Trapped Ashes (DVD)
Reviewed by Uncle Creepy
Starring John Saxon, Jayce Bartok, Henry Gibson, Lara Harris, Dick Miller, Winston Rekert
Directed by Joe Dante (wrap-around story), Sean S. Cunningham (Jibaku), Ken Russell (The Girl With Golden Breasts), Monte Hellman (Stanley's Girlfriend), John Gaeta (My Twin - The Worm)
Distributed by Lionsgate Home Entertainment
I love anthology movies! The main reason? If you're bored by one tale, you can just chill out and wait a few minutes for the next one to begin. This usually creates a winning situation for the viewer. Especially when the people behind the short stories created such memorable genre fare as Friday the 13th, Gremlins, and Altered States. As soon as the DVD hit my hands, it went directly into my DVD player.
Trapped Ashes begins as all good anthologies should: with several people trapped inside a spooky place swapping terror tales. In this case our victims are incarcerated in an old house used for a horror movie called Hysteria, and the only way out is to dole out the goods on some type of horrific experiences that they've had. This flick has it all, man! Stories of necrophilia, insect kin, blood drinking ghouls, and even cannibalistic boobs! Yep, you read that right -- boobs that eat people. Saints be praised! Then there's the style of the movie! It appears to be straight out of EC Comics and is very reminiscent of the George Romero classic Creepshow! Oh, happy day! There was just one nagging question to be asked -- why after the first story did just about everything fall apart?
I don't think I've ever been so disappointed. Don't get me wrong. Joe Dante's wrap-around and the first yarn about the killer tits, Ken Russell's The Girl with the Golden Boobs, were amazingly fun, gory, and captivating, but things began to lose steam with our Japanese based necrophilia entry, Sean S. Cunningham's anime infused, Jibaku, which was just okay. From there the remaining tales, Monte Hellman's Stanley's Girlfriend, about an ancient ghoul who remains young by drinking the blood of her lovers, and John Gaeta's My Twin - The Worm, which told the story of a rather unique pregnancy, all but bored me to tears. By the time we got back to Dante's duties, all the energy of the first quarter of the film had completely disappeared, and the fun checked out.
The main problem here is that the last half of the movie is tonally unbalanced with the first, and it really slows the festivities to a crawl. Viewer will go from having a great time to checking their watches and yawning as the guilty pleasure, trashy horror tales get replaced with plodding, uninteresting, heavy-handed crap. I'm completely stymied. It's almost as if each director was on a drastically different page.
Lionsgate does, however, deliver quite a package in terms of supplemental material. First up is a commentary track that features writer Dennis Bartok and actors John Saxon, Rachel Veltri, Laura Harris, and Scott Lowell. Just like the film itself, by the later half the good times began to wane. It's as if even the participants knew something had gone awry. From there as a nifty bonus we get alternate longer cuts of two of the stories, The Girl with the Golden Breasts and Stanley's Girlfriend. Each clocks in at about a half an hour and offers a bit more for the viewer to sink his teeth into. Speaking of which, the alternate cut of The Girl with the Golden Breasts is void of any score and has some unfinished F/X shots. Still, it's light years better than sitting through a lengthier version of Stanley's Girlfriend, which by my estimation was too long as it was. From there we get making-of featurettes for each story that come in at around five to seven minutes each and about fourteen minutes of deleted scenes. Like I said ... pretty packing!
Trapped Ashes isn't the worst anthology ever made, but it's far from the best. The tragedy here is how good it started and how far it veered off course. My advice is to watch it for about half an hour and then get really friendly with your fast forward button.
2 1/2 out of 5
4 out of 5
Discuss Trapped Ashes in our Dread Central forums!