If you like blood, woods and happen to enjoy anthologies, this one’ll keep you occupied
With this week’s flick, I again stumbled upon an anthology. But this one’s from Maryland, so it’s different.
Terrortory consists of five story segments and its framing narrative, meaning this review’s going to be chock-full of pictures and the careful, ruthless frame-by-frame analysis you all have come to expect, nay DEMAND, from yours truly.
But first, if you want to read my thoughts about horror anthologies and how they can be risky business from a filmmaking perspective, then go back over to my review of the three-and-a-half-star Hi-Death. I don’t like repeating myself because, contrary to popular belief, pixels cost money, but the same idea applies here — there’s always a weaker segment when you’ve got a number of collaborators working on the same endeavor. It’s nobody’s fault that it happens. It just happens. You just have to hope that you have a receptive audience and that the weakest segment ends up being the shortest one and it doesn’t torpedo the audience’s enjoyment of everything else.
So the first thing that is cool about Terrortory is that it establishes its own regional folklore right off, which I find intriguing as heck. The premise is that all these stories take place in a spooky region of west-central Maryland that has a bunch of woods and spans about a 10-square-mile area, at least according to some dialogue in the film. When I Googled the f—-r, it looks like a lot bigger area to me, but you can check out the image above and make your own geographic calculations.
Within the area, according to the sinister minds of writer/directors Kevin Kangas, Dan Doran and Mark Wenger, are some supernatural entities. They’re referred to a couple of times in the flick as “urban legends,” but can they really be urban legends if all this stuff happens in the woods? Discuss among yourselves, if you wish.
Anyhow, these supernatural entities/tales Kangas and Co. have come up with have vivid names such as The Demon Truck, The Whispering Cadaver, The Howling Darkness and The Prophetic Vulture, and the opening credits sequence pans over an old map of the Terrortory showing the approximate locations where you’d run into these things if you happened to be wandering around.
Unfortunately, none of the ones I mentioned up there are in this flick, but kudos to the filmmakers for coming up with that fertile concept. If I lived in western Maryland, I’d damn sure be inviting some folks over and hold screenings of Terrortory out in the Terrortory just because it’s got that neat-o regional feel by being based on a real location. After watching the flick, you can go out and get hopped up on popcorn and Mountain Dew or other stimulant of choice and then look for the Two-Headed Torso supposedly southeast of Wolfsville, and it adds a little something extra.
So, as in all anthologies, we start with the framing setup: Two young parents — Trey (Brad Masters) and Carly (Laura Kiser) — are on a vacation in this secluded region and have just put their son, Davey, to bed. They’re about ready to settle down for a movie and some snacks when, right before they press play, the power goes out.
Well, you gotta pass the time doing something when the power’s out, so in between efforts to get in his wife’s pants and get her plastered, husband Trey tells Carly five stories about the area that he heard from a pal, unaware that they are actually participants in a sixth one.
The first story he tells her, “The Siren,” involves a guy out deer hunting in the woods who encounters a really hungry carnivore dressed in a chiffon dress and she needs some meat.
Then Trey tries to get in Carly’s pants and there might be someone watching them from outside the house because there’s a creepy guy out on the patio.
The second story involves a low-budget film crew that goes out to the woods to shoot a slasher movie.
Then Trey tries to get into Carly’s pants and they find out that the patio door was not locked.
The third story involves a couple that go out to the woods in pursuit of the infamous Smiling Jack, a guy in a jack-o-lantern mask who carries a big-ass knife.
Then Trey gets Carly stoned so he can get into her pants and we find out there’s a guy with a knife and he’s in their son’s room.
The fourth story involves four hikers who go out into the woods and they get followed by some drones.
Then Trey takes a break from trying to get in Carly’s pants to go to the kitchen instead and we see that things might not have ended too well for Davey.
The fifth story involves a low-budget film crew that encounters the Midnight Clown who stalks the woods.
Then Trey and Carly find out that they too have a date with one of the terrors that give the region its name and Trey continues to fail to get into his wife’s pants although there is hope at the end.
The throughline, of course, is that all this stuff happens in the woods, so there’s some repetition. Two of the five stories (actually three, if you count the motives of the people looking for Smiling Jack) involve film crews going out in the woods to shoot a horror flick, but as filmmakers you have to go with what you know to get the thing done.
Out of the five, the most unique and the one with the funnest title is “The Drone Collector,” where the people are getting attacked by the drones in the woods. The plausibility factor declines as the story buzzes toward its conclusion, but if you get hung up on that, you’re missing out on a lot of fun in a lot of things. The weakest one is the first one, “The Siren,” because the narrative didn’t quite hold together. The other three are variants of the old slasher-in-the-woods deal with “Smiling Jack” standing out for its score and gore effects, “Midnight Clown” having the best ensemble performance and some clever characterization and “The Prowler” having some good gore effects (and one intentionally bad one) and a couple of gallons of blood spilled. Speaking of…
- Best way to keep the spark alive, according to Trey and Carly: Argue with each other about Aliens vs. the Twilight movies, throw some glow sticks around, drink, get stoned, repeat.
- Best reason to become vegan: Everyone our intrepid huntsman Marshall Trager talks to is obsessed with meat in “The Siren,” and he finds out what it feels like to be a piece of jerky.
- Best get your eyes checked award: Eric (Russel Jozwiak), the effects guy for the movie being shot in the second segment, “The Prowler,” listens to fellow crewmember Cindy, who looks like she had her eyes gouged out, when she screams “Behind you!” Eric spins around and buries a hatchet in the chest of pervy flannel-wearing camera guy Ian (Victor Acord). Eric also has the best death line: “Aw f—.”
- Best example of spilling your guts, physically and emotionally: When David (Johnny Alonso), while eviscerated, shows Smiling Jack that he was going to propose to his girlfriend.
- Best way to illustrate the drone takeover is real: When the folks hiking in the woods in “The Drone Collector” (story 4) tried to knock the killer drones down using a walking stick and rocks but failed, and a trained practitioner of parkour cannot even hope to evade the airborne menace.
- Best facial expression and use of her enormous talents: In story 5, Nadia White as Darla, an actress in “The Woodsman Choppeth” film shoot, bugs her eyes out and wonders what the heck she had gotten into when one of the crew mentioned by name one of the more salacious legends of the Terrortory. Prior to that, she had successfully gained the admiration of the exacting director of photography (who later is impaled on his own tripod) with her unabashed willingness to reveal the profundity of her garbonza crop, a performance that could put out an eye or two and is worthy of recognition in this review.
After watching this one, I learned that Kangas and Co. did a Terrortory 2 and there were plans for a third one. Not sure if Numero Two-o fills some more spots on the map that they used in the beginning, but if they want to send it along for me to check it out, get in touch because I wouldn’t object. Until then, in my eyes, this one shall stand as the all-time No. 1 horror anthology classic for Frederick, Md., and points west in the Old Line State.
Check it out streaming on Amazon or buy it straight from the source on DVD from the filmmakers’ website www.kangaskahnfilms.com where they’ll appreciate it more.