You have to give it to Synapse films. With the decline of physical media, more studios are open to delivering movie buffs the classics, and the obscure titles. Let’s face it, until now, no other major label would have ever made the “Violent Shit” collection available for mass consumption. At the end of the day, this five movie collection of shot on video horror gore films from Germany are strictly a niche release, but they’re at least there for everyone to view. While the “Violent Shit” movies, in fact, complete shit, they are also important cinematic relics. Back in the eighties, when Germany enacted heavy censorship on all film releases, including horror movies, that were cut for mass consumption, a bunch of indie filmmakers got together and made their own gory, graphic, and obscenely splatterific horror movies.
I think most people go in to a movie that’s labeled a found footage anthology film might be expecting something like “VHS,” but directors Michael McQuown and Vincent J Guastini have so much more ambitious in mind. While the aforementioned horror film garnered a small assemblage of horror stories with a framework, “The Dark Tapes” tries to add more cogency. Everything in “The Dark Tapes” is cryptic and complex, and what we’re watching ends up making more sense the more we think about it. The directors obviously aspired to make a movie you have to watch more than once to understand. And of course they invite audiences to go to the movie’s website to perhaps convey their own theories about what the movie entails.
Technology has become such a humongous part of our everyday lives it’s now become a tool that we take for granted, and use without caution. It’s embedded in everything we do now, and because of that, we’re prone to broadcasting how stupid and absurd we can be to the outside world. Peter Huang’s short anthology entitled “5 Films About Technology” is a laugh out loud funny and realistic look at how five groups of people all end up committing some kind of ridiculous act with their own technology thanks to stupidity or circumstance.
Speaking as someone who has dealt with mental illness for my entire life, “The Voice in the Head” brought a tear to my eye. Cyrus Trafford’s short film is a riveting and gut wrenching look at mental illness and how small the disparities are between those with a mental illness and those that perceive themselves as sane. Most of all, “The Voice in the Head” is a unique look at how often we jump to conclusions toward those with a mental illness or with people that seem to indicate mental illness. Too often in society has mental illness been stigmatized and demonized, and there are still too many individuals with zero understanding of psychological illness and how it can destroy lives and those around them.
I would be lying if I said I was looking forward to “The Void.” Not only have I not been a fan of what Astron 6 has put out there for audiences, but “The Void” seemed generally like a vain attempt at Lovecraft. I’m glad to admit, though, that “The Void” is so far the best film Astron 6 has ever put out there. While the fan boy winks and nods are still there, it’s considerably toned down and doesn’t bog “The Void” down too much. Directors Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski are damn good at taking a miniscule budget and building with that, as “The Void” is an incredibly creepy survival horror film that feels like a nightmare from beginning to end. Even when the film has seemingly closed, “The Void” is never done choking you with its mesmerizing imagery of another world, and assures you that it will indeed return to haunt the audience once more.
Director Chris Esper and writer Jason K. Allen have a lot of ideas about fate, irony, and destiny and integrates them well in his absurdist comedy short about a couple that meets on a bench one afternoon. “The Deja Vuers” is funny, but it’s also quite intelligent, arousing some unique thoughts about how much control we have over our own lives. Are we following some rhythm, or are we voluntarily setting the stage for our own futures? Kris Salvi is great as a man named Chuck who approaches Morgan one day while sitting on a park bench. He insists he’s had déjà vu with her, and remembers them meeting in a dream.
The premise for “Check Please” is less a slice of life and more something you’d find in a normal sitcom. That’s not a slight, but it does hinder what is a fine comedy, that could have been great. “Check Please” involves a massive misunderstanding that snowballs in to chaos, as young Ben is preparing to propose to Laura, his girlfriend of many years. She seems like a girl who has put up with a lot and has spent a while trying to convince Ben to marry her, and he’s opted to propose by sneaking her ring in to a piece of pie.
Director Max Beauchamp’s “Iridescence” is an excellent short film and one that we desperately need these days. Conveyed through motion, body language, and dance, “Iridescence” is the story of one family torn apart and destroyed by ignorance and misunderstanding. Relying on ace editing by Duy N. Bui and fantastic choreography, director Beauchamp tells the story of the tragic death of a wife at the hands of her husband one fateful night. Years later their son grows up confused about his own sexuality and is struggling to hide his affair with another man from his violent father.