PrintE-mail Written by Samantha Ward

The Horror Network is literally what it says on the tin: a network of genre lovers that have produced an anthology series of bloodthirsty demons, killers and ghouls, taking a leaf from the likes of The ABCs of Death and V/H/S where each short is created by someone different with an array of cast and crew from all over the world. The Horror Network presents five short horror stories, each one almost directed by someone different, and although very diverse with no literal connection there appears to be a slight theme in terms of psychological horror and mental trauma.

This compilation opens with 3am by Lee Mathews, in which a woman is suffering some kind of paranoia when she speaks to a friend over the phone. When she wakes up in the early hours, it seems her paranoia is real and someone or something is disturbing her. There are some rather good sound effects and the slow pace is suspenseful, however the music tends to come to a crescendo in all the wrong places, which is jarring when the actor isn't actually reacting to anything as she seems to be paralysed with fear. This could have had a cool Dario Argento style to it given some cool lighting and the right camera angles, but without these the whole image falls flat.

The second short is Edward by Joseph Graham. Hal seems to be having trouble sleeping and suffers some form of depression as he speaks to his therapist, and it’s soon clear that Hal has some deep anxiety so his therapist attempts a session of hypnosis therapy. Unfortunately, this worsens Hal's situation and the therapist finds himself in a lot of danger. It begins with a nice, chilling atmosphere but the dialogue drags out a little too long and you're relieved when something starts to happen. Again, the set is rather simplistic so it could have done with some more interesting camera shots and editing to tighten it up and add a little tension.

Next is The Quiet by Lee Mathews (again), a short very different from his former. This story has a wonderful flow to it with a great twist that, even though you may see it coming, it still feels very real. After being dropped off by the school bus, a young girl waits to be picked up by someone else who hasn't shown up. When realising she has lost her phone, she begins her long walk home. On the way she notices a blue van - it's playing music loudly and of course appears ominous. The van promptly drives away, so the girl thinks nothing of it and carries on. Later on she sees the sinister van again; this time it backs up towards her, the girl panics and runs out into the fields getting lost. The girl is deaf in one ear and requires a hearing aid in the other, making it hard for her to navigate. She soon goes into a blind panic as the man from the van chases her through the forest. The suspense in this film works as the sound design makes it easy for us to understand the girl's difficulty and anxiety, and it all makes for a great chiller.

Spanish short Merry Little Christmas by Pau Monrás Servat is probably the darkest story in this anthology; there is no merry in this film. It deals with domestic abuse and rape explicitly. A young woman is struggling to deal with her traumatic childhood memories of these terrible things that happened to her mother. Tragedy has taken over this family who can't get past the darkness. The light and airy sets for this film look really good and the cold backdrop is cleverly used for contrasting with a lot of bloodshed. There is some stiff dialogue - it should be more awkward for this kind of subject matter – and it plays out more like a soap opera than a horror film but the blood and gore soon changes that.

To end this anthology is Brian Dorton's The Deviant, ugly and hellish just like its title. A very simple yet very dark premise. There isn't much to write about this one without spoilers as very little happens but then also quite a lot happens. Let’s just say this Christian man has a very dirty and disturbing little secret. There is nothing particularity aesthetic about this one; it's clean and concise in its execution with a clear message that evil can live within those you least expect.

It seems there may be another theme that connects these films as they all have ambiguous endings. With no real resolve to any of these stories, we’re left with an open book. This seems rather suspenseful and exciting but it leads us through an empty tunnel or a very predictable one. The only story which has a solid structure is Merry Little Christmas, which ends tragically but it at least comes to some conclusion. Overall, these low budget shorts can be appreciated for their ideas and filmmaking skills, however they don’t quite meet up to the promises of delivering the best indie talent this genre has to offer.


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