Something of a mixed bag, The Horror Network Vol. 1 (to give it its full title; yes, there are presumably further instalments on the way) is little more than a collection of entirely unrelated short films, each with a twist in its tale.
First is 3:00am, in which a young woman living on her own in the middle of nowhere is terrorised by some violently incongruous and questionably diegetic sound effects. With no back-story and some incredibly attention deficient editing, it’s hard to care.
Edward is a vast improvement, and possibly the best segment of the film. Essentially a two-hander, all but the last minute or so comprise a conversation between a disturbed young man and his psychiatrist. The twist might be a touch muddled but the resolutions are foreshadowed enough in the dialogue to demonstrate some real attention to detail has gone into the script, and the performances by both actors are tremendous, if hampered by the ever-present inconsistent film quality.
The Quiet is an equally thoughtful tale of a young girl who is bullied into missing her lift home from school, and the terror that a string of unfortunate coincidences provokes. With some particularly impressive photography, the outcome might with hindsight be somewhat predictable, but the journey is nevertheless effectively conveyed.
Merry Little Christmas, in Spanish with subtitles, is a deliberately shocking portrait of the effects across a generation of a family’s dysfunctionality, and in spite of some coherent connections between the twin narratives and an inclination towards unforgettably grotesque imagery, ends up feeling like a purposefully provocative manipulation.
The Deviant One is a horribly, and even more offensive black and white pseudo silent movie polemic about religion and aberrancy, premeditatedly controversial and mercifully brief. A nasty note to end the anthology on.
With sound and picture that might charitably be described as variable, and acting to match, The Horror Network is patently relying on its shock factor to smuggle a couple of rather more cerebral stories onto the screen. And in that respect, it’s a success. But with psychological horrors rubbing shoulders with torture porn and only the occasional suggestion of anything remotely supernatural, this is not a collection that is going to appeal to anyone craving the more subtle pleasures that the second and third stories do manage to offer.
Indeed, across all five tales there’s an almost headache-inducing over-vividness in the photography and the soundtrack, easily enough to overwhelm the senses of all but the most indie horror hardened. The best you can say about this is that it’s likely an acquired taste, but it’s difficult to recommend its acquisition. Let’s hope the inevitable follow-ups are a little less lurid and a mite more considered.
Special Features: Trailer / Extended scene
THE HORROR NETWORK / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: BRIAN DORTON, JOSEPH GRAHAM, MANUEL MARÍN, LEE MATTHEWS, DOUGLAS CONNER, IGNACIO MARTÍN LERMA / SCREENPLAY: DOUGLAS CONNER, BRIAN DORTON, JOSEPH GRAHAM, MANUEL MARÍN, / STARRING: NICK FRANGIONE, ARTEM MISHIN, JAN CORNET, BRIAN DORTON, JAVIER BOTET, MACARENA GÓMEZ / RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 24TH