Most anthologies are uneven, with a few short films that stand above the rest and others that flounder. Immortal features four shorts with no wrap-around story. Their only connection is a twist pertaining to immortality. Tony Todd, specifically, gives a heart-wrenching performance in “Ted and Mary,” but all four films are strong. Immortal is a worthy entry into the latest horror anthology revival.
The first short, “Chelsea,” initially deals with a sexual assault between track superstar Chelsea (Lindsay Mushett) and her coach. Her English teacher, Mr. Shagis (Dylan Baker of Trick ‘r Treat fame), insists that she do something about the coach. About half of the short is spent inside of Mr. Shagis’ classroom, as he explains the importance of allegories in “great literature” and also poses the question why bad guys are depicted as cool when heroes are not. The short then turns into a hunter-esque narrative that is creative and quite surprising. The shift in story works well, but “Chelsea” is the most overwrought film in the bunch. Mr. Shagis’ rambling and lecturing grows old. Though I understand the point of his character and his spiel about bad guys and good guys, his dialogue becomes tiresome.
The second short, “Gary and Vanessa,” has perhaps the cleverest storyline of the four films. Vanessa (Agnes Bruckner) is pregnant, but she and her hubby have financial woes. Fearing that they won’t be able to provide for their child, Gary (Brett Edwards) devises a plan to fall off of the roof, while pretending to fix a cable so they can claim an insurance check. Edwards’ performance here is earnest, especially when he tells Vanessa, “I’m not just okay with getting by” and then adds that he doesn’t want their child to have to worry. Though the subject matter may be heavy, the short is not without its humor, especially when a cable repairman shows up and delays Gary’s plan. Like “Chelsea,” “Gary and Vanessa” has a few unexpected turns, and at those points, Bruckner’s performance as Vanessa really shines. The ending is quite gruesome.
The third short, “Ted and Mary,” is the most contemplative of the four. Tony Todd captivates in his performance as Ted, an emotionally-wrecked husband whose wife, Mary (Robin Bartlett), has terminal cancer. Todd’s emotional monologues about mortality and aging are heartbreaking. As he looks into the camera with dark rings under his eyes, you can’t help but feel his character’s pain. Immortal is worth a watch for this short alone and Todd’s performance. His baritone voice barely rises above a whisper at times, while his character reflects upon death and what it will mean when his partner of many years is no more. Todd’s acting here is just superb. “Ted and Mary” asks some hard questions, and it takes a dramatic turn in the closing minutes that deepens the emotional impact of the film.
The last short, “Warren,” features Samm Levine as a young man who is hit by a car but doesn’t die after the accident, even after his neck snaps. More so than the other films, “Warren” contemplates whether or not immortality would be a good thing. When Warren confronts the woman who hit him and her husband, he says that he can’t eat or sleep. His days are long, and he has no drive anymore. He doesn’t feel anything. Immortality is a curse, in other words. It’s a well-scripted short and my second favorite in the set, next to “Ted and Mary.”
Horror anthologies have been making a comeback lately. Nightmare Cinema and the revived Creepshow TV series on Shudder come to mind. Even Tales from the Hood is getting another sequel. Yet, some horror anthologies are better than others. Immortal may be low-budget, but it features some bigger genre names, and it generally succeeds at tackling some heavy issues, namely immortality and death. It’s worth a watch.
Immortal is available on demand September 8 from Stonecutter/DifferentDuckFilms.
Follow HorrOrigins on Social Media