“Chillerama”: Great Concept, Mediocre Execution

This guest review is from Thomas Parsons. Thanks a lot Saint Thomas for the review!

Honestly guys, I really wanted to like this movie. I heard about CHILLERAMA being produced in late 2010 (maybe early 2011) and it sounded like an interesting film. I’m always reading about my favorite Horror directors (old and new) online and through various sources like FANGORIA magazine (‘yup, they still make ’em) and internet articles. Through this, I discovered a new Horror anthology movie called CHILLERAMA was being produced and I was extatic to say the least! Not only was this going to be a “throw back” to the classic anthology movies from my youth (CREEPSHOW, TALES FROM THE CRYPT, THE TWILIGHT ZONE, CAT’S EYE) but it was also going to be produced and directed by four of my favorite Horror directors of today! Tim Sullivan (THE DEADLY SPAWN, 2001 MANIACS and it’s sequel), Adam Green (FROZEN, HATCHET and it’s sequel), Joe Lynch (WRONG TURN 2 : DEAD END) and Adam Rifkin who directed THE DARK BACKWARD, THE INVISIBLE MANIAC, PSYCHO COP 2 and DETROIT ROCK CITY! To make things even better, Kane Hodder (aka Jason Voorhees) was going to have a cameo in it to boot! *Whew!* Hearing all of that, I thought this film was going to be a low budget power house of “Grindhouse” goodness! Sadly folks, that isn’t the case here. Let me explain why.

Perusing a local department store the other day, I happened upon the “new release” section of DVD’s. Sitting right there on the shelf was CHILLERAMA for about $10 bucks! I had totally forgotten about it by now (although with all the directors and cameos in it, I don’t see how I could have) and it was a pleasant surprise! Not only was the price great, but the DVD case had cover art done by Phil Roberts in “old school” 70’s and 80’s style! Most people know his work from DETROIT ROCK CITY. It’s very caricature in it’s art style. Without a doubt, I was sold on this film already!

So I get home, pop the DVD into my player, bust out the beer and got ready for some CHILLERAMA! If anyone doesn’t know what a “Horror anthology” is, it’s basically a few short stories wrapped around a larger one. At least thats how most of them are set up. It’s a great way of keeping things fresh (for the audience), while sticking to the genre’s formula. Horror movies like this are perfect for large parties! In the case of this “exploitation” anthology, you’re expecting blood and guts. You’re expecting nudity and cheesy dialogue. You’re expecting Horror and Grindhouse “thrills.” For the most part, that’s what you get.

Anyways, CHILLERAMA starts off on a high note, being filmed in black and white. There’s a guy digging up a grave in a cemetery and we soon come to realize that it’s his dead wife’s. Over tones of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD are obvious here. We don’t really know this guy very well (as to be expected in this type of cinema) but we already know there must have been some tension in their marriage. Before you can say “drop dead gorgeous”, this guy plans on defiling his wife’s dead corpse! During the act, she comes to life and bites off his manhood (that’s putting it lightly), sending him screaming out of the cemetery and onward to his late night job. I mean, what else would you do after getting bitten in the crotch? Go to the hospital? ‘Naw! (or should I saw “gnaw”) The wound doesn’t bleed really. It just kinda’ leaks this blue toxic looking stuff. Anyone who’s seen RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD or DEAD ALIVE knows where this is going.

So where does out late night Necromaniac work you ask? Why, none other than a Drive In movie theater of course! At this point, the film changes from black and white to color, and the real plot details start to settle in. This part of CHILLERAMA is called “Zom B Movie” and it acts as the bumper to all of the other stories, rounding out everything in the end. We’re introduced to a few more characters, some more annoying than others. The owner of the Drive In movie theater is played by the always enjoyable Richard Riehle. If you don’t know who this guy is, once you see him you’ll know immediatly. He’s been in countless “cult” and comedy films over the years. In this part of CHILLERAMA, he plans on playing four movies for the last time before his Drive In is shut down forever.

The first film he shows is a movie called WADZILLA! Basically the plot is about this guy who has a low sperm count and he tries a risky procedure to up the ante. His doctor is played by Ray Wise, who you might recognize from TWIN PEAKS and the JEEPERS CREEPERS sequel. He’s a welcome addition to an already cool (so far anyways) movie. So our main character starts taking this new pill and need less to say, it has some bad consequences. At first, it starts out as a horrible pain in his crotch whenever he becomes aroused. Eventually this leads to abnormally large sperm forming whenever he does his *ahem* “business.” His doctor tells him to stop taking the pill and if he feels that awful pain again, to “release” it before the sperm kills him from the inside out! Of course this happens again on a blind date, forcing him to do his business in her bathroom. This time, the sperm is much larger and escapes before he can destroy it. The rest of the movie basically follows this giant sperm as he eats people and grows larger by the minute! Eventually it gets to the size of Godzilla (thus the name of the film) and throws down with the Statue Of Liberty!

WADZILLA is one of the best “tongue in cheek” Horror movies I’ve seen in a while! I was totally blown away by how funny it was. Almost everything about it is enjoyable from a “Grindhouse” point of view. It’s filmed like a classic 80’s Troma flick, with the costuming of a 1950’s “giant monster on the loose” movie. Even the special effects are “old school” latex and blue screens! This part of CHILLERAMA is on the level of modern classics like PLANET TERROR, DEATH PROOF and HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN! It was totally enjoyable! Play this for anyone and you’re bound to get a laugh sooner or later. After just the first story WADZILLA, I thought my purchase of CHILLERAMA was going to be well warranted. Boy, was I ever wrong! Dead wrong! It’s a fate worse than wrong! There is no coming back from this type of wrong! The film did a rare thing for me by changing my mind in only the next five minutes! I’ve never had my interest in movie vanish more quickly than this!

