MACABRE PAIR OF SHORTS
Cutting Room - Episode 19
Joseph Christiana, 9/17/12

One of the common misconceptions about works of short fiction- whether literature or cinema- is
that they're by definition light fare, that they're minor amusements not to be taken seriously. The
truth is however that short works can pack as much of a wallop as they're long-winded kin can.
And to regard them as the shameful black sheep little brother is a mistake, especially
considering that short works are at the very foundations of storytelling. Literature began, after
all, when our hairy, low-browed ancestors, just descended from the trees, told minor anecdotes
about their days of hunting and being hunted in the bush. Certainly our flea-bitten cousins didn't
jump out of the gate with War and Peace. Heck, the oldest works are anthologies. See Homer.
Also, the bible. Similarly, the first incarnations of Cinema were short as well: Edison's single shot
spectacles of Fred Ott's Sneeze, for example, if nothing else, is an exercise in extreme brevity.

Now, I'll get around to 1996's MACABRE PAIR OF SHORTS, that triumph of cinema Tomahawk
assigned me this week, soon enough, but first I'll return his cruel little curve ball by laying down
a bunt for the suicide squeeze: Instead of hearing one of my usual monolithic eviscerations on a
single film, I will offer to you, dear listeners, an introduction potpourri. That is, what you are
about to hear is an anthological introduction to horror anthologies. To wit:

The first intro, is for those of you as of yet unacquainted with the chief pioneer of both the
modern short story and of modern horror: Mr. Edgar Allen Poe. Over a century and half ago he
put forth what have perhaps been the only enduring edicts of modern short form storytelling: He
assayed that the short story should be able to be read in one sitting, that the aim is to have a
singular cohesive effect (or mood), and that not a word should be wasted. His short stories have
been adapated to film more times than can be counted and his work has influenced all of your
favorite horror directors in ways too great to be measured. The short fiction of Poe has been
packaged in all sorts of configurations. Choose any collection you like. You can't go wrong. And
if you've never read him,please,  stop this  audio stream right now, this very second, and hustle
your ass to the library or the bookstore, for the love of horror!

Now going from Poe to Stephen King isn't something to be embarrassed about. King, like any
artist who's made horror their bread and butter, is regarded with a snobbish downcast eye by
many a pseudo-intellectual, but his work is effective and entertaining and, really, isn't that the
point? So, in 1992 King teamed up with George A. Romero and Tom Savini, riffed on the
legendary E.C. Comics and out came CREEPSHOW. This raucous collection of six horror shorts
is a giddy celebration of all things macabre. Now it's rare that immensely distinct and powerful
voices combine harmoniously, but Romero, King, and EC Comics somehow balanced their egos,
combined their visions beautifully and the result is a damn fine film containing a few cinematic
moments that have haunted me since I was a kid. King's role in the film as a country bumpkin
and seeing Ted Danson go toe-to-toe with Leslie Neilsen alone is worth the price of admission.
Check it out.

Ok. So one of the pitfalls of the anthology form is a tendency for uneviness from episode to
episode. And keeping in step with the form, I offer you 2004's THREE EXTREMES. Yes, I just
went from Poe to Creepshow to three masters of Asian cinema and I'm not apologizing. I offer
THREE EXTREMES to you because it's one of the best anthologies I've ever seen, horror or
not. And while the first two shorts in the collection, directed by Fruit Chan and Park Chan-wook
respectively, are both solid pieces,- one involves eating babies, the other torture as only how
Asians can do it-- it's the third film, Takashi Miike's BOX that elevates this film above the fray.
BOX is the kind of film that shows up in your dreams unannounced, punches you in the heart
and sets your face on fire. It makes you forget who you are and re-teaches you why you love
movies. It reminds you that fear is an emotion as powerful as love. Quite simply, BOX is one of
the best short films ever made.

And now for MACABRE PAIR OF SHORTS. Listen, Tomahway, it's difficult for me to comment on
a film like this because to some degree I feel its pain. I've been behind a camera and had my
hands tied by lack of resources. Here I sense the filmmaker struggled against his own
limitations. And without an intimate understanding of what those limitations were, I can't assess
to what degree the filmmaker achieved his vision, if those limitations were internal or external, so
to speak. Fans of Troma will appreciate the schlocky, good-naturated ribald zaniness of it all.
They'll consider its clunkiness endearing. But I was having trouble finding a soft spot for it.
There are a few neat ideas presented here-- the lesbian vampires who won't kill, for sport, a
victim they can't consume because of his blood disease, the re-imagining of CAT IN THE HAT as
a horror tale - and certainly Lloyd Kaufman's is his usual unapologetic shameless self in the
introductions to the film. But the truth is this, one of the great things about an anthology is
knowing that if you're not into one of the segments, it'll soon be over and the next one might be
better. It just sucks when the better one never comes.
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