Thursday, 18 June 2015


The ongoing horror anthology trend seems to be showing no signs of slowing down.
Given a well deserved shot in the arm with the release of the likes of V/H/S and ABCs of Death, it's become a genre staple once again.
I've reviewed my fair share of indie anthologies recently, from the low-fi charms of Voices From The Grave to the flamboyantly theatrical Tales of Poe... and now I've another to add to the list.
A collaboration by a talented group of filmmakers, Volumes of Blood sets all five of its stories of murder, madness and the macabre by five different directors in a library.
So is this a movie to book some time with? Or will you want to turn the volume down?
Read on...


Dir: Jakob Bilinski, Nathan Thomas Milliner, John Kenneth Muir, P.J. Starks and Lee Vervoort
Starring: Jason Crowe, Roni Jonah, Alexandria Hendrick, Garret Smith, Gerrimy Kieffer, Louisa Torres, Jim O'Rear, Todd Reynolds, Jordan Phillips, Elissa Grant, Louisa Torres, Kristine Renee Farley, Kevin Roach, Paige Ward, Grant Niezgodski, Vixen Lucy Lynn/Courtney Eastmon, Kevin Clark, Alex Vanover, Jeff Armstrong

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I'll try not to spoil too much here, but continue at your own risk.

A wonderfully Eighties slasher style opening shows bimbo Linda (Lynn/Eastmon) and the tough-talking jock Rod the Bod (Clark) who find themselves stalked by a mysterious masked maniac... however, this turns out to be a movie within a movie, being watched by lovable slacker Loomis (Vanover). Loomis is in a lecture at college and the subject discussed by Mr Roth (Armstrong) turns to urban legends.
After a lecture theatre shock, we join one of Roth's students, Bryan (Kieffer) as he meets three friends, handsome movie enthusiast Reece (Smith); smart and sassy Kaelin (Jonah) and loudmouthed Tyler (Crowe) in the library. The four each decides to create their own urban legend which they plan to circulate. Each then takes turns to tell their own creepy tale...

A LITTLE PICK ME UP — Late at night a female student (Hendrick) is desperately trying to finish a paper. Exhausted, she is surprised when a mysterious man by the name of Lucem Ferre (O'Rear) appears and offers her a free sample of Ka-Pow!, a brand new energy drink produced by his company. At the end of her tether, will the shattered girl accept his offer? And with what consequences?

GHASTLY — As a Librarian (Phillips) closes for the night a strange woman (Grant) hands in an unfamiliar book. After the building empties, the Librarian looks to put the books away before leaving. However, as we slowly come to realise, he isn't as alone as he first believes…

13 AFTER MIDNIGHT — Sidney (Ward) is attempting to finish an assignment in the library but is interrupted by her wacky goofball boyfriend Norman (Niezgodski). Despite his insistence, she tells him that she cannot join him at a party until she's finished her work, but eventually acquiesces to join him later. However, the next thing Sidney knows she's waking up in the abandoned library... and being stalked by a fur-covered beast. As her plight becomes more desperate she realises that she has to fight for her life... or lose it.

ENCYCLOPEDIA SATANICA – Librarian Paige (Farley) is guilt ridden  after the suicide of her ex Derek (Roach). As she talks with her kindly boss Travis (Reynolds), the pair chance upon an eldritch tome, The Encyclopedia Satanica. 
Full of ancient and otherworldly rituals and incantations, Travis soon deduces that this is not one of the library's books. As he flicks through the pages he finds a way to summon the dead, by simply kissing the book and calling their name. He wants to throw the book away, but Paige says she'll put it in lost property and sends him home.
Left alone with just her guilt and memories for company, Paige faces a dark temptation. Can the book really bring Derek back... And at what cost?

THE BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): A collaboration between five directors for Verite Cinema and the Unscripted Film School, Volumes of Blood feels very much like a collection of high-quality shorts. Each has its own feel and tone, ranging from seriously scary to gruesomely gory via funny frights. Essentially, it's a tasty little horror buffet that offers something for any genre fan's appetite.
Each segment offers its own unique charms. John Kenneth Muir's A Little Pick Me Up, feels the most like an old-fashioned Creepshow or Tales From The Crypt portmanteau segment. The story, by Todd Martin, is punchy and the deadly energy drink hook is pretty damn good. Think a diabolical Limitless with a cool as Hell gore effects conclusion. With a great lead performance from the clearly very talented Hendrick and a creepily charismatic turn from horror stalwart O'Rear, this is a fun little short.
Speaking of gore, there's what seems like a rather random, but incredibly well-executed blood and guts sequence early in the movie. It was only after doing a little research that I discovered this was the conclusion of P.J. Starks' Preylude short, the story of a fifth student that was released to help generate some buzz for VoB. If you're at all interested in watching this awesome short film, you can catch it right here! Check it out!