The next movie we get is an unbearable creation called I WAS A TEENAGE WERE-BEAR. This is the short film that almost ruined an entire movie for me. I read the synopsis online for it before CHILLERAMA came out on DVD, and even then thought it sounded like a bad idea! Here’s the basic plot. Our main character is this guy who’s in a relationship with a girl, despite he’s homosexual and miserable. One day his girlfriend is hit by a car in a parking lot (which was actually pretty funny) and now he’s free from his bad relationship to do whatever he wants. Eventually he meets a gang of gay bikers that take his interest and he starts hanging out with them. The leader of this group bites our main character, turning him into a werewolf (or werebear) in the process.

The rest of the story doesn’t really go anywhere or do anything. The audience is treated to a few musical numbers (‘yup, there’s singing) and everything seems to happen on the same beach. Every set design looks like it was made out of cardboard, and they all have the same beach background. Talk about lame. Eventually, the main character doesn’t want to kill people like his fellow “were-bears” and he decides to kill them. The last scene has him fighting them at (where else?) a beach concert with even more bad singing. He kills the “were-bears” and thats it. End of movie.

I WAS A TEENAGE WERE-BEAR is like a horrible mix of GREASE and TWILIGHT. Almost everything about this movie is bad, even the special effects. How can a “cult” film disappoint in terms of cheap special effects!?! Well, this movie does some how. The werebears just look like fat hairy bikers wearing greasy brown face paint. Add a few sharp teeth and there you go. WEREBEAR! Gimmie’ a break. But the biggest offense of this segment doesn’t come from the bad writing or cheap make up. It comes from the sound quality. For some reason it’s mixed horribly and you have to turn the volume up real loud. Somtimes the sound effects or dialogue come booming back in, forcing you to turn down the volume quickly! It’s almost like the director was using just one microphone and thats it. Whoever mixed it must have been asleep at the wheel too. This is inexcusable. Before you release a DVD, you should test the DVD.

In the end, what you have with I WAS A TEENAGE WERE-BEAR is a bad film you have to play unnecessarily loud. With all the bad song through out the movie, who wants to do that? It’s not even filmed interestingly like WADZILLA and the gore is pretty weak. Like I said before, I WAS A TEENAGE WERE-BEAR is the film that almost ruined CHILLERAMA for me. I might be able to tolerate it as just the “bad part” of the anthology if the sound mixing didn’t add insult to injury, but it does. It’s just a bad, plain and simple. To think, this is the same director who brought us 2001 MANIACS! It’s not even on the same level as that film.

After being disappointed with the last story, I didn’t think CHILLERAMA could rebound from that. The third and truly last story (if you don’t count “Zom B Movie” at the end) is called THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANKENSTEIN. It’s actually pretty funny and more or less picks up the pieces after I WAS A TEENAGE WERE-BEAR. It’s not the best story in CHILLERAMA, but it is a welcome return after the atrocity that came before it. The plot is simple enough. Hitler (played wonderfully by Joel David Moore) comes into possession of a book that will help him make a Frankenstein like monster. Not being a very politically correct movie in the first place, he constructs his monster out of dead (take a guess) Jewish people and trains it to kill for him!

THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANKENSTEIN is a pretty funny segment in the film. The whole movie is filmed in black and white, while the monster is played by Kane Hodder! The movie gets respect from me just for Hodder alone. I read online that Joel David Moore didn’t actually speak German but instead spoke gibberish the whole time. His version of Hitler is one of the best aspects of CHILLERAMA, next to WADZILLA itself! Truly funny! Some parts of THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANKENSTEIN are kinda’ dumb (with an idea like that, how could it not be) but it does fare better than I WAS A TEENAGE WERE-BEAR.

CHILLERAMA wraps up with ZOM B MOVIE and by now, you realize how much this film has actually failed on the whole. The gore is spread pretty thin by this point (most of it has to rely on lame camera tricks) and it becomes obvious that “Zom B Movie” wasn’t the reason you were into CHILLERAMA in the first place. The rest of the film is about a zombie outbreak at the very Drive In CHILLERAMA is playing at. It’s entertaining (and is a million times better than “Were-Bear”) but it just kinda’ leaves something to be desired.

Over all, this is not the worst anthology I’ve ever seen (that honor would go to CREEPSHOW III, which should be avoided at all costs) but that isn’t saying much. CHILLERAMA is just put together lousy. It’s a bunch of ideas (some much better than others) slapped together as “Grindhouse” entertainment and nothing more. Maybe my expectations were too high for this kind of thing. Then again, with all the build up of Horror director’s and cameo’s, how could it not be? This should have turned out better than it did.

Gore Hounds, check it out for some creative kills and interesting make up. The first tale (WADZILLA) has some really great latex creations and gory sequences. Outside of that, it kinda’ goes down hill from I WAS A TEENAGE WERE-BEAR and beyond. I get the feeling if the second story was never included, CHILLERAMA might have played out a little better. I give the over all experience three stars for two stories being good (WADZILLA and DIARY OF ANNE FRANKENSTEIN), all the cameos (Kane Hodder was great to watch), directors and gore. It’s just a shame this movie didn’t turn out better. It only survives on sheer excess. This time, that’s just not enough. Still, three stars is pretty good if you ask me. All things considered.

Honestly though, you’re better off watching CREEPSHOW, TALES FROM THE CRYPT or something like MASTERS OF HORROR. Outside of that, CHILLERAMA should only be watched if you’re truly desperate for the anthology format. Just make sure you skip the second story. You’ll be glad you did. Trust me! It’s bad!

To buy Chillerama: Chillerama (DVD)