Blu-Ray Review: ‘Chillerama’

‘Irreverent, stupid, immature, and disgusting, but willfully so… a winner in spite of itself.’

Devon Ashbyby Devon Ashby


Conceived originally as a homage to the seminal genre magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland, horror/comedy anthology Chillerama hits the shelves on Blu-Ray this month, featuring goofy, rubber-FX laden parody shorts from four different B-list comedy and horror directors. Filmic contributors include Adam Rifkin (The Dark Backward, Detroit Rock City), Adam Green (that dude who directed the two Hatchet movies), Tim Sullivan (co-writer and director of the 2000 Maniacs sequel with Robert Englund that happened a few years ago) and Joe Lynch (who I’ve never actually personally heard of, but apparently, according to the Internet, he directed Wrong Turn 2: Dead End). Chillerama parodies omnibus-style horror films like Dead of Night and Creepshow, drawing inspiration as well from similar comedy outings like Kentucky Fried Movie. It’s irreverent, stupid, immature, and disgusting, but willfully so, and ultimately its display of enthusiastic moxie, and its reflection of genuine love for the genre films it spoofs, make it a winner in spite of itself.

Chillerama consists of three vignettes (three and a half, if you count that weird thing they did at the end with the scat porn), plus a wraparound that takes place at a Drive-In movie theater on the last night before the theater is scheduled to close, having been purchased for demolition by the indifferent representatives of a franchise burger restaurant. To commemorate the bittersweet end of his no-longer-flourishing cultural institution, the theater’s owner, Cecil B. Kaufman (Richard Riehle) decides to screen a special program of bizarre, obscure B-movies that have never been shown before in North America. Unbeknownst to Cecil, however, a stray zombie has gone AWOL in the concessions area and ends up jerking off into the popcorn butter, with predictably wacky results for the theater patrons.

Amidst this silliness, the drive-in audience soaks up the imaginary B-movies on the bill, all of which are parodies of classic genre staples (“Curse of the Werebear,” for example, fuses frothy ‘60s beach party musicals with moody nuclear-age teen monster epics, and “Wadzilla” combines Japanese kaiju with domestic sci-fi product from the same rough time period). “Wadzilla,” which stars Rifkin as a nebbishy businessman whose world is thrown into chaos by an experimental medication that causes his sperm to mutate and become sentient, was my personal favorite, but that’s probably because it ended with everyone getting doused in buckets of ejaculate, and my sense of humor is cheap like that. From a technical perspective, “Wadzilla” is actually pretty solid, with some nice, affectionate use of practical special effects, and a weird, evocative color scheme and shooting style that genuinely recall low-budget horror and exploitation films of the ‘60s and early ‘70s. “Curse of the Werebear,” about a baby-faced teenager whose private struggles with his sexual orientation are amplified when he is bitten by the lycanthropic leader of a gay biker gang, has a few funny songs, but is otherwise sketchy and heavy-handed. “Diary of Ann Frankenstein,” however, a musical slapstick comedy about Hitler (Joel Moore) trying to build a Jewish Ubermensch (Kane Hodder) from stray, salvaged body parts, is funny in an overblown, inappropriate, vaudevillian kind of way.

Special features on the Blu-Ray are pretty well balanced and thorough, without overextending themselves to the point where it all just seems like a bunch of needless filler. There are some behind-the-scenes featurettes and deleted scenes, plus a couple interviews with the directors, and some trailers for the fake drive-in titles. Even if Chillerama isn’t technically the greatest movie ever made, it’s pretty clear from the making-of docs that everyone involved had a great time working on it, and their energy and enthusiasm shows through in the finished product, even during rough patches where minor details like a meandering story or flat dialogue could have easily dragged down a lesser project’s momentum. In that way, Chillerama is really a perfect homage – an ode to films that are typically miles away from technical proficiency, but that in spite of their flaws are still exciting, emotional, beautiful, and occasionally even profound.