Putting together a really good anthology is hard. I’ve done it myself, and it’s a daunting task. No matter what kind you’re making, no matter how long it is or how many segments or episodes, you’re always going to have hits and misses. Even the greatest anthology series and movies of all time have their bad moments. So when you’re sitting down to enjoy a new anthology film, you never know what you’re going to get; Then you put in Chuck Conry’s Door 1 of the 5 Doors to Hell, and the ride begins…
After an extended period staring at the shelves in an independent video store, two couples are given an old VHS tape by the proprietor. They’ve seen practically every damn horror movie in the place, but this one is different. It’s a shot-on-video style horror, he tells them. You know they’ve never seen anything like it. So they take it home, and the nightmare begins.
I’ll stop right there though, because it’s not just a nightmare. It’s also a damn hilarious, meta piss-take on horror movies, anthologies, and the independent horror scene in general. As each individual character gets sucked into the segments that they’re watching, they use their horror-movie smarts to try and “beat” the killer in their segment, and make it out. Suffice to say, it doesn’t always work out, but not for a want of trying.
The first segment, The Mongaloid (sic), might be the weakest, but is still laugh-out-loud funny. This one takes place, naturally, in the backwoods of ‘Hickville, USA,’ where the sounds of banjos always seem to play softly in the distance. An escaped redneck hillbilly, a la The Hills Have Eyes, and his family kidnap our first person to be sucked into the film.
This is the basic premise for all of the segments – they either die, or make it out, and are brought back to the real world. The segments are all hilarious takes on horror tropes – The Mongaloid is about rednecks. The Ghost Car is exactly what it sounds like. Dingus of Death (which is definitely the best segment) is a mad scientist who, in trying to make his “dingus” bigger, accidentally turns himself into a giant penis. Dead Ending, the final segment is, naturally, a zombie film.
The entire film is hilarious from beginning to end. With a budget of $700 according to IMDb, you’d expect nothing, but Conry delivers the nothing on purpose, with tongue-in-cheek lines like “My God, who wrote this?” and “I’ve seen some bad effects, but these were worse.” Mocking the level at which the film was made actually succeeded in bringing it up a notch. I was laughing throughout the entire thing – not at it, but along with the film, which does an incredible job of laughing at itself, too.
I was super happy with the low budget effects, because while they’re super campy and funny, it’s done with love and – clearly – totally on purpose. It’s one thing to not be able to afford the latest and greatest and your movie ends up looking poor, but it’s entirely another when you go into your project knowing that you won’t have the best, so you make the best of it.
Conry has been reviewing horror movies forever on his zombiesdontrun website, so it’s fair to say he’s probably seen a couple horror flicks in his day, and I think this film shows it. He’s got an obvious love for the genre, and a biting sense of humor that plays throughout the whole thing. While you often read reviews of extremely independent films like this that harp on quality, there is little bad you could say about Door 1 of the 5 Doors To Hell. It’s got cult status written all over it from the start, and it’s one of the best indie flicks I’ve seen this year.