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Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories (Movie Review)

Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories (Movie Review)
01.17.2017by: Cody Hamman
7 10

PLOT: A real estate agent reveals the dark history of a house to prospective buyers in this horror anthology, which features eight stories from seven different directors.

REVIEW: Horror anthology sequels will sometimes have less stories than their predecessors, but VOLUMES OF BLOOD: HORROR STORIES, the follow-up to last year's festival favorite VOLUMES OF BLOOD, takes the opposite route. While the first movie had five segments, this one bests it by three. 

That's not the only category in which you could say that it bests the previous VOLUMES. There wasn't a lot of time between the two productions, but in that time the quality took a quantum leap forward, as this movie looks and sounds substantially better than the one that came before it. This was still a low budget independent production, but there are parts of HORROR STORIES that look absolutely incredible.

One of the best looking segments is right up front, director Nathan Thomas Milliner's "Murder Death Killer". The movie had just begun and I was already truly stunned by it - the quality of the image, the camera angles, the drone shot. We're introduced to a trio of thieves who are plotting to rob a warehouse that's said to be the stalking grounds of an undead slasher, and we spend a surprising amount of time with these characters. "Murder Death Killer" isn't so quick to get to the point and there's a lot of banter, but the screen presence of Barbie Clark as tough girl Vallie and Warren Ray as her cohort Dick made this slightly-too-long segment interesting to watch. I can't decide if Ray reminds me more of Jerry Reed or Bo Hopkins.

The dialogue packed with references and foul language eventually leads to the revelation that this is a "movie within the movie"; this stuff at the warehouse is in a Rob Zombified remake of an '80s slasher and a pair of theatre goers (Milliner himself and his regular collaborator Kevin Roach) have an amusingly over-the-top negative reaction to it in a segment called "Haters", which is directed by VOLUMES OF BLOOD creator P.J. Starks. I once knew someone who stuck an ad for a movie they didn't like in a urinal so they could piss on it, and I thought that was going too far. Milliner's character goes even further than that.

When all is said and done the "Murder Death Killer" / "Haters" combo turns out to be over 20 minutes long and it's a fun stretch of the movie, but one which feels like it could have been cut down a bit.

Next up is "Trick or Treat" from director Sean Blevins, which captures a nice Halloween atmosphere while a slasher stalks the streets of a town during trick or treating hours, with the segment directly tying into the library bloodbath in the previous film. This is a story that I felt better about an hour or so later in the film, when the baffling ending got some sort of an explanation. But even when it felt unfulfilling, I was impressed by a certain shot of busted teeth mixed with candy corn.

Finally, when more than 30 minutes have passed, we actually get to the wraparound story, director James Treakle's "A Killer House". How many anthology stories can you name that don't start the wraparound storytelling until after the 30 minute mark? I'm not sure about this structure, because I was starting to feel frustrated by the time we reached the real estate agent giving a young couple a New Year's Day tour of the house where most of the film's stories are set.

Not only are the stories set in this house, but they also tend to be set around some kind of notable date: John William Holt's "Feeding Time" occurs on the day before Thanksgiving, Jon Maynard's "Blood Bath" is set on Father's Day, Justin Seaman's "The Deathday Party" happens on a resident's birthday. Over the course of these stories, we're presented with a "monster" that lives in a closet, a seemingly haunted bath tub that kills anyone who tries to use it, and a happy couple of serial killers. The success of these segments varies, as sometimes the concepts are better than the way they're executed. I would say "Blood Bath" was my least favorite of the bunch, simply because the just didn't quite work for me. "Feeding Time" had the best core idea, while "The Deathday Party" had a nicely dark sense of humor. The performances are good across the board, with Shelby Taylor Mullins in particular making a strong impression as Mallory, a character featured in two different segments.

The standout of the house-set stories for me was "Fear, For Sinners Here", which is set on Christmas Eve and is another segment directed by Milliner. Milliner again delivers interesting visuals, as the color red really pops here. But again, this is a segment that feels a bit long, especially since it largely consists of a woman named Carol (Jessica Schroeder) wordlessly going about the house. When a woman played by Julie Streble shows up, the segment gets a powerful payoff.

Once all of these tales have been told, it's time for "A Killer House" to wrap up and tie off some loose ends before ending the film in much the same way the first VOLUMES OF BLOOD ended - with a gloriously bloody massacre sequence.

VOLUMES OF BLOOD: HORROR STORIES has its ups and downs, but overall it is a very impressive achievement for all of the filmmakers involved, and Starks has to be commended for being able to put all of this together, enlisting the help of nearly one hundred indie artists to pull off this endeavor. VOLUMES OF BLOOD was already impressive, and HORROR STORIES takes things to a whole new level while being a lot of fun to watch. The criticism I've had a few times already for some parts of the film does apply to the film as a whole as well - at 119 minutes, I find it to be a bit long, but at least that time is filled with plenty of good ideas and bloodshed.

Both VOLUMES OF BLOOD films are worth checking out, and if you've seen and enjoyed the first I would definitely encourage you to seek out the second. Despite having some issues with it, I was still left feeling that HORROR STORIES is even better than the first VOLUMES OF BLOOD.

Extra Tidbit: VOLUMES OF BLOOD: HORROR STORIES is currently making the festival rounds.

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