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Experiments in Terror, Vol. 3 - horror DVD review
EXPERIMENTS IN TERROR, VOL. 3 Unrated by the Motion Picture Association of America curledupdvd.com rating: 4 stars
Actors: Marie Losier, Guy Maddin, Mike Kuchar, J.X. Williams, Carey Burtt, Ben Rivers
Directors: Ben Rivers et al.   Distributor: Microcinema
DVD release: 31 March 2009   Runtime: 109 minutes (1 disc)
Format: Color, DVD-Video, NTSC
DVD features: Aspect ratio 1.33:1, Audio tracks (Dolby Digital Stereo - English), Short film It Gets Worse by Clifton Childree, Trailers for upcoming releases by Provocateur

From Microcinema International and Provocateur DVD comes a collection of six vastly different horror shorts (plus one extra). While the shorts vary in quality and style, overall the DVD collection is quite effective and highly recommended for horror buffs, as well as fans of experimental short films in particular.

In discussing the shorts presented on this disc, I've ranked them in order of personal preference:

Terror! (2007) by Ben Rivers is in actuality a collage of scenes from many horror classics and cult films (with focus primarily on the slasher films of the late 1970s and early '80s). The film is brilliantly edited, recycling through the many clichés of the genre (such as going into the spooky house/cabin/building alone) all the way to a nightmarish explosion of gory climaxes. Even though horror geeks like me will see scenes that they have already seen countless times, the film is so well put together that genuine suspense and scares are built. It is the overall best short on the collection because, while it does show the limitations of the genre, it also shows the genuinely strong emotional power at the core of a well-done horror film.

Satan Claus (1975) by J.X Williams. Though other shorts on this DVD are obviously of better quality, this 3-minute short is so creepy, hilarious and, well, cool that I had to rank it second. The film is simply a few scenes from a bizarre Mexican film titled Santa Claus (that was once featured in a brilliant episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000) peppered with scenes from the horror classic Deep Red. However, the backstory of the film makes it even more appealing: apparently, Williams made the film as a "present" to his boss, who had decided to lay off Williams from his camera operator job at a movie theater the week of Christmas. On his last day, he ran this short right before the children's matinee and then left his boss to fend off the numerous outraged parents!

Loma Lynda: The Red Door (2008) by Jason Bognacki is actually an extended trailer for his film. However, the trailer itself is extremely unsettling and nightmarish. Set in a dark hotel room in Hollywood, the film is part David Lynch psychological mind trip and part Dario Argento blood-drenched giallo. The short seems to be about a beautiful young woman being brutalized in a hotel room, only to be rescued and to exact revenge on her attacker through her "fantasy twin." This short is brutal, nightmarish and not for the squeamish.

Born of the Wind (1961) by Mike Kuchar does not go for the scares as much as some other films on this disc yet works as a rather beautiful and haunting love story. The simple plot: a scientist discovers that human blood will bring to life a 2000-year-old mummy princess. He instantly falls in love with the beautiful princess, but he discovers her condition will deteriorate rapidly unless she receives a constantly supply of fresh blood. The ending is surprising and effective.

The Psychotic Odyssey of Richard Chase (1999) by Carey Burtt is essentially a one-gimmick short. Using Barbie and Ken dolls, Burtt retells the horrific crimes of Richard Chase. He also, using a disturbingly distorted voice, narrates the film and uses the dolls to reenact Chase's gruesome crimes. Though rather amateurish (and again, "one note"), the overall effect is still quite chilling.

Manuelle Labor (1999) by Marie Losier and Guy Maddin. Though Maddin is clearly the most well-regarded filmmaker seen on this DVD, his short is overall the least effective - mainly because it is not horror. The film, shot as an early 20 silent about a woman giving birth to two bodiless arms, is more an exercise in Maddin's bizarre black comedy than a true horror film. It's worth a look but doesn't really belong on this disc.

Again, this DVD is worth a look by horror film buffs like me, especially for Terror! and the hilarious Satan Claus. Fans of experimental films will find much to enjoy here as well, for these films are strikingly different in the means by which they explore the boundaries of the genre.

  • A short film entitled It Gets Worse (2008) by Clifton Childree, which is also more a gross exercise in black comedy than a horror film.
  • Trailers for upcoming releases by Provocateur.
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reviewed by Trent Daniel
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