"Bruno Renat" (Ruben Rox)
The latest release from the Oregon-based Bloody Valley Films is a loose anthology (running a little over an hour) featuring several short subjects and some gag coming attractions in between. The whole thing is so bizarrely structured and so incredibly disjointed that you'll either be entertained at the gleeful randomness of the events as they play out or irritated by the lack of explanation and its refusal to flesh out the plot or characters. I guess I felt a little of both at times, though this is overall a little more interesting than most other micro-budget horrors I've seen. The same actors play multiple parts in the different stories, parts are in color and in black-and-white, parts are in slow-motion, parts are repeated, parts are reversed and the footage appears to have been filmed using three or four different cameras; some is shot digitally and at other times videotaped.
After a brief preview of "Chubby Killer," our first story, "Rest Stop," begins. Photographer Lena (Lisa Armosino Morris), bikini model Libby (Catherine Franklin), text-a-holic Denise (Rachel Wise) and Vince (the director), who had a burrito that didn't agree with him, stop at a secluded rest area for a bathroom break. Lena wanders off into the woods to take photos, Libby decides to work on her tan, Vince takes a walk and Denise eventually has to try to round everyone up so they can leave. While she's out searching, Denise stumbles upon a grave with a red pipe sticking out of it... and then hears a female voice coming from inside. The voice tells her she was falsely accused of witchcraft and has been buried down there... ever since the early 18th Century! Denise brushes it off as a "redneck prank," but then very weird things begin happening. Many of those weird things seem to have no significance whatsoever.
There's a teddy bear that starts one place and ends up somewhere else. Plants move behind people. Something (a bird? a ghost?) comes out of a birdhouse and scares one of the girls. Something passes by characters, they acknowledge whatever it is, it moves on and it's never revealed what or who it was. People run around all over the place and end up at the same spot. One girl falls, hits her head on a tombstone, (I think) dies, gets back up and seems to be a ghost from there on out. Another of the girls hears a man's deep voice calling her name. (What man... ?) Vince and Libby end up taking off in the car, just leaving the other two women (whose fates aren't quite made clear to either Vince or the audience) there. This ends anti-climatically, but that's only because the story continues again at a later juncture.
Next up is a brief faux preview for "Return of the Chubby Killer," which features a guy getting his face slammed into a cake. "Guardian of the Woods" - which appears to have been shot in the same locations as "Rest Stop" - follows. A TV news crew, including reporter Natasha McGrath (Franklin again), cameraman Wade (Kyle Cardenas) and crewman Olen (Rox again) show up in the woods to shoot some Halloween special. A couple of female joggers; Betsy (Cara Mattern) and DeeDee (Wise again), are also there. Some of them decide to throw their trash on the ground and then park caretaker Carl Ziegler (David Hoffmann), a man who seems to possess supernatural powers, decides to punish them. He then goes around killing off the offenders. A tree limb is stuck in a hand and through a head, part of a face is clawed off and someone's head is bashed against a tree.
Next up is a preview for "Chubby Killer III: Blood Shack." Afterward, we cut back to the "Guardian" segment (hey... I already told you this structure is bizarre!) with "The Séance: Guardian of the Woods 2: Natasha's Revenge," which is set a month after the other portion. Presumably Olen was the only one to survive the "guardian" (the fate of the male cameraman is left completely open). That is, until he's attacked and killed by reanimated videotape (?) before hopping in the shower. Natasha's brother Paul (Randy Robinson) has a séance to contact his sister's spirit to find out what happened to her. He ends up on the ground and is pulled backward [REC] style. The clock rolls back a few minutes and both Paul and Olen are back again and some of the same things happen again. A delusion? A dream? Reality? A mix of all three?
Next up we get footage from "Chubby Killer: The Uncut, Uncensored Collectors Edition" ("The version banned in 641 Countries!!!"), where a reporter (Lucien Eisenach) tells us about the legendary killer Henry Schilling, who murdered people simply because they were overweight. Henry - along with several other patients - has managed to escape from a nuthouse and is now on the prowl. One of the escapees, who thinks a piece of wood is a cell phone, gouges out a girl's eye with a stick and then smashes another girl on the back of the head with rocks and then runs off. Finally, "Rest Stop II" concludes the first segment with some Franklin bikini action and the Vince character going back to where the witch is buried to try to stop the curse.
This is all rather scattershot, some of the horror / action scenes are awkwardly choreographed and a few of the editing cuts seem rather abrupt, but the actors are mostly likable, the photography and appreciation for the outdoor scenery in some segments is nice and I wasn't bored watching it, although I was sometimes confused. What I perhaps liked best here is the fact that each of the three main segments boasts a genuinely good central idea. A low-budget franchise really could be spun from the concept of a serial killer targeting overweight people and it would be both fun and novel; sort of the antithesis of your usual slasher flick; a subgenre which almost exclusively casts young, thin people as the main targets. I'd like to see it expanded upon further than what you see here. Likewise, the "Rest Stop" and "Guardian" segments both center around good concepts rife with potential. The reanimated, still-buried witch speaking through a pipe in the former is something I've never seen before and the environmentally-conscious killer in the latter is a fine villain to focus a slasher flick around. The ideas are certainly here. However, they're not elaborated upon enough to realize their full potential. The penny-pinching surrealistic touches and playing around with the concepts of time, place and standard story structure maintain a certain level of interest throughout, but expansion upon the central themes, plot-lines and characters are needed to elevate the material to the next level.