TORONTO -- It would seem like a tantalizing proposition.
Take a quintet of filmmakers, including the presumed long-retired Ken Russell and Monte Hellman
, and let them loose in a haunted mansion picture that owes a tip of the shroud to classic horror anthologies like Dead of Night
and Tales From the Crypt
Alas, what should have been a twisted romp proves to be only fitfully entertaining -- a messy hodgepodge of styles and tones forced to co-exist by a cheesy wraparound segment furnished by Joe Dante.
Currently in the market for a distributor, this U.S.-Japan-Canada co-production could find a suitable home based on fan expectations, but, aside from the midnight movie circuit, DVD looks to be the logical resting place.
Shot in Vancouver, Los Angeles and Tokyo, the production gets under way on the backlot of venerated Ultra Studios, where a group of six strangers board a tour tram. With Henry Gibson as their eccentric guide, they end up finding themselves imprisoned on the House of Horrors set of a notorious '60s thriller called Hysteria
Just like in that movie, the captives will only get out alive if they relate their most terrifying, personal stories. Fortunately this bunch has got a couple of doozies.
The first, "The Girl With the Golden Breasts," promisingly sets the stage with signature Ken Russell kitsch involving an ingenue who has implant surgery with material that is neither silicon nor gel, but made from reprocessed human cadavers. While her new attributes prove to be a boon to her acting career they also happen to crave regular feedings of fresh human blood.
Next up, Friday the 13th
director Sean Cunningham
tries modern Japanese horror on for size -- it's an unsatisfactory fit -- with Jibaku
), about an American architect and his wife on vacation in Japan who discover the hanged body of a Buddhist monk and come under his supernatural spell.
By far the most stylized of the bunch, but lacking sufficient creepiness, is Stanley's Girlfriend
, contributed by Two-Lane Blacktop
director Hellman. Set in Hollywood circa 1957, the noir-tinged black-and-white segment is narrated by a swell-looking John Saxon
, who tells the story of a B-movie writer who befriends a budding director and, in short order, his insatiable girlfriend.
Rounding out the quartet is My Twin, the Worm
, for which visual effects supervisor John Gaeta (the Matrix
pictures) makes his directorial debut. It's an odd bit of business about a young woman who had shared her mother's womb with a six-foot-long tapeworm. While it was killed after her birth, it would definitely appear to be living on in spirit.
Unfortunately Dante's tongue-in-cheek connecting bits are neither moody nor campy enough for the requisite twist ending to create much of a jolt.
By the time the final story's told, even with a densely atmospheric score by composer Kenji (The Ring
) Kawai, Trapped Ashes
bears the stale scent of a failed pilot for a cable horror anthology series.