SPINE CHILLER - "Born of Blood & Jack O’ Lanterns"

Well, it’s that time of year when the temperatures start to drop, the leaves change color and the corpses of countless gourds litter the homes of America. And during this Autumn season, there is nothing better for those of us who seek spooky than a good horror anthology. And what could be better than a horror anthology set on Halloween?

"Spine Chiller", from aspiring indie filmmaker Jacob Perrett, is just that - a four segment anthology with an interwoven wraparound that is set on Halloween, echoing the sentiment of Michael Dougherty’s "Trick ‘r’ Treat".

The film starts with the introduction of a woman who is stalked and murdered in her home by a faceless slasher. It’s revealed that this woman works at a local television station, and has been called in to cover another employees shift. This connects to one of the films main characters who also works at the television station as an unenthused horror host. He represents the station as his horror persona at the annual town Halloween dance, called the Spine Chiller. As this story weaves itself thought, we take in the other short stories as well as learning some backstory about the previous Spine Chiller dances where people have gone missing.

The first about a house sitter carrying out her daily chores of collecting the mail and watering plants, but also choosing not to follow the instruction of “Don’t go in the basement”. In the basement she discovers something gory and supernatural as she unintentionally awakens a ghoul who is in search of his missing heart. This story feels classic – like an Edgar Allen Poe story repurposed for "Creepshow".

The next is about a pair of teens who have been given the responsibility of handing out candy to trick or treaters. But after their house is toilet papered and egged they decide to get even by contaminating the candy with nails and broken glass. A little extreme if you ask me, but VERY fitting for the holiday laced with this type of urban legend.

My favorite segment focuses on a young father who is patiently awaiting his Spine Chiller costume to arrive in the mail. But when it finally does arrive, he learns all to late that THIS costume, a wolfman costume, is more than it seems as it changes him forever. A fresh take on the classic werewolf story that seemed like a more adult version of a "Goosebumps" tale.

Eventually these stories give way to the climax of the film which unfolds as our horror host arrives at the Spine Chiller dance. It isn’t long before he and the dance goers are attacked by THE Spine Chiller and his ghost costumed army made up of the previously attacked victims. A fight to survive ensues and, I’ll leave the ending for you to see for yourself.

This is Perrett’s second anthology feature in as many years, with "Weird Fiction" being the first. For fans of the ever popular retro ‘80s VHS throwback phenomena that is so prevalent now a days, you will be happy to know that "Weird Fiction" and "Spine Chiller" both ape that synth scored, neon laced and dust on the scratched film aesthetic. The silver lining here for those of you who aren’t as enthused about that trend is that it’s pulled off really, really well.

Perrett’s vision and craftsmanship exorcised during pre and post-production is evidence of his love for horror, Halloween and of course his eye for detail of past eras. He clearly knows how to make more with less, as this is a low budget crowd funded film made with a cast of less experienced and/or non actors. These are the materials of the indie DIY filmmaker. Most of the minor flaws in the film are easy to overlook. After all they are a byproduct of budget, which Perrett manages to overcome with passion and enthusiasm.

However, my honest nitpicks about "Spine Chiller" are directed at the writing. The wraparound story that holds the rest of the tales together was lacking mythology and scale. The return of the supernatural force that attacks this sleepy town annually could have used more explanation. What is it? How does it work? Why does it attack and how does it choose it’s victims? I’m compelled to ask about it’s victims because some are bad and deserve their comeuppances, but others not so much.

These questions never really get in the way of the films finale because the danger is always on the heels of the main characters, and that’s why I call it a nitpick.

Where scale comes into play are these repeated annual attacks. I feel that the town would have reacted more to them. Maybe there would be a public outcry to end the Halloween party. Maybe there would be more police presence. And again to hint at scale, this could have been discussed in a scene at a town hall meeting, or an interview with the mayor or police chief on the local news. Budget can certainly limit these things, and I can’t know what Perrett scripted, but for his future films these are things that I hope he spends more time developing. World building.

With that said, horror anthologies are a long standing Halloween tradition for many horror fans and cinema normals alike. They are a peak into the world of the macabre and strange. They’re a mini-film festival and Spine Chiller is no exception. A fun, creative alternative to the classics that we’ve all seen again and again. A passion project born of blood and jack o’ lanterns! Check it out.


★ ★

"It's late October. The Spine Chiller is an annual Halloween dance with sinister beginnings. Take a trip with us as we delve into four different stories following four individuals who have been invited to this dance... Who will survive? What is going on at the Spine Chiller?"