I know what you’re thinking. It’s called Hillbilly Horror Show and its slogan is “Nuttier than a Squirrel Fart!” I can’t believe that I just typed that sentence either. And yet here we are. You. Me. The hillbillies Bo (Bo Keister) and Cephus (Scott Geiter) and their kissing-cousin Lulu (Rachel Faulkner), too. The gang’s all here! And ready to watch some horror movies! That is, if we can get through the first five minutes as Bo, Cephus, and Lulu discuss diarrhea, squirrel stew, and other hillbilly hearsay. But I beg you, please continue watching. As bad as the “Hillbilly” part may be, the “Horror Show” part more than makes up for it.
Filthy Fingernails’ anthology film Hillbilly Horror Show Vol. 1 runs in the same vein as Creepshow and Tales from the Crypt with separate, unrelated horror shorts held together by the intermittent narrative of Bo, Cephus, and the bikini-clad Lulu. And while the hillbilly interludes are cringe-worthy, the horror shorts are surprisingly good. Actually very good. So good that they made me question if I was watching the same movie as the one with the three hillbillies.
The first film in the anthology is Billy Hayes’ “Franky and the Ant” starring Anthony Pavelich, Emmanuel Todorov, and Christine Woods. The short is an effectively chilling, albeit somewhat unoriginal, tale of bitter revenge in a love triangle. It’s a story that has undoubtedly been done before. However its strong writing, acting, and beautiful cinematography make it unsurprising that the film won numerous awards including Best Short at the Other Venice Film Festival, the Special Jury Prize at the Nevada Film Festival, and Best of the Fest Short at the LA Indie Film Festival.
The second film in the anthology is Theo Stefanski’s (also known as Theo Pingarelli) “Doppleganger.” The short is, well, very short. And sweet. And depressing, and lonely, and charming. And undoubtedly my favorite out of the four films, which may be surprising considering that Doppleganger contains no people (only skeletons) and no dialogue. So why is it my favorite? Because Stefanski masterfully uses stop-motion animation to tell the story of a lonely skeleton in a desert wasteland. Stefanski also shot the stop-motion animation on 35mm color film! And although some of this magic is lost unless you view Doppleganger actually projected, the use of film is still note-worthy. (Stefanski is currently has a film in production called “Gotterdammerung” which will be filmed on Cinemascope so keep your eye out for that!)
Next, we have Cuyle Carvin’s “Amused” which tells the story of a Martha (Elise Rovinsky) as she to her rural home after a day of errands, only to find a crazed man (Ryan Metzger) feasting on her daughter’s skull. Uh-oh. As this film proves, country people are just plain different from us city folk! In my opinion, “Amused” is the weakest of the anthology, however it does provide some awesome blood and some pretty interesting shots. And what it lacks in-depth, it makes up for in light-hearted charm.
Last we have the longest of all of the films possibly the most technically sound with Tim Zwica’s “The Nest.” If I was not so much of a sucker for stop-motion animation (seriously guys I love it) this short would have been my favorite. But alas, we cannot change who we are. I don’t want to give away too much, so let’s just say if you ever go to the Riviera Diner, don’t piss off Eleanor and don’t ask where the honey comes from.
On a final note, Hillbilly Horror Show Vol. 1 is a surprisingly satisfying experience with some truly great horror shorts that no horror fan should miss.
Review: Alex Schultz