Volumes of Blood impressed a lot of genre-loving folks in 2015 with a low-budget underdog approach to anthology filmmaking. The sequel, Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories, delivers another round of stodgy straight-to-DVD horror that won best anthology at Kentucky's Fright Night Film Fest.
The two-hour collection is low on common sense, high on amateur charm. But that only goes so far. Two-hours of woeful dialogue, dodgy acting, and plain old stupidity make it tough to bear even for the most die-hard of underdog fans. Festival audiences are far more responsive to this kind of thing; the community spirit of a booze-fuelled cinema can do wonders for dopey horror. But on home viewing it just doesn't make the mark and there's a plethora of reasons why.
As an anthology film it takes a while to find its structure, not breaking out its wraparound narrative until two segments have passed. The overarching plot, 'A Killer House' directed by James Treakle, follows a young couple as they are led room to room by an odd solicitor, with each new room we flashback to its horrible history. It’s a nice idea and actually delivers a few chills, but time and time again bad dialogue, and ropey acting get in the way of any mood building.
Nathan Thomas Milliner's 'Murder, Death Killer', is a daft slasher hark-back, eventually revealed to be the umpteenth sequel in a long-running franchise. Nicely self-aware, it opens up a literal dialogue between two horror fans about sequelitis, nostalgia, and fans that hate "new horror", (It Follows? More like It Swallows!) but there's not enough ambition to take it further than a simple scuzzy slasher. Milliner's other short 'Fear, Sinners Here' is a way more accomplished Christmas home invasion film with a great wee twist, and some of the better performances in the anthology.
In its half a dozen segments Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories frequently falls back on psychos and stabbings. In a modern genre saturated with new approaches, it’s too "old school" for its own good. The best segments are the few that throw caution to the wind and tackle more outlandish concepts. Jon Maynard's 'Blood Bath' turns a killer bath into one of the most gruesome entries via excessive splatter and a dollop of surprise. Justin M. Seaman's 'The Deathday Party' follows a terribly acted but adorably murderous elderly couple as they descend into gruesome celebrations. It’s dumb as rocks, but pulls off some surprisingly nasty slapstick comedy bound to make you wince and chuckle.
Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories won't be for everyone, especially not those who enjoy the higher production value of anthologies like V/H/S and Trick 'r' Treat, but it does have its moments. None of the shorts are particularly memorable, but some can be entertaining.
VOLUMES OF BLOOD: HORROR STORIES / CERT: TBC / DIRECTORS: SEAN BLEVINS, JOHN WILLIAM HOLT, JON MAYNARD, NATHAN THOMAS MILLINER, JUSTIN SEAMAN, JAMES TREAKLE / SCREENPLAY: SEAN BLEVINS, NATHAN THOMAS MILLINER, P. J. STARKS, JASON TURNER / STARRING: BARBIE CLARK, THOMAS DUNBAR, ARIC STANISH, NATHAN THOMAS MILLINER / RELEASE DATE: UK RELEASE TBA
Expected Rating: 5/10