Released: 7th March (DVD release)
Seen: 10th April
One thing I’m noticing about films I am being sent to review is that a lot of people want to try the Anthology film as an early work, and I totally get why. It’s a good way to get a bunch of first-time filmmakers to make little short films and string them together without needing to come up with a 90-minute long plot. You just need a good wrap around and a basic idea of the kind of film you’re making and voila, you’ve got yourself an anthology. It’s really hard to do a great anthology film though, I’d probably say Creepshow and VHS are the gold standards of the genre and over the last few weeks, we’ve stumbled upon some anthology films that would probably just barely make the Bronze ranking… well, today I have an easy Silver medalist of Anthology films, it needs a bit of work to get to gold but it’s still wildly impressive on its own merits.
Necrologies consists of 5 short films and a wraparound, the wraparound being the least interesting part even though it has objectively the best performance. The wraparound features Ludovic (Alexis Wawerka), a blogger who does what every annoying blogger does and sneaks into a place he doesn’t belong in order to get content. In this case, he snuck into a cemetery that is run by the delightfully bonkers Le gardien de cimetière (Jean-Claude Dreyfus) who threatens to call the cops but, after some begging from Ludovic, decides instead to read Ludovic some stories about the people who have been buried in the cemetery. Each of our stories talks about how a different resident of the cemetery died and it’s a pretty basic structure to work with that helps us get some fun little segments. The performances between the two in the wraparounds is good, but Jean-Claude steals every line with his delightfully over the top delivery. He looks like he’s trying to eat the celluloid as the movie is playing, it’s a delight. They introduce every one of the stories we’ll be hearing and for the sake of my own sanity I’m using the translated title that’s provided in the movie, not the long French title that is listed on the IMDB page because I’m very bad with languages other than English… some would even say I’m bad with English.
The first story, dubbed The Call Of Death, plays out in a very familiar fashion. A woman stuck at home on her own gets a mysterious phone call that starts innocuous and ends up being terrifying, leading her to have serious anxiety about who is calling her and just what they might do in the event that they get inside her house. It’s very reminiscent of the opening scene of Scream, albeit done on a much smaller budget and it plays with a lot of the same very effective ideas that made the Scream opening so effective. It does throw one hell of a weird twist in at the end that I genuinely appreciated, I was so prepared to just watch a Scream variation that when they pulled off that twist, I was genuinely happy.
The second story, dubbed The Beast, plays with the idea that sometimes you shouldn’t stop for random hitchhikers you find on the side of the road. In this case, the main character stops and chases after what he believes to be a woman in peril but turns out to be something very different. This one is probably the weakest of the bunch, almost like it’s too normal compared to the others, This one is a standard creature feature with a monster in the woods and people trying to not get killed by it. It’s very quick and effective, has some creative shots but its highlight is the makeup effects used to create the main creature.
Indeed, the main reason you should probably look up this film is just for the makeup effects. Good practical effects are rare these days, everyone leans in on CGI but the practical stuff has a certain charm and the stuff that’s on display is really impressive. Everything from the makeup to create the look of the beast (or later creatures) to the gory deaths are all very well done by the obscenely talented makeup department. Throughout this film, they bring their A-game and really make this stand out among the indie films I’ve been given. Anyway, back to the stories.
The third story, dubbed The Return of the Lizardmen is about a weird little cult of people who dress like ducks known as the Duckmen who try to perform a ceremony to send the Lizardpeople back down to the centre of the earth because, naturally, the lizard people are the Duckmen’s mortal enemies. It’s the found footage entry into the film and does a lot with the format but it also includes people screaming in horror while wearing Donald Duck bills on their faces so it’s amazing. While a lot campier than the entries before it (though not the campiest entry this film has), it has a pretty spectacular end sequence and the glorious image of people with large duck heads doing assorted rituals… it’s quackers. No, I’m not ashamed about that pun.
The fourth story, dubbed A Hell Of A Bargain, is my absolute favourite. It borrows heavily from the core idea of Tales from the Crypt, namely the idea of Just Desserts which was how all the stories in that classic series were set up. In this story a real estate agent forces an elderly woman who lives alone with her pet, Pozu, to sell her house. In the process he accidentally kills her and Pozu tries to get his revenge. Pozu is genuinely the best thing, a weird creation that’s equal parts creepy and silly. It’s not exactly well made but I was smiling every time Pozu was on screen just messing with the real estate agent. This is campy as hell in the best way, it’s well set up and shot perfectly considering they had to work with such a tiny puppet and the entire thing just delighted me. I want 12 more movies with Pozu, Pozu is my everything now.
The final segment, dubbed The Eye Of Taal, is almost its own anthology film within another anthology film. It’s about a woman who keeps drawing this weird creature she sees in her dreams and as we look over each picture we cut to a black and white nightmare of this mutant cowboy doing a spot of murder. It doesn’t really have much to it beyond that but the creature design and gore effects really help make it work well. It’s a bit of a letdown after the pure joy of the story before it, but it has enough good visuals to make it work.
To my genuine delight, Necrologies is a really good indie horror anthology with several great visuals and performances. Sure it has a few problems, the editing could use a little bit of work (constant cuts to black for no reason just looks lazy) and at 75 minutes you almost want them to either add another segment or just pump up the stuff that’s already there to reach a proper 90 minutes but considering what’s there, it’s genuinely impressive work that has enough to delight an audience. Hail Pozu, I had a good time here.