Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Brad Twigg's Shriekshow

Cody checks out an indie horror anthology featuring some genre icons.

A while back, I wrote about the horror anthology Brimstone Incorporated, which was a collaboration between directors James L. Edwards and Brad Twigg. Twigg went solo for the new anthology Shriekshow, which consists of three separate segments and a wrap-around story... And since Edwards and his history with fellow Ohio-based filmmaker J.R. Bookwalter is what sent me down the path to Shriekshow, I was glad to see that Twigg kept a connection to Ohio indie horror history, despite being based out of West Virginia himself. Edwards and another Bookwalter project veteran, Sasha Graham, have acting roles in this movie, and Twigg even went so far as to put some Virgil Pittman on the soundtrack. If you know Bookwalter's movies, you know Pittman's music, and it was great to hear that the tradition of using Pittman tracks continues all these decades later.

Those weren't the only genre callbacks in Shriekshow, as the movie also features appearances by Beverly Randolph of The Return of the Living Dead, Sleepaway Camp's Felissa Rose, Tuesday Knight from A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, and indie genre regular George Stover. You also get nods like the opening title sequence, which was inspired by the amazing opening of Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, and an early line of dialogue being almost directly lifted from Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. If you're a horror fan, there are a lot of people and things in this movie that you'll be glad to see or hear.

Written by Todd Martin, Chris O'Brocki, and Douglas Snauffer, the movie begins on Halloween, with a quartet of friends that decide to venture out to an old, abandoned fairgrounds that is said to be haunted. It'd have good reason to be, because several people died there over the years. A girl killed on one of the rides. A tragic accident that led to the deaths of both the knife thrower and his assistant. The murder of the guy who worked in the dunking booth. The characters we follow into the fairgrounds are Alex (Rosaria Eraso), in a hippie costume; Sage (Yasmin Qudah), whose idea of a costume is a jersey with Jason's hockey mask on it; banana man Kyle (Justin P. Martin); and Riley (Brucellious Morris Jr.), who is dressed up like... Robin Hood, I guess. Robin Hood with flashy pants. I really only mention the costumes because I liked seeing the Jason hockey mask represented. The fairgrounds location looks very cool and adds great production value to the movie - and while snooping around in there, the group of friends are surprised to find there's someone else in there with them. The Ringmaster (played by co-writer O'Brocki). And he's in the mood to tell them some stories.

The first story told by The Ringmaster deals with a bunch of killers operating out of a barn. I was enjoying this one when I thought it was a straightforward slasher story, but it turned out to have some unexpected twists and turns that I appreciated. 

A viewer's interest will sometimes fluctuate over the course of an anthology, some stories will be more appealing than others, and that was the case for me when The Ringmaster moved on to his second story, about some guys running into trouble on a fishing trip. This one had too much set-up, too much strolling through the woods and fishing for my taste. The segments in this anthology are quite long - the first story is nearly 24 minutes, this one is nearly 26 - and I was really feeling that this one could have been shorter and been presented in a more interesting way. There are some good moments at the beginning and end of it, though. 

If you have coulrophobia, Shriekshow will really start getting to you in its second half. The third story is about a young man who is plagued by nightmares and hallucinations of an evil clown. This turned out to be my second favorite of the three stories, and it benefited from running under 20 minutes. Then the wrap-around story brings more dangerous clowns into the mix to wrap things up in a disturbing manner.

Overall, Shriekshow is an enjoyable way to spend 105 minutes. As mentioned, I would have liked it better if it was shorter than that, but it works well enough at 105. Although the movie was obviously made on a very low budget, there were times when I was quite impressed by the cinematography; there are some cool camera moves and nice lighting choices. It also features some great gore effects.

If you're a fan of anthologies and indie horror, Shriekshow is definitely worth checking out. I was watching an online screener for this write-up, but would gladly add a physical media copy of this movie to my collection.

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