Synopsis: Conceived and curated entirely on the popular, audio-based social media platform Clubhouse, featuring a group of international filmmakers, each exploring a character dealing with a tragedy caused by a supernatural entity.
Stars: Haley Bishop, Stella Stocker, Kristine Gerolaga, Alysse Fozmark
Directors: Jason Ragosta, Steven Keller, Haley Bishop, Wes Driver, Mark Pritchard, Kimberley Elizabeth, Jason Wilkinson, Nicole Carlson, Michael Galvan, Sebastien Bazile
Running Length: 87 minutes
TMMM Score: (4.5/10)
Review: Attentive readers over the years of these 31 Days to Scare know that I like to tool around in anthologies because they’re akin to a grab bag you can keep reaching into and never know what you might pull out. For the horror fan, the anthology feature film took off in a big way during the ’70s when British film production company Amicus rose to great acclaim. Releasing a string of movies with titles like The House That Dripped Blood, Tales from the Crypt, Asylum, Vault of Horror, and From Beyond the Grave let big stars show up for a small commitment in a chapter as part of a larger portmanteau. While they may appear quaint today, some still pack quite a punch if you watch them in the right frame of mind and mood.
The sub-genre of horror still gets some love every so often, and I can’t resist when a new one lands in my lap, especially if there is some unique layer to it that sets it apart. For Sinphony: A Clubhouse Horror Anthology, what caught my attention was that each of the nine stories was created through user interactions on the Clubhouse app. I’m going to be completely transparent and say that I had no clue what Clubhouse was until I saw this film. I can’t even wrap my head around how users can connect with others worldwide in an audio-only atmosphere, an actual chatroom if you will.
Curating these chats into the collection presented by Dark Sky Films, Sinphony: A Clubhouse Horror Anthology, has your expected high and low points. The acting is all over the map, and even the best acting is often drowned out by clumsiness behind the camera. Rarely do the two positions ever align completely, but on the flip side, you’ve seen far worse performances and production elements in more expensive-looking movies. As for the individual films? Oh, you have your requisite serial killer in a clown mask (as the film’s opener), various creatures out for flesh, and mysterious occurrences that end in bloody mayhem, but the more oddball diversions keep you moving forward deeper into the abyss.
Pay particular interest to Jason Wilkinson’s Tabitha, a one-location set-up that finds a woman slowly bleeding to death after a failed burglary to get money for her mother. Simple in construction, it says a lot for Wilkinson and his lead actress that they keep us engaged as a ghost from her past terrorizes the woman. I also like Ear Worm by Steven Keller. A father-son team removes mold from an abandoned building when the son encounters deadly spores that set off an alarming turn of events. You could see this one being expanded into a feature film. I also enjoyed the comedic side of Forever Young, Haley Bishop’s segment centered on a woman turning 30 who discovers why adults shouldn’t participate in TikTok dance competitions.
Connecting the segments is a very slim story involving sketches of each character that are being put up for display. However, this is introduced in such a goofy way that you aren’t sure if it’s the end of one story or the start of another. It turns out it’s neither. The best move was to have each segment feature the same song in different styles/sung by other voices. It’s no Top 40 hit, but it has the desired effect of acting as a sign to the audience that an invisible thread is running through.
Clearly, all directors involved in Sinphony: A Clubhouse Horror Anthology have potential; some need a little more time to define their style. It’s unfair to mention any specifically by name because what they’ve all collectively done here is unique. That bold forward thinking should be celebrated for advancement, not shredded for what it may lack. If anything, I would look forward to what each would do next.
(Someone, please explore making Ear Worm into a feature, though… there’s something there!)