The second "4 Films Horror Collector's Set" which I bought is labelled as "Vol. 3" and came out in March 2010 according to Amazon. This causes some confusion as the previous volume (or rather two volumes with one movie changed!) was released in September 2009 (or November 2009 for the changed one) after the official first two volumes of June 2009. Obviously, Amazon have made a slight mistake with their listing, but it's an easy thing to do.
It certainly doesn't help that there were several double-feature and single-feature DVDs of the same movies floating around at the same time, or that I've now chosen to put these packs in my own order, but I didn't see any of the others in the flesh until a year afterwards. Without knowing which retailers ordered what, it's hard to say when these packs really hit the stores.
If you want to mess up your mind, go to the Echo Bridge Home Entertainment site and marvel at all the possible combinations. Just imagine how the average horror nerd would feel when confronted by so many packs in a bargain bin no matter how good his visual memory might be. I'm sure that I've seen some which aren't even listed on the site anymore.
But that's enough preamble. You get the point. These "4 Films" packs appeared absolutely everywhere at different times, and they are still out there.
Let's have a look at what's in this "4 Films Horror Collector's Set".
Wages of Sin (2006)
"When a beautiful college graduate inherits an abandoned house in the countryside, she and her friends go there for a weekend getaway, only to discover that the evil presence of a twisted preacher still lingers there—and it doesn't want them to leave."
Ah, the movie which was replaced by "Salvage" (2006) in the previous set begins this one just to cause a double-dip for some people and falsify the popularity of the title. Please note that such tactics do not work. Most people have still never heard of this movie or anyone in it.
Give "Wages of Sin" time to get past the opening credits, and you'll want to switch it off every second for the next hour and a half even though there's a pretty girl (Ashlie Victoria Clark) in it. It's yet another piece of low-budget, handycam crap rather than a real movie. There are no big stars or known names, and it just drags on and on for what feels like days.
Apart from a confusing story with hardly any horror, you do get to see some of Washington State and what things look like there. Basically, it's full of the same wooden houses and big, chunky cars as the rest of America.
If there's a lesson to be learned from this formulaic "cabin in the woods" movie, it's that looks are no substitute for talent. Nobody from "Wages of Sin" has become a big showbiz success or done anything else unless they've got channels on YouTube which nobody has ever heard of either.
Skeleton Man (2004)
"When an elite crew of soldiers investigating the brutal and mysterious death of four Army Special Forces officers meet an old blind Indian who claims to know what happened to the dead men, they become terrorized by The Skeleton Man."
No matter how much you like Michael Rooker (now in "The Walking Dead") or Casper Van Dien (whose "Starship Troopers" role is his biggest claim to fame), you'll find something to hate in this movie. Apparently, "Skeleton Man" was made for the Sci-Fi channel, but it's extremely bad even for a TV movie. It's not even horror.
Whether it's the low-rent ripoff of "Predator" (1987) or the seemingly indestructable Skeletor-style character who can get the better of heavily-armed soldiers with nothing more than a horse and some spears, this is just awful in every way. Whatever the purpose of any of it was supposed to be, it's really nothing more than a bunch of soldiers shooting guns in the woods.
There's no real acting since everybody is angry all the time, the "undercover" military team is half-filled with equally snarky, female models, and the plot is all over the place.
The only good thing about "Skeleton Man", apart from a couple of the stunts and explosions, is that it eventually ends.
"When an encounter with the beauty next door (Kristen Bell) goes horribly wrong, a moment of desperation triggers a chilling turn of events for a reclusive social misfit. Starring Kristen Bell, Nectar Rose and Lucky McKee."
"Roman" is more of an off-beat psychological drama than a horror movie although there's still enough horror involved in it to count. In a reversal of roles after "May" (2002), Angela Bettis directed Lucky McKee. Both deliver exactly what you would expect.
With surprisingly good acting all round and enough quirkiness for it to appeal to horror hipsters looking for something classier than usual, you won't even notice the low-budget. Everything about this movie is designed to be minimalist and cool. I think it's a lot more polished than "May". It's also more believable.
Most people will agree that "Roman" is the only reason to buy this pack and is easily worth $5 (or more) on its own. If all "indie" movies were this good, I wouldn't hate so many of them.
Live Animals (2008)
"Explosive, grisly and gutsy filmmaking, Live Animals is a twisted descent into Hell on Earth. After a group of young adults are kidnapped and tortured, their attempt to escape leads to even more gruesome and deadly consequences."
Although clearly inspired by "Hostel" (2005) and all the other "torture porn" clones which followed, "Live Animals" is actually better than many of them. With lots of gore and the kind of tension which makes you feel as frustrated as the captives, it's quite harrowing in a couple of places.
Other than the lack of originality, the biggest problem is that the characters are so stereotypical that you can't really care about any of them particularly. Most of the gore happening off-camera with only the aftermath shown doesn't help much either. It's still a pretty gory movie though and definitely as mean-spirited as they come.
If "Shuttle" (also from 2008) hadn't gone into the same territory purely by coincidence (and hadn't been promoted better), I would have liked "Live Animals" a lot more. For all of its faults, it's the second best movie in the pack.
Despite still being available from gas stations and pharmacies to convenience, grocery and department stores, Echo Bridge Home Entertainment have now combined this pack with the previous "4 Films Horror Collector's Set" to form "The Midnight Horror Collection: 8 Movies Pack Vol. 5".
With only one good movie, one average movie, and two really terrible movies in each 4 pack, the "Vol. 5" version doesn't have as much entertainment value as the first two in the series. For $5, it's much the same as buying one 4 pack and getting another one free so it's still a good deal overall, but given the way these movies are mixed and matched anyway, it's slightly disappointing that the strongest movies weren't made into another 4 pack on their own.
As a "4 Films Horror Collector's Set", I only recommend this one if you want "Roman" and you can find it cheaper than the original recommended retail price.