Sinister Visions is a 2013 Danish/Swedish horror anthology film directed by Henric Brandt (‘My Undead Girlfriend’), Doug Gehl (‘Genital Genocide’), Andreas Rylander (‘My Undead Girlfriend’ intro) and Kim Sønderholm (‘Mother Knows Best’, ‘A Woman Scorned’ and ‘Succubus’).
Horror anthologies are going through something of a revival at the moment – in recent years, we’ve had numerous examples, some good, some bad, some unspeakably awful, ranging from The Theatre Bizarre to Little Deaths to V/H/S and others. Sinister Visions is the latest to emerge and is a decidedly mixed bag.
This is, in fact, less a portmanteau movie than a collection of shorts bolted together to create a cinematic Frankenstein Monster. Now, there is nothing wrong with that in theory. But in the case of Sinister Visions, it doesn’t really work –- partly because there is zero consistency of style or theme (apart from underlying misogyny that may be coincidental) yet mostly because three of the films here feature the same male lead, Kim Sønderholm. I would suggest that the only way to not make the same actor cropping up in different roles throughout a feature would be to make it a consistent theme –- if all the shorts here had the same cast, that might at least be interesting. As it is, it just feels sloppy. Of course, the films that Sønderholm stars in are the same ones that he directs, suggesting either that he struggles to find actors or really sees himself as lead material. Sorry, but he isn’t.
The first story, Succubus, tells the story of a young woman (Kat Herlo) who becomes possessed by the titular demon and sets out to find a male victim (Sønderholm) to drain of his soul during sex. At the end of the story, she transforms into a demonic creature that is half impressive, half laughable –- yet certainly ambitious. Unfortunately -– and this is the curse of most of the stories included in this movie –- this is less a short story with an interesting twist and more a single idea that goes nowhere. Given that the characters are undeveloped and the film fails to develop after the soul-sucking, it feels rather flat. It also has some terrible performances and – like most of the stories here – is bogged down in heavy accents. While I can understand the commercial motivation behind shooting a Scandinavian film in English, it might work better if you actually hired native English speakers – or people who are decent actors. The common thread running through this collection is dialogue delivered in a stilted, wooden, accented and sometimes incomprehensible manner. It’s a major distraction.
The best story comes next. My Undead Girlfriend opens with some clumsy mock commercials and mini shorts that almost scupper the whole thing, but the main body of the piece is a zombie comedy with a man so desperate to marry his girlfriend (less out of love than the need to access her cash to pay off a loan shark) that even her zombification won’t put him off. So he tidies her up and takes her to dinner with his future in-laws…
There are some genuinely amusing moments here and director Henric Brandt gives the film a degree of style that transcends the zombie clichés. The performances here are, for the most part, effectively exaggerated and on the whole, this is a pretty entertaining short movie. Whether of not it’s entertaining enough to justify sitting through the rest of the film is open to question, but at least it comes early in proceedings so you can stop watching once it ends.
These first two films are the best of the collection. It’s all downhill from here on in.
Next up we have two tedious films written by Garry Charles and directed by / starring Sønderholm. Mother Knows Best would be staggeringly original if no one had ever made Psycho, whilst A Woman Scorned is little more than unconvincing torture. Both films feature topless women chained up and abused, but the real torture is for the audience as the bad actors spout reams of terrible dialogue in an effort to cover up the sparsity of the material. Horribly shot and devoid of purpose, these two stories are the low point of the film.
And that’s saying something, given that we end with the thoroughly grubby Genital Genocide, directed by Doug Gehl. If the charming title hasn’t put you off, then the story of a death-row killer using his final moments to taunt his victim’s families might. This is, basically, crude sleaze with lip-smacking sex and gore scenes that smacks of desperation. I’m all for excess, bad taste and taboo-breaking, however, this is done so badly that it seems less a challenge to polite society and more of a self-indulgent wank fantasy. That said, the film is pushed up several notches by David C. Hayes’ performance as the lecherous killer. He’s a lot better than Sinister Visions deserves.
Inevitably, all the films featured here would benefit from being seen as separate entities – at least Succubus and My Undead Girlfriend, which both have something going for them, even if the former fails to capitalise on it. The last three tales are pretty pointless exercises in misogyny and self-indulgence that add nothing to the value of the film. In the end, Sinister Visions fails to live up to either its own ambitions or the promise of the poster art.
David Flint, MOVIES and MANIA