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When it comes to made-for-TV movies, horror is never the go-to genre, and it usually takes a Stephen King adaptation to get something darker than your average "people in distress" thriller. So Chiller gets credit where credit is due for putting together their Chilling Visions anthologies, the first of which was last year’s 5 Senses of Fear. Tonight is the premiere of the follow-up, 5 States of Fear, which combines five disparate short films, tethered together by the loose theme of basic human fears in five different states. That’s what they call metaphoriliteral in the business.
For anything looking to watch five extremely original, daring and tonally sound short films, I’m going to have to recommend looking somewhere else. The recent trend in feature horror anthologies, led by the V/H/S and ABCs of Death series, are a crapshoot as far as quality and subjective enjoyment go, and Chilling Visions: 5 States of Fear is a step down from that. However, if you’re looking for a decent reason to kill a 12-pack with a buddy on a Friday night when there’s nothing else going on, Chiller might be your ideal destination.
There are no corny wraparound stories to tie this all together, so I’ll just talk a little about each short film. The first is Sandy, from writer/director Brett Simmons (The Monkey’s Paw), which supposedly taps into the all-too familiar fear of…Ego Death? We’re barely introduced to our lead character, a slimy bastard with a penchant for burying girls out in the desert, before he goes out into the desert and, well, buries a girl out there. Unfortunately, he can’t quite get her out of his head. Viewers should have absolutely no trouble getting Sandy out of their heads though, as its crowning achievement is just how predictable it is.
On we move to The Trouble With Dad, a meditation on separation from Glenn McQuaid (V/H/S, I Sell the Dead). Here, Peter B. Rogan plays Jim, an elderly man who doesn’t seem to know left from right most of the time, and has no memory of his dog dying. His daughter Julia (Bridget Dolan) and son Tom (co-writer Clay McLeod Chapman) are there to help him during this troublesome period, but in the end, Jim can only help himself. While it’s not delivered in the most pleasing way, the story itself is pretty tight and it takes a nice right turn when it needs to.
John Poliquin, of Grave Encounters 2 fame, brings in the goriest short of the bunch, Tick Warning, which reflects our fear of mutilation back in our skinless faces. Joel (Dave Coleman) and Sarah (Darby Hannon) are an adventurous couple who go off to vacation in the northeast in a place Joel remembers fondly from his childhood. Only, they’re not supposed to be out there, as Hurricane Sandy destroyed the area, which was already the birthplace of Lyme’s disease back during World War II (or whatever the “true story” preamble said.) Will the couple make it out safe and alive, or does that gore I referred to play a big part in this? Guess.
Newcomer Zao Wang delivers the most effective segment of the five with Ghost Daughter, a look into the fear of extinction. It’s about a mother whose deceased daughter comes back to her at her darkest moments. But how and why? It’s best not to delve too far into this one, as it’s the most well-crafted of the bunch and doesn’t spend too much time on overblown exposition.
And then there’s The Caregiver from Graham Reznick (I Can See You), which is almost all exposition. It’s the tale of a husband (Jeff Kaplan) and wife (Kersten Haile) news anchor team whose relationship is strained to say the least. Once the husband becomes afflicted with a certain problem, the wife is oh so happy to try and take advantage of the situation, with increasingly odd results. Almost everything about this segment was over-the-top and straddled the line of “camp,” but that made it that much more enjoyable I suppose. Also, watch for a cameo from The Sacrament director Ti West as a doctor.
When all is said and done, I’m not quite sure that any of the five films actually delivered on exposing the fears in question, nor did the different locations seem to make much of a difference. Still, I look forward to seeing where Zao Wang’s career will take him, so I guess watching Chilling Visions: 5 States of Fear changed my life in one way.
Watch Chilling Visions: 5 States of Fear on Chiller tonight at 9 p.m. ET.