December 5, 2011
One of the staples of the horror genre is the anthology film, comprised of several stories, often linked together by a common thread. The 1980’s was the last time a good crop of these kinds of films were harvested with the likes of Heavy Metal (1981), Creepshow (1982), Nightmares (1983), and Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983). Since then, the anthology film has fallen out of favor with horror filmmakers with the notable exception of the Masters of Horror television series and the recent Trick ‘r Treat (2007). Along comes Chillerama (2011), a gonzo homage to films like aforementioned Creepshow and the kind of B-horror films that used be shown regularly at drive-in movie theaters. Made by four directors, the film gleefully skewers and celebrates classic schlock from a bygone era – imagine Grindhouse (2007) with the goofy retro vibe of Psycho Beach Party (2000).
It’s the last night of a drive-in and for the last hurrah the owner – Cecil B. Kaufman (Riehle) – is showing four obscure splatter films. He laments the death of public movie-going to a portrait of Orson Welles (shades of that scene in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood) thanks to rise in popularity of home video and hi-tech home theater systems. First up is Wadzilla, directed by Adam Rifkin (Detroit Rock City), a quirky mash-up of a high school sex ed film and a 1950’s monster movie spoof about a mild-mannered guy named Miles Munson (Rifkin) who suffers from abnormal sperm. His doctor (Wise) convinces him to try an experimental new medicine. However, every time Miles gets aroused, he experiences intense pain in his balls. Naturally, he goes on a blind date with a buxom beauty. During the course of their date he produces a large sperm, which quickly grows into a Godzilla-sized monstrosity that threatens New York City.
There is a funky mix of crude CGI, old school rear projection and stop motion animation that is intentionally made to look phony. The cast plays it straight while spouting amusingly naughty double entrendres. Ray Wise is a lot of fun as a straight-laced scientist that treats Miles and Eric Roberts pops up as a grizzled army general that attempts to defeat the beast.
I Was A Teenage Werebear, directed by Tim Sullivan (2001 Maniacs), sends up the teen horror films of the ‘50s while also satirizing the angst-ridden Twilight films. James Dean wannabe Ricky (Lockhart) is a frustrated teenager. He and his girlfriend aren’t getting along because he’s not sexually attracted to her like he is to Talon, the Marlon Brando-esque (with a dash of Elvis Presley swagger) biker who saves him from being run over. They bond over wrestling in gym class but after Talon bites Ricky on the butt he experiences strange urges. Ricky finds himself turning into a werebear. This film takes the sexual subtext of the ‘50s horror films and brings it right out into the open – in this case, the homoeroticism of two good looking guys being attracted to each other. Sullivan also brings elements of the musical as characters break into song and dance (both badly) when they want to express their feelings.
The Diary of Anne Frankenstein, directed by Adam Green (Hatchet), merges the Nazi SS women exploitation film with Frankenstein (1931) with a healthy dash of Mel Brooks. Hitler (Moore) recovers the diary of Dr. Frankenstein and with it he patches together parts of dead Jews into a large Hassidic monster (Hodder). Like Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror (2007), this segment is intentionally made to look like a scratchy, old print complete with splices in the soundtrack. It is also shot completely in black and white and subtitled because everyone speaks German. Joel David Moore (Avatar) is absolutely hilarious as a ridiculously inept Fuhrer while Kane Hodder shows a surprisingly capacity for humor as the monster.
Finally, Deathecation starts to unspool and it is a truly disgusting and hilarious pisstake on Pier Paolo Passolini’s Salo, or 120 Days of Sodom (1975) as if reinterpreted by Matt Stone and Trey Parker. The explosive uses of poop is on display and thankfully this is quickly interrupted by the real fourth segment, Zom-B-Movie, directed by Joe Lynch (Wrong Turn 2: Dead End), which takes us back to the present with one of the drive-in employees turned into a zombie with his contagious goo getting into the popcorn butter, which in turn infects several of the patrons until we have a mini-zombie apocalypse on our hands and Kaufman teams up with a young teenage couple for a movie-quoting orgy cum slaughter.
Chillerama is made by film lovers for film lovers and is unafraid to offend any and everyone in the grand, tasteless tradition of the Zucker Abrams Zucker film Kentucky Fried Movie (1977). What saves it from being simply a puerile exercise in excess and toilet humor is its obvious affection for the drive-in movie experience and the kinds of films these places used to show in the 1970’s and into the 1980’s. However, with the rise of multiplexes and the recent revival of 3-D, drive-ins have become an extinct breed, which is too bad as there is something unique about the whole experience of seeing a film from you car with one’s family and/or friends that can never be replicated in a multiplex or at home.
There is an audio commentary by the film’s directors: Adam Green, Adam Rifkin, Tim Sullivan and Joe Lynch. They start off by giving shout-outs to the people who put the opening credits together. After a bit of chaotic banter, they settle down and talk about the genesis of the film. Each one of them naturally dominates their respective segment and talks about how they came up with the idea for it, filming anecdotes, and so on. This is an often funny and engaging track.
“The Making of The Diary of Anne Frankenstein” features director Green talking about its origins. He was actually given the title by the other directors and went about creating a story to go with it. He made sure that it was so over the top that it could be taken seriously. There are some priceless behind the scenes footage as we learn that most of Joel David Moore’s dialogue was complete gibberish.
There are several deleted scenes from Wadzilla, which are in rough form before the special effects were added, which is actually pretty funny.
“Full Moon Fever: The Making of I Was A Teenager Werebear” traces the origins of Chillerama. Rifkin and Sullivan had worked together on Detroit Rock City (1999) and grew up on horror anthology films as well as Famous Monsters magazine. Sullivan takes us through the genesis of his segment including the semi-controversial casting of a gay porn star in the role of Ricky. Also included are deleted scenes.
There are also deleted scenes for Zom-B-Movie.
“Famous Monsters” sees the four directors talking about their love for this legendary magazine and the origins of Chillerama. They see their film as a love letter to horror anthologies and drive-in B-movies. These guys are obviously good friends by the way they crack jokes and banter back and forth.
“Salfen Comic-Con Interview” is a short featurette with the four directors at a comic convention. They talk about their respective segments and banter with each other.
Finally, there is a trailer for Chillerama and two of the segments.