Supposedly taking its influences from Elvira: Mistress Of The Dark and Rod Sterling’s Night Gallery, this collection of shorts is hosted by Lady Belladonna (Bass), her ill-judged assistant ‘Addy’ (Prosise – think Hitler in a maid’s outfit) with the random inclusion of a sexually perverted Cupid (Lutz). Together they introduce the four shorts, which apart from the final film, are routine and uninspiring. Wolff’s Law, however, is a beautifully made, well-acted and emotionally fraught little tale about the misery of being a teenager when you’re just a bit different to everyone else. Tense and at times deeply uncomfortable, this is the sort of film these anthologies were made for.
Shorts aside, the real issue here is in the links. The Lady Belladonna character - some kind of dominatrix gatekeeper for lost souls - is too caricatured to be either funny or interesting. Her ‘witty’ interjections are tediously long and poorly conceived and serve only to add unnecessary padding to fill out the overall runtime. Whereas recent additions to the genre such as the impressive Southbound intertwine their stories with clever framing, Night Shades use of a presenter fails to have any notable benefit. Too much emphasis is placed on the links as if the filmmakers believe these exposition-filled interludes are more important than the films they are used to introduce. And combined with extra some background irritation provided by the incessant pipe organ, you would be well advised to fast forward through these sections.
There are so many good short films made by talented filmmakers that it feels like someone is missing a trick here. Instead of seeking new ways to present what are effectively filmmaker’s calling cards to audiences, production companies should be trawling the festivals for the best on offer and finding room for them on a compendium. Unless there is a reason or need to include a framing device or wraparound, don’t - fans are only really interested in the short films.
Our advice – wait for Night Shades to appear on your streaming service of choice and skip straight to Wolff’s Law. Nothing else here is worth your time.
LADY BELLADONNA’S NIGHT SHADES / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: DAVID SALCIDO / STARRING: JACK LUTZ, DONNY PROSISE, TAWNYA BASS / RELEASE DATE: TBC