February 23, 2020

Volumes of Blood – Horror Anthology Done Right

Volumes Of Blood - Official PosterWritten by P.J. Starks, Todd Martin and Nathan Thomas Milliner, Volumes of Blood is a horror anthology that weaves together five tales of dread directed by five independent horror directors.

Volumes of Blood Summary

Five tales of dread interwoven when a sociology student gathers several of his friends at the local library to help him create a new urban legend with deadly consequences; Lily is in for a late night of researching and needs something to keep her going. It isn’t until she’s approached by a mysterious stranger that her luck may change… for the worse; a typical night of work for a librarian becomes a classic ghost story with a modern twist. Sometimes you can’t keep a bad book down; Sidney is allowed to stay after hours to study for a test. It’s not until she suddenly awakens in the darkened library that she realizes the horrifying truth of what lurks among the stacks of books after midnight. She better pray she doesn’t become the prey; Paige faces regrets that she’d do anything to take back. When an ancient and arcane spell book literally falls into her lap, she decides to make a grave decision. Be careful what you wish for, it might just kill you.

Plot & Thoughts

Producer / Director P.J. Starks has asked me to keep my review relatively spoiler free so I’ll certainly do my best to honor that request. I will talk in general terms about a plot so if you want to be completely spoiler free make sure you watch the movie before you read my review.

The Volumes of Blood website gives the following tagline:

5 movies. 5 directors. 75 contributors. 100% scary.

I can kick things off by saying that the above statement is 100% accurate and I had a blast watching this. The film is an anthology that wraps five stories together quite nicely with some good storytelling techniques, some “movie within a movie” trickery straight out of the Scream franchise and some amazing visual effects even on a tight budget.  All of the stories take place at a local library which I’m sure was a bugetary choice but also ties everything together.

Each of the stories is an urban legend in waiting. They’re different enough that you never get bored even with the same location being used for all of them. I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t some sort of tie in (other than the framing device) for the five legends, but that may just be me hoping for too much. Even with that small disappointment it definitely doesn’t detract from the film.

As I said, the film is an anthology with each story directed by someone different:

The first scene starts off with some totally over the top horror cliches which I loved. It told me right up front that these folks “get” the genre and I really appreciated it. I noticed that the guy’s name in the first scene was Rod and I can’t help but wonder if that’s nod to Rod Lane from the original A Nightmare On Elm Street. If so great work. (Nod to Rod… see what I did there?). I’ve got to think it was intentional as in the next scene we get a reference to Mr. Loomis. If you don’t get that reference I’m not sure what to tell you.

I noticed a nice arial shot toward the open of the film. It stood out to me as it’s SO very rare in indy flicks I’m guessing because of budgetary considerations. Nice to see it here. The acting througout the film is great. Many times in indy horror the gore and blood take center stage and line delivery suffers. That’s not the case here which was honestly a pleasant surprise.

The first of the real anthology pieces is A Little Pick Me Up directed by John Kenneth Muir. A student is burning the midnight oil and she’s approached by a guy looking to give her a new energy drink that has yet the market. She’s leery (as she should be in a horror flick) and decides she doesn’t want to take it while he’s present. He leaves and ultimately she decides to try it. What results is mind blowing gory fun.

The second piece called Ghastly was directed by P.J. Starks. This is a pretty typical ghost story that I’d consider “spooky” but not “scary”. This is campfire lore at its best which in the confines of the over Volumes of Blood is exactly what it should be. This is probably my least favorite of the bunch not because it’s not executed well because it absolutely is. I’m a big “movie ending guy” and this one really falls flat in that department with little to no payoff.

Next up is 13 After Midnight directed by Jakob Bilinski. It tells the story of a good girl, a bad boyfriend and a worse prank that goes terribly wrong for eveyone involved. Outstanding jump scare here early gets this one going and there’s a twist in here that I didn’t see coming until it was too late.

Encyclopedia Satanica directed by  Nathan Thomas Milliner gets the award for the best named segment as well as the creepiest. This one takes place on Halloween and tells the story of a librarian who’s ex-boyfriend has committed suicide because she broke up with him. A version of the Necronomicon shows up and boyfriend returns from the dead to wreak havoc on his former lover.

Thats A Wrap directed by Lee Vervoort is the glue that binds this anthology together so nicely. The dialog here is cleverly written and expertly delivered. This is actually where quite a lot (most) of the blood and gore resides in the film and brings it home in a very satisfying manner. There are some amazing kills here, good effects and the overall story is tight even though its open ended. Make sure you watch through the credits. The the team has taken a page from the Marvel Universe and given us some very important stuff after the film has “ended”.

Recommendation

I love short films. As such I tend to enjoy anthologies. What I really enjoy is when an anthology ties together all of its parts into a cohesive story. Volumes of Blood does just that. Each of the individual parts are outstanding and when you put them together you really to get something that is greater than the sum of its parts. The blood and gore here is great and lives up to the film’s name. There’s some inventive kills, the acting is top notch, there’s some very nice effects and even some characters that you’re able to get invested in even with the anthology format. I wish I could write a spoiler filled review as some of my favorite parts I’ve left out with respect to the producer’s wishes. Suffice to say this is a strong recommend and I can’t wait to be able to have a conversation with some more folks that have seen it.

Special thanks to P.J. Starks for giving me access to the film and apologies for me taking so long to get it reviewed!

You can find more about Volumes of Blood at the following links:

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Chewie

Chewie

I've been a fan of horror and slasher movies for as long as I can remember. I consider the original Halloween to be the best horror movie of all time and my guilty pleasure horror flick would be The Exorcist III. You can find me on Twitter at @406Northlane where I'm sure I'll offend you at least once a day.

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