Jean Claude Dreyfus, Sophie Jarmouni, Francesco Porcelli
Individually, it can range from sombre to kitsch triumphant, but it doesn’t leave much of an impact.
Anthology movies: The Adderall of cinema. A chance to essentially watch several films in one sitting, but with a caveat that there’s no guarantee for consistency within. And coming from six French directors, for most of whom this is their directorial debut, there’s also a chance that this could turn into a glorified sizzle reel for their future careers.
Bit of a shame that the film peaks right at the start with ‘The Call Of Death’ and ‘The Beast’, and not just because they are easily the most straight-faced of the bunch. The former plays out like a proto-Black Mirror episode as filtered through Tales From The Crypt (although, admittedly, that last comparison is true for pretty much everything here), acting as allegory for social media while sticking to decidedly lower-fi tech than that would imply. And with ‘The Beast’, we get a simple but effective ‘who’s the real monster’ parable that manages to get a lot done with very little, both in run time and in dialogue. Directors Nathalie Epoque and Fabien Chombart respectively can pat themselves on the back.
For the rest of it, though, it takes a very sudden dip into less-serious territory, from ‘Return Of The Lizardmen’ playing out like a found-footage version of Iron Sky: The Coming Race, with the same level of conspiratorial lunacy; ‘A Hell Of A Bargain’ hinging on awkward puppet work (director Alexis Wawerka has done some makeup work for Uwe Boll in the past and it shows), and ‘The Eye Of Taal’ somehow delivering another anthology within an anthology. It admittedly looks nice in its highly French New Wave stylings, but after what preceded it, it’s not enough to pick things back up.
It probably doesn’t help that we get the bare minimum as far as tying all of these together. Aside from a possible motif involving cell phones, the only thing connecting all of this is the requisite wraparound segment involving Delicatessen’s Jean-Claude Dreyfus telling these stories to a blogger he caught taking selfies in his graveyard. By design, it’s not meant to do much more than be the sinew for the shorts, but even as sinew, it doesn’t leave much of an impression. And that’s without getting into the Urban Gothic-ass conclusion, which is a serious thud.
As a whole, this is basically a third of a good movie, the bulk of which opens the film, and because it lacks a real throughline like Andy Nyman’s Ghost Stories or Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat, it doesn’t leave much of an impact. Individually, it can range from sombre to kitsch triumphant, but rather than the fun kind of kitsch, it just makes for material that not even a sudden appearance from the legendary Linnea Quigley can salvage it. Even the good parts aren’t good enough to override what comes next.