Horror-themed compilations seem to have always struck a positive chord with TV audiences. Rod Serling’s seminal The Twilight Zone certainly tapped several installments that leaned heartily into the realm of fright. The Outer Limits, I thought, played more with the tropes of Science Fiction, but stories never passed up the chance to send a chill up the spines of viewers when given the chance. All one need to is explore some of the stellar episodes of Night Gallery, Tales From The Darkside, Tales From The Crypt, and even the contemporary chiller that is Shudder’s Creepshow to see that there’s still oil in ‘them thar hills’ if a competent group of storytellers are willing to invest the time and effort into drilling deep and letting the black gold flow.
Recently, I was contacted about the horror anthology release Monsters In The Closet. As I understand, this flick is due for release digitally and On Demand this forthcoming January 4th, 2022. Essentially, it’s a collection of four different stories all linked together around a central thread; and the feature stars such names as Jasmine Flores, Shanna Bess, Valerie Bittner, Tom Cikoski, and Camilla Crawford. Also as I understand, actress Flores even had a solid hand in the screenplay (let’s hear it for the multi-talented girl!), and it’s directed by the Snygg Brothers in what appears to be their debut motion picture.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last few paragraphs for the final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
“When famous horror author Raymond Grant dies under mysterious circumstances, his daughter returns home to investigate his death. Jasmin discovers her father was using evil black magic to write his newest horror masterpiece. When the author's audio book is played out loud monsters, zombies and terrifying beings spring from the undead pages to haunt the living. Never open a Pandora box that can't be closed.”
Alas, the independent feature may not be to every audience’s liking, but I think it’s slowly becoming stronger than ever. As even everyone’s cell phone these days is built to capture some fairly high-definition affairs, every Tom, Dick, and Harry is given the chance to tell his story; and all of this ends up being to the benefit of the ordinary consumer. On a daily basis, we’re given access to more and more avenues with which to explore tales. Granted, budgets for indie fare will always lag well behind studio efforts; but this will always push for screenwriters, directors, and the like to get more creative with their big ideas while spending less.
This is precisely what The Snygg Brothers have accomplished with their modest little chiller/thriller Monsters In The Closet, an anthology constructed around the late-breaking stories of now-deceased author Raymond Grant. His dying effort saw the writer penning these shorts with the aid of black magic, and said wizardry would bring the tales to life when they’re read aloud. As one can imagine, the audio adaptation is about to be killer!
As the construct goes, the short segments involving Grant’s surviving daughter, Jasmine, really only form a loose spine. Though they do tap into an element of each diversion – just as the black magic promised to do – her sequences do feel a bit more like shadows between the substance. It’s the short stories themselves that provide the greater body of work for viewers, and they’re an assortment of understandably grim fiction all leaning a bit darkly comic.
Imagine (if you will) that a person infected with the zombie virus actually lives on perfectly normal in the brain – while the brain-eating body has a mind and appetite all its own – and you get the thrust of ‘Please Kill Me Again.’ In it, our POV narrator goes about the zombie apocalypse as one of the Undead but continues to insist – in her mind – that she’s perfectly normal … well, except for the fact that she suddenly finds human flesh appetizing. This installment opens the picture with, perhaps, it’s most relatable vignette largely because AMC’s The Walking Dead and its various spinoffs have managed to reignite our collective fascination with this particular subgenre of Horror; and it only slowly reveals its trump card – that our storyteller has crossed over as a ‘walker’ – while she keeps narrating like it’s any other Saturday night. Honestly, this one makes for some good laughs.
If there’s any obvious weak link in here, then I’d throw that toward ‘The One Percenters.’ It’s the film’s most predictable descent into madness here wherein our young, lovely lady from wealth – Tiffany – chooses to defy daddy’s wishes and explore a weekend away with a young Italian stud. (Hubba hubba!) As fate would have it, some benign misunderstandings brings out the worst in li’l Tiff, and she results to murdering anyone and everyone she can in order to cover up her misdeeds. A bit undercooked and more than a bit predictable, it really goes nowhere other than to serve as one more look at the darkness of the human mind; I just wish it had more substance. I will say that actress Jordan Flippo is exceedingly easy on the eyes, so there’s that.
Ahem. Now, don’t take this the wrong way (or even the right way, for that matter), but ‘Frankenstein’s Wife’ could’ve used a bit of restraint in the comedy department. This tale amps up the lunacy by making a modern Doctor Frankenstein into a bit of an Inspector Gadget – a goofy, looney brainiac who desperately loves his modern ‘Housewife Of New Jersey’ to the point of reanimating her each and every time after he accidentally offs her. Yes, yes, yes: the jokes work just fine, and John Paul Fedele’s performance as the ‘mad doctor’ is understandably over-the-top. Because the heart’s in the right place with this one, I’ll give its obvious camp a pass, though it bordered real close to saccharin. I suppose inadvertently turning his beloved into a lumbering ball of flesh in the last reel was his last reward; pardon me if I don’t see the attraction.
As is often the case with independent chillers, Monsters In the Closet won’t played to everyone’s sensibilities, though the four short tales do (surprisingly) cater to a wide array of sensibilities. Usually, one only has to worry about zombies, but the Snygg Brothers managed to pack in some alternative frights like a house that’ll never be fixed, a lovely coed who discovers her latent homicidal tendencies, and a mad scientist who’s a bit cuckoo for something other than cocoa puffs. Some of the writing is a bit puerile – the mad scientist’s sequence clearly caters to the very young and young-at-heart – but this is all harmless fun at society’s expense … and there’s nothing wrong with that, Schmoopies. (Trust me: you’ll get the reference if you know it.)
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that I was provided a complimentary streaming opportunity to review Monsters In The Closet by request; and the contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.