Tribeca Review: Crypt TV’s Monster Madness

Following the screening of Crypt TV’s Monster Madness at the Tribeca Film Festival, co-founder Jack Davis claimed that he wanted Crypt TV to serve as a kind of record label for young horror film directors. Davis compared Crypt TV to independent music label “Sub Pop,” and hoped that his company would be an avenue for young directors to be able have their films financed, while audiences could be introduced to new horror directors.

Unfortunately the shorts screened at this years festival fall considerably short of that lofty goal. Not even acclaimed director Eli Roth’s endorsement could save these formulaic, uninspired, and sometimes insultingly dull short films.

The event got off to a decent start with short Stereoscope directed by Alexander Babaev. While not groundbreaking, the short centered around a woman’s discovery of the titular item which when peered through allows one to see monstrous creatures whose physical presence is ambiguous. Stereoscope plays on the well worn, but effective, horror concept of the possible demons that could be just around the corner or, in this case, just through the stereoscope.

While the atmosphere of anticipation was tense enough to create a fair amount of suspense, the boogeymen themselves were not creatively designed, and the story never really goes anywhere. It almost seems as if Babaev had a bunch of great spooky costumes that he later found a reason to have actors wear.

In collections of shorts the opening one needs to serve two purposes. First it needs to serve as an at least serviceable preview of what is to come. Second, it needs to be good enough of a self contained story to make the viewer want to see more.

Stereoscope failed on both fronts because none of the other shorts could live up to a very middling collection of horror cliches. The most egregious of which was Odd Jobs: Body Modification directed by Nicholas Mihm.

Odd Jobs, is a short documentary about a tattoo and piercing parlor—full stop. It is so out of place in a collection of short horror films that for a moment I thought I drifted off and started dreaming about Miami Ink reruns.

The Ben Franklin and Anthony Melton co-directed short The Birch is a solid concept on its own, but wasn’t given enough time to flourish. The character design of the monster is one of the more creative concepts on the entire show, but the film never has time to be anything more than a standard bully-victim revenge fantasy.

The problem with Monster Madness as a whole is not that the capacity for new and creative ideas isn’t there, but rather that the attempts to innovate or subvert established genres and tropes falls short of the capabilities of the admittedly talented directors.

Sunny Family Cult, directed by Gabriel Younes, meshes together the backwoods murderous family cult genre and the 80s teen slasher genre in a way that could be appreciated for its innovative concept if the idea hadn’t been done to death already by the numerous Texas Chainsaw reboots.

The twist that involves one of the teenagers secretly being a cult member is clever enough, but the film seems so desperate to subvert the naive teenager trope, that it fails to actually change anything about it. Rather than cleverly mock tired old genre tropes, it becomes a deformed amalgam of them.

Monster Madness falls short of its lofty ambitions to be a medium for new horror filmmakers, and instead becomes a collection of decent, if lacking student films.

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