The recently revived anthology format is a fad I can truly get behind because in the last few years they’ve produced some of the genres most ridiculous and insane stories. It’s horror’s latest obsession—a collection of short stories molded into one, deliciously disturbing little film that eventually ties it all together. Directing tandem Chris St. Croix and David Buchert have done just that with their new film In the Dark, a wicked slice of low budget horror that all starts when two female assassins hiding out in a rundown motel find a bag of unmarked videotapes and enter a twisted world inhabited by an axe-wielding maniac, a murderous matchmaker and a sin-slaying creature from hell.
In the Dark is made up of three short films with an outside narrative tying it all together, so it’s a very traditional anthology that pulls inspiration from the classics in that it’s this wonderful brew of bloody horror with stories that stretch across the genre and a segment that is probably one of the most outrageous films we’re likely to see this year—the nasty little gem To Be Loved.
It all starts with The Keeper, a fast-paced supernatural haunter that introduces The Creature, a behemoth of a monster that makes you pay for your crimes, so it’s a good thing that all of the characters in this particular story are very deserving of a horrible death. The idea is that everyone eventually gets what they deserve, so you can probably imagine what The Creature does to a few murderous assholes—it’s bloody and awesome. The story itself does suffer, however, in that there’s just not enough of it to be engaging; the idea is certainly there, it just takes a backseat to the visuals and gore (that’s not such a bad thing, though).
The film then transitions to a very grounded, traditional-style slasher story, which was a nice change of pace after The Keeper just covered everything in the red stuff. And where The Keeper might have suffered in its story, Dummy spends plenty of time building a nice little origin story that adds a wonderful layer to the narrative and its villain. The tone and story is both formulaic and familiar, which really works here because it has all the goods of a slasher flick but none of the fat to go along with it. It eventually becomes this cat-and-mouse thriller with the villain stalking his prey in the boiler room of an abandoned Hospital, which to me was the real star of the short—that entire scene was stunning and a real standout moment for the anthology. Dummy is a very calculated story with familiar slasher beats and stunning imagery that bring it to life under the screams of terror and a nasty villain with an axe.
But despite plenty of murderous mayhem through the first two segments, nothing can quite prepare you for In the Dark’s final gem To be Loved. It is nasty, insanity-fueled B-movie brilliance driven by some wonderful practical effects and a premise that is nothing short of absurd. The combination of weird characters and gooey practical effects really sets the tone, creating a wild atmosphere that feels like it was plucked right out of the ’80s. It’s just my kind of weird and it totally kicked my ass, if you can’t tell! The film is a psychological madhouse that sees a desperately lonely man looking for true love. And although it goes to some dark places, it retains this sense of lighthearted madness by injecting it with wacky characters and over-the-top gore gags that are are just awesome. Seriously, if you’re into some weird shit, this one is pure horror gold.
But like most anthologies, In the Dark’s weakest component was its tie-in story, The Motel, which really felt like a missed opportunity. The final moments of an anthology can add a special layer to the film as a whole, but this one just misses the mark in that regard. That said, in a sea of anthologies, In the Dark is a welcome surprise that only gets better with each segment, offering gnarly kills, wicked slashers, and one of the most awesomely bizarre matchmaking monsters… ever.