One of the best things about being an independent film reviewer is that you get the chance to try and make sure that good films don’t end up flying under the radar. Let’s face it — hundreds of worthy films are made every year but many of them never get the attention that they deserve. They get pushed to the side while critics concentrate on the big studio films with the huge budgets and stars who are usually a year or two away from starring in their own reality show. Far too often, truly independent films get pushed to the side.
That’s why I love reviewing independent films. If I can encourage you to seek out (and yes, you do have to be willing to make the effort to seek out good films) and support these films by watching them, then I’ve accomplished something more with my writing than just indulging my own ego. Of course, the independent films that I recommend have to be good and they have to be entertaining. If you’re just recommending a film to be nice or because you want to get quoted in a press release, then you’re doing it wrong. You have to be honest in your reviews because only then will your readers have any reason to believe you when you recommend a film to them.
Take, for instance, Volumes of Blood. This new horror anthology is currently making the rounds of the festival circuit. I was lucky enough to get a chance to view a screener. Was it good? You bet it was. Was it entertaining? Yes, it was. And that’s why I’m recommending that you keep an eye out for Volumes of Blood and that you make the effort to see it. The fact that recommending Volumes of Blood also means that I get a chance to support a truly independent film is just a nice fringe benefit.
Volumes of Blood is a horror anthology, a collection of short but loosely connected horror stories. It starts with a nicely satiric scene of two “teenagers” being menaced in a parked car by your standard knife-wielding maniac. (I put teenagers in quotes because it’s obvious that neither actor is a teenager and, even more importantly, the film goes out of its way to make sure that you see that neither one of these two are teenagers.) This scene of slasher film menace leads to a college classroom where a professor with a truly impressive pompadour talks about urban legends.
(No, I’m not going to tell you how the film gets from a slasher film to college classroom, other than to say that it’s a lot of fun.)
We then switch scenes again, to a public library. Four students are making up urban legends of their own. Each story is set in the library, each story features a twist at the end, and each story both celebrates and pokes some knowing fun at the conventions of the horror genre. The first story deals with an energy drink that will literally blow your mind. The second story — and my personal favorite — is a ghost story. (Seriously, I jumped when the ghost first appeared. The entire film really makes good use of that library setting, with its long rows of books and creepy atmosphere.) The third story is a monster tale. And then the fourth story deals with what happens when a depressed librarian makes the mistake of wishing that her dead boyfriend could come back to life.
(The fourth story also features my favorite line. When asked if he really believes in demons and witchcraft, a character replies, “I’m Irish luv, we invented this shite.”*)
And then, after the fourth story, there’s a huge twist and I really wish I could tell you all about it because it’s really clever and it leads to some of the film’s best metatextual moments. But I’m not going to spoil it for you because I want you to track down this movie and be surprised by it like I was. So, I’ll just say that you won’t see it coming and it elevates the entire film.
It may seem strange to use a word like “likable” when talking about a horror movie but that really is the best way to describe Volumes of Blood. It’s a film that was obviously made by people who love horror films and who understand that the best response to someone mentioning The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is to reply, “You don’t have to go to Texas for a chainsaw massacre.” The film is full of references to other classic horror movies and it even mentions an imaginary film — The Dewey Deathmal System — that I personally would love to see.
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* My apologies because I originally misquoted that line. It’s still my favorite line, though!