August 5, 2011

Trapped Ashes (2006)

"Seven strangers on a Hollywood movie studio tour are trapped inside an infamous House of Horror and forced to tell their most terrifying stories to get out alive."

I used to love the old Amicus anthologies even though most of them weren't actually very scary so I was really in the mood to see what appeared to be an updated version of "The Vault of Horror" (1973). Unfortunately, even though it boasted the talents of five directors (Ken Russell, Sean S. Cunningham, Joe Dante, Monte Hellman and John Gaeta) and had a cast which included several well known faces such as Henry Gibson and John Saxon, it was thoroughly disappointing.

"Trapped Ashes" was little more than an excuse to get all the actresses in the film topless as much as possible. I'm not going to complain about that, of course, or the half-dozen softcore sex scenes, but it really made the film far too comical. As each segment started, I was just counting off the minutes until whichever actress was involved got naked.

Basically, "Trapped Ashes" looked like it was made up of rejected episodes from "The Hunger" TV series (which has now disappeared from Netflix, in case you wondered) and was sadly lacking in the horror department. It looked like it was made for TV but I have no idea if it was or not. Presumably it was released directly to DVD and I'm so glad that I didn't rent it at the time.

The wraparound story, directed by Joe Dante, had the same result as all the Amicus anthologies and so, even though it was silly and predictable, it was arguably the best part. The segments themselves were just very bland and no amount of boobs could cover that up.

The best (and least comedic) of the segments themselves involved Lara Harris who was the star of the whole show for me. Her almost J-horror ghost story (called "Jibaku") was directed by Sean S. Cunningham who, obviously, everyone knows because of "Friday the 13th" (1980). I thought Lara Harris was perfect in the role of Julia and made up for the story itself being rather weak.

If you prefer blondes and comedy, Rachel Veltri, was very good in Ken Russell's "The Girl with the Golden Breasts" but I found that whole segment to be very unappealing and it ruined the tone of the whole movie so much that it never recovered afterwards. It probably wasn't the best idea to make it the first story either.

Later on, John Saxon did quite well as an actor who was once involved in a love affair with a vampiric witch although he didn't really have much to do with it apart from appearing at the beginning and end. "Stanley's Girlfriend" was directed by Monte Hellman who is famous for "Beast from Haunted Cave" (1959) which isn't actually something to be very proud of either. The story felt like a filler and didn't really go anywhere or accomplish anything at all.

The final story, directed by John Gaeta, called "My Twin, The Worm" tried to be gruesome but the visual effects didn't really do anything for me which was a shame. Considering that John Gaeta is a visual effects guy rather than a director in the first place, I expected more.

Like so many of the films which I've watched on Netflix recently, "Trapped Ashes" is going straight into The Dungeon. It was entertaining in a few places but so very disappointing as a horror film that I really can't recommend it.

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