While these sequences are most certainly all about building to their blood-drenched climaxes, Jakob Bilinski's 13 After Midnight is a Carpenter-like exercise in tension, a suspenseful chase sequence with eye-catching Argento-esque lighting. Written by Martin once again, this features another central pair of great performances from the cute and bookish Ward and legitimately funny Niezgodski. I think it's vital to stress that the character of Norman could have been massively irritating (how often is the 'wacky funny guy' the character you can't wait to see get a chainsaw enema in a horror flick?), so it's a testament to the charming Niezgodski's acting talent that you end up liking him by the time he exits the library. With a zigzag twist in the tale, this is a very strong effort that combines some cool visuals, interesting characters and some clever tension-building.
I've mentioned some fantastic acting talent thus far and arguably the strongest cast is that of Nathan Thomas Milliner's Encyclopedia Satanica. The segment (which is written by Milliner and Martin) feels like it is portrayed as the crown jewel of the anthology, given the prime final slot and a longer runtime. Having seen it, I can totally understand why it is treated as such. The plot is layered, it deals with some wonderfully dark and deep themes and, given a little breathing room in which to tell its story, is a creepy and compelling short. First, let's talk about the solid trio of leads. Putting it simply, Farley is excellent. I wasn't familiar with her work prior to watching Volumes of Blood, but you can be assured that I will be looking out for her from now on. 
As brilliant as Farley is, it was Reynolds who best impressed me. This is an actor with real gravitas, whose delivery was impeccable. In a movie full of great performances, his stands out. Kudos sir!
Finally Roach adds some seriously sinister creepiness to his role. Marvellous work!
Like all the best ghost stories, this segment has a unique and timeless feel, not least due to Farley's quirky costume. With some fine scares (the creepy devil mask stands out as particularly memorable) and a nice pace, plus some cool visuals, this is a barnstormer of a chapter with an excellent conclusion.
Yet, for me, arguably the finest segment of the whole movie was P.J. Stark's black-and-white Ghastly. Largely without dialogue, this is a fine example of cultivating a scare through tension and suspense. The story is simple, and Phillips gives an assured performance, but here it is the camera that does the vast majority of the work. With some nightmarish and decidedly unsettling imagery, combined with some clever framing and editing, this is a genuinely frightening short. One of the characters jokingly mentions Insidious as he dismisses it, and I suppose some comparisons can be drawn between the eerie, black-clad phantoms in each story, but I found it more reminiscent of J-Horror, especially the Ju-On: The Grudge series. For those who don't know, I adore Takashi Shimizu's Grudge movies so this is strong praise indeed. I'd love to see Starks put together a feature-length American J-Horror-style flick (A-Horror?). Fingers crossed!
Speaking of Starks, his work in Lee Vervoort's That's A Wrap section of the movie (it's the wraparound story, see what they did there?) is very nearly show stealing. I'm talking laugh-out-loud hilarious, especially in a scene that smacks of great improv (I shall be saying 'Bring your A-Game, not your Ass Game' for some time after witnessing the side-splitting way in which Starks delivers the line). The finale gives the talent behind the cameras an opportunity to strut their stuff in front of the lens and, for the most part, they handle it admirably in a fun, gory slasher sequence. 
So we've got some smart and cool stories, a uniformly great cast and a versatile mix of genres from torture p0rn to campfire ghost story. What else could I possibly rave about? How about the super-assured direction from all five helmers and D.P. Bonnell's eye-catching, visually striking cinematography!
Despite its pretty small budget, Volumes of Blood looks amazing. These are talented filmmakers with real vision and a determination to make — and love of — great horror movies. I think they did a good job of it too.

THE WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): While the movie's plan to set all of its stories in the one location is an interesting gimmick (and I'm sure it certainly helped to keep the budget under control), it does come with some drawbacks.
First, while the filmmakers do their best to give each section a very different look (from the black and white of Ghastly to the garish lighting of 13 After Midnight and even the yellow motif of Encylopedia Satanica), unfortunately the rows upon rows of bookshelves become a little repetitive.
Don't get me wrong, it's an atmospheric setting, but it loses a little lustre after some time. 
Sadly this repetitiveness is not helped by the fact that each of the stories starts from one of two set-ups: frazzled student trying to get an assignment finished late at night or lone librarian attempting to close up for the evening. These are good starting points, but I can't help but wonder if there was something else that could have been used? Thankfully the stories do differ significantly once they get going, so there is less repetition than there may first seem and the plotlines and strong casts are more than good enough to overcome any set/location deja vu.
I have been very complimentary towards the acting, however, it wasn't always so polished. There were a few amateurs in the That's A Wrap segment (which is understandable, after all, these are people that usually work on the other side of the lens) and every now and then there was a little wobble with delivery. Luckily these are quite few and far between — and the less experienced performers tend to get less screentime than those who are more accomplished — so there's no real barrier to enjoying the movie.

THE VERDICT: Volumes of Blood is a blast! It's a fantastic example of what an anthology movie can offer — a variety of creepy tales to suit any taste, brought to life by some seriously talented filmmakers and actors. It's clear that the folks over at Verite Cinema are sitting on a wealth of promising directors and I shall watch them over the years ahead with great interest. This is an easy recommendation for any fans of portmanteau tales, or even those who just want to see some up and coming genre talent. Check it out, you won't regret it. 

Now can we please get the rest of Rod and Linda's slasher tale as a feature? Pretty please????

For more information on the movie, head over to Volumes of Blood's official Facebook page. While you're there, you should definitely give it a Like too, these guys deserves it. 

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Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.

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