Monday, February 11, 2019

Charlotte's Web

As I've said before, Amazon Prime is a wild minefield when it comes to horror. Its newer indie output is usually less than stellar, but after the joy of Crush the Skull, I've been more and more willing to take a chance on its recommendations. Since nine years of The Shortening has made it harder and harder to find anything featuring killers under 4', to the trenches we go!

Quick Plot: A teenage babysitter has just put her charge to bed and decides to kill the rest of her time on duty watching Night of the Living Dead (shout out to public domain!) and chatting with her horny boyfriend. Unfortunately for her, the creepy doll hanging out in the living room has other plans.

Before you can say "I guess the doll's name is Charlotte because that's what the film's cover art implied even though it's never mentioned in the rest of the movie and Charlotte is the name of a character in one story only", Charlotte (yes, I'm now calling the doll Charlotte for convenience) has the young woman bound and gagged. Her punishment? Being forced to watch a collection of horror shorts.

I realize most of what I've said thus far in this review sounds negative, but to my shock, I kind of enjoyed Charlotte. Like every anthology not named Creepshow, the segments vary wildly in quality, but for what I have to assume was a next-to-nothing budget, the overall product worked far better than expected.

Unfortunately, IMDB lists just about nothing about this film other than the names of the multiple directors (Colin Campbell, John Edward Lee, Calvin Main, Corey Norman, Patrick Rea, and April Wright). Hence, expect little and inaccurate detail as I sum up the stories:

1- My favorite of the bunch, a tale of jealous twin sisters whose rivalry over a doll as children festers into something far more sinister as petty adults. Fun, quick, and clever in its twists.

2- A fairly straightforward, but decently told story about a couple who receive a strange grown woman dressed as a doll as a trick or treater, and the hell that follows.

3- Another babysitter-with-a-boyfriend story. In this case, a young woman teases a little boy with tales of a foot-eating troll, only to meet the monster herself.

4- A strange, rather payoff-less quickie about a man embarking on a demonic sacrifice. Fingers are eaten. That is that.

5- The strongest in the bunch, a light-hearted dark comedy about persistent Girl Scouts--er, "Adventure Girls"-- and their nefarious cookie plans.

6- A wildly different tale in terms of tone, this follows a woman waking up in a basement out of Jigsaw's design guide to find a pedophile murderer tied up at her disposal. It involves a lot of shouting and I kind of hated it.

7- Starring one of the women who didn't win season 1 of VH1's Scream Queens (SIDE NOTE! REMEMBER THAT JAMES GUNN AND SHAWNEE SMITH ONCE HOSTED A REALITY COMPETITION TO PICK SOMEONE TO DIE IN SAW VI???), this story follows a lonely little girl who mysteriously receives a doll who, you might guess, has bad things in mind for the woman who didn't win Scream Queens (Sarah Agor).

8- The final segment centers on a savvy kid who wants to sneak into a horror marathon at a mysterious, meat-filled theater. With a fun and playful twist, it's the right note to end on.

What can you say about eight unrelated short films loosely tied together? That Charlotte works on any level is something of an achievement. None of the segments succeed as actual scary horror tales, but all are quick, and for the most part, offer something mildly new. Considering the dregs of anthology segments I've sat through, that's impressive.

Lessons Learned
Contrary to popular cultural portrayals, trolls actually resemble burn victims with tiny Trump hands

Suburban walls are incredibly soundproof

Evil dolls are terrible influences on young girls, especially in how they make them worry about gluten

Every babysitter will try to have sex while on duty

There are better horror anthologies out there, but as we've seen time and time again, there are a whole lot worse too. Charlotte is a wild mixed bag, but the worst segments go by quickly and the best have some neat fun. It's worth a casual watch, especially compared to some of its Amazon Prime competition.


  1. I'm always up for a horror anthology... thanks for pointing this one out.
    Nothing all that great, or all that bad in this one.
    I think my favorite segment was the one about the weird trick-or-treater, because what was up with her anyway? Was that a happy ending or not?

  2. I can't find a streaming or downloadable copy of this. Can anyone tell me which scene from Night of the Living Dead appears?

    1. It should still be streaming via Amazon Prime. I don't remember which specific scene, it's really just on briefly in the background during the framing scenes. Public domain forever!

  3. While perusing your reviews of anthologies, I came across this one. Now I really wish I had seen this before I let my Amazon Prime account run out. And I have never heard of Crush the Skull but look forward to checking it out too.

    In other horror anthology news, have you heard of XX from 2017? I just learned about it, it's four stories written and directed by women. I'm excited, going to watch it this week.

    1. Yes! I really liked XX, especially Karyn Kusama's segment. Considering how bro-y modern horror anthologies were post-V/H/S, I'm all for more female-only segments!

    2. We had friends over and watched XX (we do outdoor horror movie nights with pals in the summer, it's fun) and it was a hit. I liked all the segments, they were each well done but also very different from each other. I liked the last one the most, it was funny timing because I just finished reading Rosemary's Baby and saw the parallels immediately. My only complaint about XX is the lack of a fun wraparound story or whatever it's called. The animation was fine but I would have preferred some kind of larger story that tied all the segments together. That's a small complaint though so I give it 8.5/10.

  4. I just watched Crush the Skull, and really liked it! Very fun, funny, and smart. You have a real knack for finding these modern b-grade gems, it's great.

    1. Yes! So glad you enjoyed it! I really hope it finds a bigger audience or at the very least, that its filmmakers get to keep working!