Terror Tract (2000)
Horror has a new home.
I have a soft spot for anthology style movies such as this. There are many like it, and indeed some stories are have some rather foreseeable outcomes as is typical of these style of movies, but I've always loved that Tales From The Crypt vibe that comes from horror anthologies. In classic format, Terror Tract delivers three stories all contained within it's one over-story, but keeps things from pandering on at a modest 96 minute run time.
We start the movie in what seems to be a everyday and normal fashion - with a salesman trying to sell a recently married couple on some houses. As we go from house to house salesman Bob (John Ritter) finds it harder and harder to make a sale when he morally feels obliged to tell the stories of each house - and this is indeed where the anthology section comes in. Each of the three houses the couple is shown has history too it, and that history is generally rather dark (with the exception of the last house, in which case the house itself had rather little happen in it itself), and in turn the couple tends to turn the house down (leading to the next house). It's an ordinary, real-world scenario that is very believable, even if the haunting stories themselves are not, and we see the pressure really start to get to Bob by the end of the film.
The first house - a veritable mansion - houses the story of a deadly love triangle, in which a cheating wife is caught in the act by her husband. Event's go a bit overboard when the husband's way of dealing with it is to frame his wife for the murder of her lover and make her hang herself and have it look like suicide. Well, needless to say, thing's don't go quite as planned and he ends up being cut a little short (there's a joke in there you might get if you watch the movie, I promise). What ensues is the lover covering up the death of the husband, while the wife has horrific dreams of a zombified husband returning from beyond the grave for revenge. Of all the stories told in this movie, this by far has the most expected of endings, even if it does have one of the most supernatural of concepts (unless you perhaps place telepathy as more supernatural than the undead). Acting during this segment is also a bit... rough around the edges to say the least, being very hit or miss with it's presentation.
Our second house regales us with a story of a father's love for his daughter, and how one should never trust a monkey. Life is good for the family until their young daughter finds an organ grinder's monkey (you know, the little fellas with the cute red suits and all that wonderful charisma) in the back yard. The more time she spends with the monkey, the further she seems to drift from her father (which in turn gets the father rather upset). There is a noticeable tension that forms in the house, with the monkey and father being at the center of it. When one night the father catches and throws the monkey into a cage, it's true colors start to shine. Yes, that cute little monkey is a knife-wielding murderer! Killing the family dog, and then over-killing the animal control agent (payed to come over without appointment) brought in to catch it. The father tries desperately to kill the monkey before it can strike again, but we all know that there are no happy endings in stories like these. Acting here is much better than the first act, with the father acting somewhat believably if not a little over-reacting at times. Considering this is also the only segment to star a child actor and a monkey, one might say it's a bit surprising that the acting was better in this than the first, but the little twist at the ending is just made better by the final words that Bob puts in about it afterwards.
Our final home is the "safest" of the homes, with no real horrifying events happening within it. No, in the case of this home, it's one of the residents - a son - that finds himself in a bit of a bind. This story contains two twists within it, one of which some might not see coming although most should be able to figure out both before they transpire. The son, you see, finds himself psychically linked to a serial killer known as "the Granny Killer" - unlike what you might think, the name is gotten by the killers M.O. of wearing a rubber granny mask, not that he kills little old ladies) - in which he can see the victims die before it actually happens. The entire story at this point is a story within a story, in which the son relates these past events to a psychiatrist whom he meets without appointment after much insisting. The story proceeds, and we feel a bit for the kid who questions whether the killer could in fact be him, and he (rather heavy handed) describes his loneliness and regret after the love of his life stops seeing him (and later on is killed). Of course, the shrink is quite nervous the entire time (what with possibly being in the room with a killer), but also seems genuinely curious with the case presented to her. By the end of this rather interesting story, the first twist is delivered to us and things escalate as far as the "fight or flight" is concerned, with a (potential) final twist at the very end.
Actors do a pretty alright job in all the segments, with the first story being (in my opinion) the worst of the acting, and the best being the story of Bob the salesman that ties the others together. I know I didn't list a lot of names here (in part because outside of Ritter none of the actor names are familiar to me), but one must understand in anthology films the list of main-players can get quite large quite fast. With four distinct stories and three distinct leads minimum per story, you are looking at at least 12 actors, plus the other's that would have to be mentioned, if I went in depth about the plots of each story - which I can't do for the obvious reasons of spoiling potential plot twists. It's better than a lot of B movies as far as acting goes (far better than most slasher films), but I also wouldn't expect any award-winning performances here.
Effect-wise, there isn't anything too elaborate here. Everything appears to be practical and done on a budget (some of the "dismembered body parts" in the third story are rather obviously not real limbs), although are good enough to pass most instances of use. The end scene of the film seems to expend the most of the budget (what with it's singular explosion and all heck breaking loose chaos), but the quality of the film is pretty consistent throughout the experience. Audio is done well, nothing particularly sticks in my head as far as the soundtrack goes, but I also had no problem hearing and understanding what was going on.
I had fun, even with some predictable twists and rather bland acting (in the first story). Although it might not be as entertaining as other anthology films out there, it's certainly not the worst I've seen and would recommend it to anyone who is a fan of the format. If, however, you find yourself wanting to watch a movie that might get you interested in the format of horror anthologies, my recommendations would guide you elsewhere as although Terror Tract is a decent movie, it's on the line of mediocrity when compared to other examples such as V/H/S or Trick 'r Treat . If you want to kill some time with a not too scary movie though, it's a pretty decent bet.