Three short movies from Steel Web productions, a US independent company with ties to the infamous SLAUGHTER DISC.
The films - each directed by David Quitmeyer (SLAUGHTER DISC) - play separately on this disc, rather than running as one anthology film.
First up is Mail Order Bride. In it, young office worker Steven (Corey Foxx, LAST RITES) bemoans the fact that he cannot find a decent date. He thinks his luck is in when his office mate Nathaniel (Roger Gobin, PERCEPTIONS) points out a stunning brunette on the Internet, looking for love. But Steven's date with her is disastrous - the brunette ends up being a man in drag.
Later that evening, Steven agrees to record an all-night horror fest on cable TV (on channel KUNT8!) for his brother. While setting his video to record, Steven witnesses a commercial on TV for a lifelike robot doll, that will do anything you tell it to. Desperate for some dirty loving, he rings the number onscreen and gives over his credit card details.
The following morning Steven's package arrives - a brunette Goth chick (Caroline Pierce, DROPPIN' LOADS 1; I SWALLOW 16; BIG ASS FIXATION etc ...) wrapped in silk. He plugs her in to charge as per the instructions then reads through the manual - learning that all he need do is show his new bride his favourite porno in order for her to know how to please him.
Fresh out of porn, Steven rings his brother and asks him to make a copy of a blowjob video of his. The brother agrees, but makes a mess of the task when he later passes out drunk.
The next day the brother passes what he believes to be a cassette filled with porn to Steven, who excitedly sits his bride down in front of the TV to "educate" herself while he goes to work. Unfortunately, the bride witnesses the horror fest that Steven's brother was too inept to record over, and as a result develops a warped idea of what it is that Steven wants her to do to him ...
Mail Order Bride is the longest, goriest and most tongue-in-cheek of the three shorts on offer. It suffers from a predictable plot devoid of twists, and a sense of humour that doesn't translate well on screen thanks to the limited capacity of the cast.
Having said that, it's enjoyable enough if taken as intended - as a bit of fun. The low-fi computer effects may grate on some, but I found them oddly endearing, harking back to classic no-budget sci-fi flicks of the 50s. I'm sure any similarities are entirely accidental, but they're appreciated here nonetheless.
Mr Buttons is next. This tells the tale of a young girl who is sent a smelly clown doll by her gran for her birthday. What she doesn't realise until it's too late is that the clown has occult magical powers and can make anything the girl wishes for come true.
When the girl overhears her parents rowing violently one night, she wishes they could never argue again. Moments later, they're dead on their bedroom floor, covered in blood.
The girl is locked away in an asylum - with her clown, who she also wished could be her best friend forever - and it appears that the story is over very quickly. But no, there's more to come including a couple of neat yet hardly genial twists as the story fast-forwards 30 years.
Mr Buttons is darker in tone than Bride, although not without moments of subtle humour. It's an altogether more professional piece with better performances, editing and sound design. It's fair to say it's not as entertaining as Bride, but definitely competently made and worth a look. It's also the shortest of the three films.
Oh, and look out for Gobin who reappears in Mr Buttons - only to meet a particularly unpleasant end.
Sustenance winds things up in grim fashion.
It tells the tale of a young lady who's convinced she needs to lose weight. When she doesn't get far using her own methods, she responds to an advertisement offering gastro-surgery.
At the pure white clinic, she's reassured (by Quitmeyer in doctor's guise) about the safety of the operation - then led into the theatre for surgery.
When the woman awakes, she's had her op and has a bloody scar bandaged across her stomach to prove it. She's trapped in a plain white room with nothing in it, save a mattress to lie on. The woman is watched on monitors as she suffers the after-effects of her surgery, and is fed grue occasionally which is slid across the floor on a plate to her by unseen hands.
Although not as graphic as Bride, this is grim stuff indeed. It unfolds slowly, with not a trace of humour or chance of a happy ending. Precious little dialogue keeps the atmosphere sombre, as Quitmeyer's camera lingers mercilessly on the woman's (Pierce, again) ever decreasing stature. It's painful and depressing to witness.
There's also a startling brief moment of explicitness later in proceedings which I won't describe here, as it's better to encounter blind - giving it that "did I really just see that?!" rewind-ablility.
Well-acted and successfully bleak, Sustenance is however a little confused by the end and suffers from an unnecessary epilogue that dilutes the dark tone that the previous 30 minutes have carefully established. Still, while it's not fun, this is the most technically bold and proficient piece of filmmaking on this disc.
Speaking of the disc, Steel Web's release offers all three films in their "unrated director's cut" versions. They're all presented in non-enhanced 1.77:1 aspect ratios, which I assume is the original framing.
Images are generally bright and colours are vivid, however grain is at times evident. Sharpness is an issue at times too, but the overall result is that these shot-on-digital efforts are easily watchable.
The English 2.0 audio is consistent and reliable throughout.
Static menus include a separate scene-selection menu for each film, and access to some minimal extras.
These include brief trailers for each short film on offer, and a couple of extended/deleted scenes from Mail Order Bride. An interview with Quitmeyer would've been highly applicable, but sadly it's not offered. Perhaps there will be more to peruse on Volume 2?
CARNAL MORGUE VOL 1 shows potential from Quitmeyer and his young cohorts. Though not as gory or erotic as it sells itself to be, it does at least entertain. I'll certainly be interested in giving VOL 2 the once over.
Review by Stu Willis
|Released by Steel Web Studios|
|Region 1 - NTSC|
|see main review|