Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Review: Trapped Ashes

Trapped Ashes (2006)
Genre: Horror
Format: Netflix HD Stream
Directors: Joe Dante/Ken Russell
Sean S. Cunningham/Monte Hellman/John Gaeta

Isn't it interesting that there are not a lot of new horror movie anthologies out there? You would think that it would be easy enough to find three or more short horror tales and then cram them up into a feature film. Perhaps the filmmakers know that it's not as simple as things may seem. To pull off a successful horror anthology, you do need to worry about things like the overall pacing and also, each story segment has to be impactful so that the audience will stay interested along the ride. Trapped Ashes is able to cope with the former well but falls a little flat in the story telling department.

A bunch of people found themselves trapped in a large room of an old haunted house set-piece during their Hollywood studio tour. Their tour guide suggested that each of the guests share a personal true horror story to mimic a scene that took place in that very room and maybe, just maybe, they would be able to escape their confinement. The first tale started things off strong with a story about a pair of killer breasts: it's quite a disgusting body horror sequence that is also very humorous. The second tale involves a couple's travel to Japan and how the wife was disturbed by a demon from hell but even the authentic Japanese milieu cannot save this one from utter mediocrity. The most shocking part to this second tale is that it was directed by the Sean S. Cunningham! The fact that he replaced potential gross-out live actor sequences with bad anime is a testament that he has definitely lost his horror touch. The third tale doesn't fare as well either. It's about two good friends and a woman that comes between their friendship. The problem with it is that it's a bit too long with very little narrative fluctuation. Thankfully, the lull from the last two tales becomes a great setup for the explosive fourth tale that involves the story of a surrogate, non-biological twin. What is most impressive about this tale is that it is broodingly dark and depressingly emotional, almost scary even but most definitely very creepy. The actual trapped tourists framing device also has an interesting though somewhat predictable finish to its own story.

At the end of the movie, I was really baffled by the difference in quality between the two effective stories and their weaker counterparts. Surely sometime during the film-making process, it became obvious that the other two tales were just not up to par. Trapped Ashes is worth your time just for the first and last twin-related stories. If the other two tales were just as strong, this could have easily become a modern horror classic.

RATING: 3 out of 5

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