Directed by: Andrew N. Shearer (Blood Witch), Justin Channell (Mike Wuz Here), Chris LaMartina (A Foot in the Grave) & Henrique Couto (Slay Ride)
Written by: Justin Channell, Henrique Couto, Zane Crosby, Jimmy George, Chris LaMartina, Josh Lively & Andrew N. Shearer
Starring: Izzie Harlow, Ruby LaRocca, Countess Samela, T.J. Rogers & Sara Cole
Reviewed by: Brett H.
“It’s kind of like Pumpkinhead meets Encino Man!”
One of the finest ways to keep in touch with the indie horror scene is to pursue any anthology you might come across, especially one like Faces of Schlock that features a wide array of talent spanning all aspects of the low budget filmmaking process. If the first short is poor, there are a few more chances at redemption in the running time and an anthology’s simple attraction of not knowing what’s coming next always keeps my interest in check. As the credits above indicate, this anthology can tell you a lot about many artists in a short amount of time and for those of us with DVDs of all genres stacked high on the wall (or in the Oh, the Horror! Boys’ cases, covering ours completely), this is one way of wearing your heart on your sleeve in between showings of El Topo, Wild Strawberries and Onibaba in checking out the young talents of the horror industry. It seems you always come back where you came from, as I’ve come back to horror time and time again though my film tastes have blossomed radically. Hollywood can do what the independents cannot, and this is a primary detractor to the mainstream. But, those of us on the Schlock side of things know that the indies can do what Hollywood cannot just the same.
We are introduced to our four pieces of Schlock by the lovely, satirical, Slutpira (Izzie Harlow), a hammy hostess straight out of the old public access TV days. She first brings us Blood Witch, a chilling tale of an ancient sorceress branded hellspawn in Spain in the 1700s, whom is conjured via black magic into modern days to reap vengeance upon the every demand of a gothic teenager. Second up is Mike Wuz Here, a tongue-in-cheek tale of a movie theatre employee who commits suicide after losing the job he loves, only to be confined to the theatre in his afterlife for eternity. Next to the plate is One Foot in the Grave, the silliest gag in the bunch about a dancer who loses a foot and a backwoods witch who just so happens to need one for an immortality potion. Closing Faces of Schlock much like Tales from the Crypt began is Slay Ride, a slasher tale of love, betrayal and vengeance on Christmas Eve.
Blood Witch begins in Spain hundreds of years ago with appropriate black and white photography and subtitles that sets the tone perfectly for what is to come, capturing the grindhouse-vibe of Spanish horror films of yesteryear very well. I’ve always felt Spanish horror was like a DQ Blizzard of Universal mood, Hammer color and then-modern 70s violence. Since Spanish filmmakers were prohibited by law to make films like this until the 1970s, it almost feels like this was a lost piece and tapped into my perspective of the country’s horrors nicely. When this witch is brought to present times, she’s not really the demon we expected, throwing a nice curveball into the plot made necessary by the fact that the girl controlling her is a twisted, disgusting human being. She’s actually kind of cute, but director Andrew N. Shearer puts a wrench in your little goth chick fantasy right away as she herself fantasizes about being beaten while she masturbates on her period. This one’s pretty vile.
Mike Wuz Here is a dark comedy featuring a unique cluster of characters in the most dialogue-driven effort of the piece. Like Slutpira in the host segments/wraparound, the actors place heavy emphasis on parodying the stereotypes of the attributes of the people they play. The shady theatre owner who shouldn’t fool anyone with his BS yet obviously fooled enough people to get to the head of the business exemplifies this to a T and his “extreme” employee is straight out of Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle if Jonah Hill played the assholes heckling Roldy & Kumar at the convenience store. Eventually, theatre workers get sick of this ghost being around and vote to get rid of him. Just how this plot was expected to hatch since Mike is confined to the theatre’s halls as a restless spirit is beyond me. I guess they were hoping he’d take the Sylvia Browne approach and just head for the light, as if it would really be that easy for the victim of a suicide. Wit is the main attraction here, even as the blood and guts pile up towards the end.
A Foot in the Grave is so ridiculous not even Slutpira could really endorse it as horror fans will either hate or have a field day with this tale that seems like it could only have found its way in via the ragged pages of the worst Tales from the Crypt comic knock-off in history. The comic relief works to an extent, but it also is the black sheep of the bunch seeing as the Slutpira segments provide enough parody and the film as a whole has comedic elements throughout. Troma fans likely will be interested in the few dozen jokes involving feet and a possessed, stop motion limb making its way about is too outlandish to not just sit back and laugh at.
Slay Ride veers back into Blood Witch territory with the story of a misunderstood (and very hot), inked up atheist chick left alone by her parents over Christmas with barely any heat and no phone. She’s to be tutored in science by a former nerd friend and has to get firewood from a backwoods psychopath, so it’s fitting that she spends the time getting smashed on straight booze before she gets carved up by som madman, right? This is probably the best portion of the anthology in terms of drama and plot. Towards the end, a predictable twist and out of nowhere deus ex machina would feel out of place in any anthology but in Faces of Schlock, it’s fitting. Ruby Larocca certainly isn’t shy in front of the camera, and God bless her for that.
Independent Entertainment presents Faces of Schlock on DVD with a 16x9 transfer that varies in quality, but is decent given the budget. Sound fares the same, but oftentimes the mics wuzn't here in Mike Wuz Here, making it hard to hear the actors at times. Supplements wise, the red carpet is rolled out with many featurettes and blooper reels that amounts to well over an hour of entertainment for those souls who braved the silly picture and just need to find out more about the production. Faces of Schlock is a comic book-like tale of disgust and hilarity that claims to be an homage to 80s horror, but I think the many tips of the hat go back even further, despite the Creepshows and Elviras of the decade. I wouldn’t recommend Faces of Schlock to just anyone, but to independent vets out there who have seen the worst and still stick with it, this is some budgetless Schlock worth taking in once. Rent it!
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