The first five minutes of any movie are the best opportunity to set the mood for the rest of your cinematic experience. Will it be atmospheric? Terrifying? Hilarious? In the case of Chillerama you get a strong impression of the film right away. It’s going to be disgusting, hilarious, and the most delightfully campy film you have seen in years. Though it is much more of a comedy written by horror devotees than film that will raise the hair on the back of your neck, it is still a great entry into the strong tradition of horror anthology films.
It begins with the wrap around episode “Zom-B Movie” (directed by Joe Lynch). In a fake-looking cemetery that would make Ed Wood proud, a sleazy guy has just dug up his long dead wife for some “dead head.” Rather than letting her corpse get orally raped, her inexplicably-animated jaws clamps down on his junk, and he spews painful looking fluorescent blue blood. Just as he escapes her grip, he realizes he is running late for his job as a projectionist at the last night of a drive-in theater. As he limps his way to the lot he weaves through the queuing cars and we are introduced to the rest of the film’s characters. We meet a car full of horror movie buff teenagers, a young couple who hauled their infant along for the night, and the jerk that bought the lot and is planning on turning it into a shopping mall as soon as the last reel is over. Right from the beginning we have a zombie in the making, teenagers, sexual violence, and a great premise for multiple chapters of films. But before we can get to the rest of the plot of this installment in Chillerama, we need to watch the other parts of the film.
“Wadzilla” is a parody nuclear fear film along the lines of Them and Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. Only, the threat in “Wadzilla” is actually a giant sperm! After seeking his doctor’s advice for his sexual problems, Miles (played by director Adam Rifkin) is given an experimental treatment which turns what would typically end up on a tissue in the garbage to an exponentially expanding beast that wriggles its way across New York City. And all of this while his is on a blind date that is both out of his league and interested in him too. The corniness of “Wadzilla” makes this sequence really funny, rather than tedious. You would think that watching an entire short film based on sperm jokes would be tedious, but it is actually clever and endearing.
The second film shown at the drive-in is a beach blanket parody “I Was a Teenage Werebear” (directed by Tim Sullivan). Perhaps I am a bit naïve, but I was looking forward to seeing grown men, playing teenagers, dressed in bear costumes. I was delighted; however, to see that the bears that these teenagers morph in to are in fact leather clad, large hairy gay men. Put them in a few pseudo-60s musical numbers that could give Grease a run for its money, and I was overjoyed! Gallons of fake blood, a prophetic gypsy, a Ron Jeremy cameo, and enough bondage gear to rival Hellraiser makes this a silly, but ultimately entertaining clip.
Before seeing more of the hijinx going on at the drive-in (the blue blood has gotten in to the popcorn, and now the entire lot is getting infected!) we move on to the next movie for the night. “The Diary of Anne Frankenstein” (directed by Adam Green) might just be the best of the bunch. It starts with Anne Frank, hidden away from the Nazis, writing in her diary. All of a sudden Hitler and his goons burst through the wall, kill the family, and steal Anne’s diary. But rather than containing a narrative about Anne’s day to day life hiding from the tyranny of the Nazi regime, it is actually a text that describes the reanimation of dead in order to have them do your bidding. Naturally Hitler is intrigued and he sets out to build a killing machine of his own. His monster is a giant sized rabbi (played by Kane Hodder, who clearly enjoys chewing up the scenery) who he names Meshugannah. When Hitler’s monster refuses to kill for the sake of killing, it instead turns against his men and rips them to shreds, in some cases literally. The kills are wonderfully fake here, and fans of bad horror films will really enjoy how intentionally executed the poor effects are, but the real fun here is the portrayal of Hitler himself. While all of the other characters around him are actually speaking German, Hitler is spewing vague gibberish, even slipping in a “Boba Fett” while commanding his troops. The busty and promiscuous Eva Braun flirting with his men adds to the foolish characterization of Hitler too. And who doesn’t like belittling and laughing at Hitler? This short film is by no means a horror film, but it is very funny and has a good amount of blood.
After a false start at a fourth film at the drive-in (“Deathication” looked like it would have been shitty – pun intended- and tedious film, so no love it lost when it abruptly ends) we get to watch the conclusion of “Zom-B Movie.” The entire drive-in has been taken over by sex-crazed zombies hunting down the remaining survivors. From here out is a predictable zombie movie. The characters act as you would expect them to, and the guns run out of ammo as if on cue. What saves the rest of the movie from being too conventional is the barrage of movie quotes. All of the last three characters spend their last moments of earth going speaking in nothing but quotes from classic and cult films. It’s almost like trivia night at a pub and it makes you feel like years of being a horror nerd have paid off when you get the references.
My only complaint about the film is the long run time. While it does move rapidly between the different stories, it nearly drags at two hours long. The film itself looks beautiful; much better than the small budget films it is emulating. Overall Chilleramawas absolutely worth the time.
(Deirdre Crimmins lives in Boston with her husband and two black cats. She wrote her Master’s thesis on George Romero and works too much.)