Sunday, December 19, 2010

Macabre pair of Shorts – review

Director: Scott Mabbutt

Release date: 1996

Contains spoilers

Macabre pair of shorts is a portmanteau film, indeed it is actually a portmanteau within a portmanteau. It is not two stories – as the title might lead you to believe, it does feature a pre-fame David Boreanaz – but don’t get too excited, and it is on the Troma label – and bizarrely I was quite taken by it.

the film
The film begins poorly with a couple of technicians stuck at the Panavision building on Halloween night as they have to clean up lenses for the next day. I say it started poorly because of the sound interference in the external shots. Once we get inside one of them finds a film reel for Macabre Pair of Shorts. Despite the warnings they put it on the projector.

the couple
We see a vampire couple, he has blood in a glass as she feeds upon an arm (we’ll return to the arm and its owner later). However, after some banter, they settle down to watch the TV show Macabre Pair of Shorts. Thus we watch the show with them and this section is a wraparound within a wraparound. In total we get three shorts in this section. There is a modernisation of the Ichabod Crane legend and a black and white section called the Eggs, with a mime from Hell and a surreal story that is the best thing in the film. However we will concentrate on the short called Vamps.

the body
Two women, Elizabeth (Shannon K MacDonald) and Katherine (Tracey McAllister) wake up on a pair of couches – they had a heavy night the night before and have slept through the day. They go to the bathroom to get ready for another night out and the camera cuts over the blood-flecked, dead man in their bath. Have they just missed spotting him?

revealed fangs
Clearly not as we then see them in a nightclub. Elizabeth is going to go for the first man who comes along but Katherine is more selective – aiming for a more dorky looking guy called Mike (Aaron McNally). Once selected they nip to the ladies room and reveal fangs – not much of a shock there. They go back to Mike and take him home – we see newspapers talking about the pharmaceutical murderer with an artist’s impression of the killer.

Shannon K MacDonald as Elizabeth
It isn’t a surprise to us when Mike says he is in pharmaceuticals. He cuts a finger and Katherine tastes him – there is something wrong with his blood. He admits that he has an incurable blood disorder. They can’t drink him and Elizabeth wants to kill him – Katherine’s personal morality will only allow her to kill for blood though and she suggests turning him, Elizabeth states that if Katherine does this, she’ll leave and holds true to her word.

Mike turned
Of course Mike is now a serial killer who has become a vampire and is slaughtering people for the sheer fun of it. Katherine goes to Elizabeth to elicit her help in stopping the maniac. And that, as they say, is that. Nothing too complex, not great twists but a solidly acted piece that has a little lore, in that the vampires do have reflections and are not affected by the cross, removal of the heart will kill them. Vamps is the first of the shorts.

David Boreanaz
Following all three shorts we cut back to the vampire couple, there is some banter and then the scene ends as 'cut' is called, and this is a filmed section within the film, as it were. As cut has been called the vampire victim stands up and it is David Boreanaz who talks about it being out with his normal family friendly material. He is on screen for about 15 seconds… but you know what, it doesn’t matter as the film is better than having to rely on a pre-fame star being in it.

This thing does stand up on its own – the wider wraparound gets a bit silly but, by then, you are invested and despite the vampire section being simple it is effective. There is a twist in the vampire wraparound that was nicely handled and understated and, all in all, I can’t help but like this. 5.5 out of 10 is for the vampire parts – The Eggs was even better.

The imdb page is here.


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