Scream Machine (2015)
The anthology horror films keep coming, and today we have SCREAM MACHINE, an anthology of five segments directed by Scarlet Fry and written by Fry and Paul C. Hemmes. This isn’t the first anthology made by Fry that I’ve reviewed. Fry also made DEATH BY VHS (which was originally titled SCREAM MACHINE) and NIGHTMARE ALLEY. Admittedly I wasn’t too crazy about either one of them, but I did recognize Fry’s deep love for the genre and for me that’s enough to always give one of his films a shot.
In the wrap around segment we have Dr. Fry and Dr. Headly Graves presenting us with “Scream Machine,” the only form of entertainment left after an Ebola outbreak wiped out almost the entire population of Earth. The wrap around doesn’t act to connect all the stories together so much as provide some cheap jokes and a cheesy segues to the next story.
The first story in SCREAM MACHINE is “Sledgehammer,” a fun little ditty about revenge. During baseball practice, a pitcher throws a ball so hard that it kills the catcher. Skip to two years later and someone starts going after the pitcher for revenge. What “Sledgehammer” has going for is its pacing and it’s length. Most of the stories in this anthology are the perfect length and none of them drag. This story also has a fun ending, ample gore, and a touch of dark humor. The biggest problems with “Sledgehammer” are the acting and some of the production values. I understand this is a micro-budgeted indie horror film (with an estimated budget of $15,000), but you can’t use that as an excuse for a film that at times has hard-to-watch acting. There was also some choppy editing that occasionally killed the flow of the film.
The next story, “Cannibal Pen Pals,” is perhaps the weakest of the anthology. In it a man writes to Jeffery Dahmer after the serial killer has been imprisoned and wants to be just like him. The man’s obsession with Dahmer leads him to murder and, of course, sexual depravity. The story here isn’t the problem. I actually thought it was a clever idea that never found its footing. This story had a lot of potential, but the problem here rests solely in the acting. Seriously, where did this actor come from? Not only was he unconvincing in his role as a guy going down a depraved road, it was also extremely difficult to watch this actor do so. The actor here was awkward and even looked uneasy in the role. A solid story was pissed away by truly terrible acting.
After coming off the wasted premise of “Cannibal Pen Pals,” the third story, “April Fools Party,” seemed rather empty. Don’t get me wrong, I though this was fun, but there’s not much going on by way of a story. In it, a bunch of geeky drug addicts play a prank on another drug addict. The gang pretends to be threatening their friend at his home. That’s pretty much the entire story. This has more than one moment in it where you’ll be rolling your eyes, but I thought this one was pretty fun overall. The biggest problem with “April Fools Party” was the ending. It feels as though the story was building up to something, but then it suddenly just kind of ends. It would be like making love to a beautiful woman. You start with foreplay and really build up the sexual tension. Then just when you’re both about to explode, you turn on the TV and start watching The Three Stooges.
The fourth story, “Septic Shock,” is another fun, gag-inducing story that reaches its potential. “Septic Shock” was well executed and is about a cheating wife who murders her husband by dumping him in the septic tank and leaving him to rot. We watch as he tries to survive, and this one gets quite gross. The story is simple and was executed nicely. It’s a man trying to survive in a hostile environment. The length and pace of the film is also spot on and it never feels like the story was padded to fill a certain time.
The last story, “Deadly Indie Drive In,” is about a woman who goes off her meds and begins to hear voices through her radio urging her to kill her boyfriend. Another simple story, but this one had its fun moments and also offered a decent amount of gore. The gore, though, was so over the top that it almost comes off as funny rather than horrifying.
As a whole, SCREAM MACHINE had some interesting stories that were limited by the very modest budget. There were acting problems in most of the segments and some of the gore was a bit amateurish. But there’s also some fun to be had here. If you don’t enjoy low budget films (I’m talking really low budget films) then you won’t enjoy SCREAM MACHINE. But if you take this one for what it is I think you’ll have some laughs and enjoy a few of the segments.
Director: Scarlet Fry
Plot: 2 out of 5 stars (for the overall anthology)
Gore: 5 out of 10 skulls (there’s a lot, but it’s not always done well)
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer