Directors: Eric England, Nick Everhart, Emily Hagins, Jesse Holland, Miko Hughes and Andy Mitton
Scream Factory/Shout! Factory

The makers of REMAINS and DEAD SOULS channel the five senses with mixed results for the series of shorts that make up CHILLING VISIONS: 5 SENSES OF FEAR, a Chiller network original on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory’s “Scream Factory” line.

“Smell” from Asylum regular Nick Everhart (666: THE BEAST, 2012 DOOMSDAY) is like one of those dumb Axe body spray commercials (only less subtle) gone terribly wrong (well, maybe it’s what most of us wish would happen to the guys who bathe in that stuff) with more parody than poignancy. Poor Seth (Corey Scott Rutledge) has a mind-numbing office job and is still mooning over his ex-wife when saleswoman Miss Margaret (Hilary Greer) shows up to inform him that he stinks of failure. She offers him a free sample of cologne guaranteed to give him an air of success; but what can you expect from a company whose telephone number is “1-800-666-6666”?

The second and third tales make the most efficient use of their short running times. Once the creepy kid of Mary Lambert’s PET SEMATARY (1989), Miko Hughes makes his directorial debut with the second story “See”, the story of optometrist Dr. Tom (Ted Yudain, REVOLUTIONARY ROAD) who has created a machine capable of harnessing memories through the eyes of his patients (which he can then experience by applying the fluid as eye drops). His favorite patient is Amy Kelleher (Debra Jans, THE CRIMSON MASK) who is being abused by her new boyfriend Travis (Lowell Byers). Feeling that Travis “lacks insight”, Dr. Tom takes advantage of Travis’ myopia to help the man “see the error his ways” with a special mix of gory and violent memories from his other patients. Naturally, the consequences are an unexpected though satisfyingly gory violent bloodbath. Not particularly original, but more entertaining than Karim Hussein’s similarly preoccupied entry to the recent THEATER BIZARRE anthology. Emily Hagins’ (THE RETELLING) “Touch” – which seems like it might have also been intended for the sight entry – has blind youngster Henry (Caleb Barwick, TV’s ARMY WIVES) stumbles onto the abandoned campground of a serial killer (Lowell Byers again) looking for help for his parents who were injured in a road accident.

“Taste” by Eric England (MADISON COUNTY) is a less protracted “sting in the tail” short than “Smell”, but it’s no more entertaining or clever. Boy genius hacker Aaron (Doug Roland, WILT) is recruited by the Watershed sexy executive Lacey Sharp (Symba, BEVERLY HILLS COP III) for a mysterious assignment. It comes as no surprise what happens to those who refuse a job offer from Watershed as “Lacey’s a shark”. “Listen” comes from Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton, the co-directors of YELLOWBRICKROAD, and somewhat similarly explores the consequences of trying to trace the facts behind an urban legend. A quartet of filmmakers decides to do a documentary on the song “Listen, My Children” that supposedly kills its listeners. The song – written by a Russian composer during his stay in an asylum – seems to be lost and the only record of it is a performance in the 1970s under experimental conditions. The video copy they obtain of the performance is damaged and fragmented, offering only tantalizing but gruesome images and snippets of sound. An unknown source provides them with a number of similarly damaged tapes which they elect to reconstruct digitally, only to discover why the song has been buried for so long.

The reuse of actors throughout the five stories as seemingly the same characters is very distracting – especially since one suffers gory and debilitating injuries in two stories and another’s fate seems to be foretold in the preceding story (the camera’s spotlighting of these characters as they appear in other episodes is also more annoying than surprising) – as is the use of gory snippets from the others stories for the subliminal images of “See” and the references in “Taste” to the plot of “Listen” (which is the only one that might have made an intriguing feature). While none of the five are particularly original or even “chilling”, CHILLING VISIONS does at least arouse viewer curiosity about the filmmakers’ feature work (well, four of them since “See” is Hughes’ debut). Not having seen the other works of some of these filmmakers, it is hard to tell how emblematic the shorts are of their talent or whether they tossed something together while saving their better ideas for features (the advantages of this project being a wide audience on television and seemingly one special effects team providing uniform quality work on all five of the shorts).

Produced for television, CHILLING VISIONS comes to Blu-ray in a clean, sharp 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.78:1 widescreen transfer on a BD-25, which is more than sufficient for the feature’s running time and the limited extras. A DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 stereo downmix are included (no real stylistic surprises in the mixing if you’ve seen like a hundred or even ten recent horror films) along with optional English SDH subtitles. The only extras are an inconsequential deleted scene from “Smell” (0:54) and a collection of teasers and trailers (3:25). The trailers are of course the TV promos for the film and the teasers were actually shown during the commercial interruptions during the Chiller airing. If you caught this on Chiller and liked it, the Blu-ray is the way to go (it’s cheaper than most Scream Factory Blu-rays and the DVD edition is five dollars cheaper); but merely interested parties may want to wait for a re-run or stream it first. (Eric Cotenas)