a mermaid.
When he finally manages to drag one home and trap her in his shed, his wife catches on and is horrified. This is a stellar and insane segment and one sporting a great plot twist. “Storytime” from Writer/Director: Jub Clerc explores a monster from folklore destroying a family beach getaway hen two young kids venture in to the territory of the horrifying Gooynbooyn Woman. “The Ride” from Writer/Director: Marion Pilowsky features Anthony LaPaglia as a driver who picks up a young man looking for a ride. When they accidentally hit a passerby, things spiral completely out of control in a mad scramble to cover up the crime. This is great segment with yet another fantastic twist ending. “Little Sharehouse of Horrors” from Writer/Director: Madeleine Purdy is a dark but goofy tale of a young woman who buys a rare edible plant from an antique shop.
When her stoner friends decide to consume it during a munchies session, the plant takes on a life of its own. It’s not particularly scary, but it’s a nice treat before the finale. Last but not least, “The Intruder” from Writer/Director: Janine Hewitt is a creepy and sad tale of young Zoe stuck in her dark house alone during a thunderstorm. Convinced she’s being stalked by someone hiding in her lawn, she is stunned when her long lost best friend arrives, disheveled and anxious to settle old feuds and grudges that have kept them apart. This is a great closer to final book end scene involving our book reader who realizes what “The Book of Dark Whispers” has a deeper meaning and resonance beyond a simple book of scary stories.
Like every anthology there were some duds, but thankfully the stellar horror entries vastly outnumbered the segments worth skipping over. This is a fantastic indie horror anthology and I’m anxiously awaiting “Volume 2” down the road, as I assume Riakos is curating even more excellent female filmmakers for yet another rousing gallery of horror stories. I strongly recommend this.