What is it about horror anthologies that piques our interests and satisfies us in such a fulfilling way? Yet, by the end of it, we are left with a feeling of emptiness, craving more of this format’s bite-sized storytelling. From the short stories penned by Edgar Allan Poe to Tales from the Crypt (either in comics or television) and The Twilight Zone; to Trick ‘R Treat, Creepshow, and Body Bags, the success and fascination with these tales appears to be rooted within the confines of its format. With very little fat– and little possibility of trailing off into irrelevant tangents– these films are trimmed down to the barest of essentials; more often than not, they are concise offering a rewarding payoff. While these segments steadily traverse through their plots they pull us into strange worlds, but by the end of it, everything happens so fast that these lucrative creations quickly make a run for it before we can assess what has happened, leaving behind a burning impression.
As I thought about some of my favorite horror anthology films– two of which have been mentioned in the previous paragraph– I began to get increasingly curious with the question, what was the first anthology horror film? Maybe for a lack of resources or a lack of effort, the one film I kept coming back to, and just so happens to be one that I admire, Dead Of Night, was all I could come up with.
Despite being a film from 1945, it is one of the few films from that era that I recommend to horror aficionados, because it doesn’t feel as dated and old-fashioned as some of its contemporaries. We forget sometimes how spoiled we are with our colored screens and “sophisticated” effects and forms of storytelling, yet Dead of Night remains a testament of horror that is both ahead of its time and feels uniquely modern. The film is about an architect who arrives to a party in an old house and is shocked to find that every person there, whom he’s never met, seem vaguely familiar; people he has seen in his dreams, as it turns out. As he recalls the strange dream to the guests, the other guests each share a story of the strange, mysterious, and unexplainable– perhaps the most iconic story involves a ventriloquist dummy. But what makes the film so structurally adept is not its format but its ending and how it ties everything together and feels complete instead of disjointed.
It’s strange that I would think of Dead of Night because as the final moments begin to bloom in Volumes of Blood (the film upon review) I experienced faint recollections of Dead of Night, especially structurally in how similar and complete the film feels despite falling under the conceit of the horror film anthology. Volumes of Blood seems to harbor a similar format as the aforementioned film, whether accidental or intended, it works and is one of the few anthology films that tie it’s stories together in a concise narrative rather than living under a thematic umbrella.
Volumes of Blood features a group of students at a library as they each create a modern urban legend while they top each other with differing and increasingly creative stories. There are a total of five stories, each more different than the next, but all taking place at the library. One is a tale about a Satanic Encyclopedia and the return of a deceased loved one; another deals with a possibly haunted ghost book; another is a devilishly light fare about a study session gone awry; and another study session involves a mysterious energy drink called Ka-Boom. The fifth and final segment will remain secret because it’s somewhat of a twist, but where it goes from there is truly a blast to watch and how it brings in the rest of the film into context is quite fascinating.
Volumes of Blood is a must-see for horror fans; it is a film that offers laughs, blood, and a well-crafted script; credit to that goes to writers, Todd Martin, Nathan Thomas Milliner, and P.J. Starks. It is surprising how engrossing and captivating this anthology flick really is, taking it a step beyond the genre norm and tying it up neatly– or messily depending on how you look at it. Volumes of Blood is a joy ride that knows no other way to stop but how it began, soaked in blood. From beginning to end the film refuses to let up for a moment and manages to entertain in the entirety of its running time.
The film features five bloody stories by directors P.J. Starks, Jakob Bilinski, Nathan Thomas Milliner, John Kenneth Muir, and Lee Vervoort, all directed within the confines of a library. Moreover, the film boasts a phenomenal score, by Tony McKee, that accentuates the various horror sub genres featured in the film.
What Verite Cinema, and the creators of The Unscripted Film School, have done is collected a fine cavalcade of talent into one sprawling epic love poem to anthology and independent horror film. Volumes of Blood, is a fun and bloody good time of unrelenting horror, violence, and talent all wrapped up together in a satisfying horror anthology.
We Are Indie Horror will leave you with teaser posters for the upcoming sequel. Volumes Of Blood: Horror Stories coming soon. The original is available on DVD and VOD.