Films where a number of shorter works (usually with a thematic connection) are bound together in an anthology format are pretty rare. As the title suggests, here the basic thread involves futuristic science fiction with a distinctly horrific sensibility.
Features of this sort are almost guaranteed to be uneven in quality and impact. That’s certainly true here.
The sheer number of short subjects here are impressive, with 8 complete stories, plus an unsettling framing device where an unexplained deep space disaster has left a single survivor trapped in a failing life pod. The pod’s computer voice insists on keeping him “entertained” by playing a string of grim videos. It won’t stop, no matter how the man begs, until he recalls the proper password. Then he can finally wait to die in peaceful silence.
In the opening video, “Eden” is the bitterly ironic name for a nation that arose from the ruins of the United States of America. Living underground to escape a poisoned world, the government is fighting a losing battle against an anarchist cult. Eden’s President has his latest reassuring propaganda video disrupted by a child assassin. It’s a nasty, downbeat (no surprise there) and suitably claustrophobic tale. It sets the tone of what’s to follow, if nothing else.
“Iris” is shorter, brighter and much more gripping. The title ‘character’ is the VERY smartphone of a guy who has gone the murder-for-hire route. He’s wrapped his victim in a blanket and taken her out into a mountain wilderness for burial. “Iris” figures out what “Dave” (Luke Sarge) has done and tricks him, exacting a form of highly satisfying rough justice. It’s the lone film that portrays natural Earth-bound beauty and even sports a bit of dark humor. All told, it’s my favorite entry in the entire film.
But it’s not the only one with admirable qualities.
The title of “Entity” puzzled me until the end, but this tale of a female astronaut lost in space is redeemed by its striking visual imagery. She’s outside in a spacesuit when her ship suddenly blows apart (in correctly silent fashion). Her suit’s comm unit is offline and her terror builds as she faces an eventual, lonely death. But then she encounters a whirling something. Is it a black hole? A space creature? The title entity? Nothing is explained, even when we see countless other space-suited figures trapped within it. Here the deeply claustrophobic horrific aspects are balanced by the expansive and beautiful (if menacing and inexplicable) outer space visuals.
In addition to the film’s abundant variety of stories, it’s also a work of quite international origins. In fact, a couple of the entries aren’t even in English. This includes one of my favorites: “Kingz” is a German production, complete with subtitles. It’s a full 10 years older than this overall compilation, yet still feels cutting edge. A couple guys are doing whatever they can to scratch out a living in a dark and grubby urban near-future. Today they’re delivering some new drug to a menacing gang leader in an underground club. Only they discover that the gang seems to be controlled by parasitic brain machines. A desperate battle to escape and survive ensues.
Less effective for my money (but profoundly weird, I must admit) is “Pathos.” It’s in Italian (I think) with English subtitles. Earth is a ruined mess, courtesy pollution and human greed. A single descendant of the few survivors is locked in a room, an umbilical-cord-like thingy extends from the ceiling into his elongated skull (and has since he was a fetus). He can move about the mostly empty room, listening to AI/computer-generated videos that give him tasks to perform, promise rewards (in the form of video experiences) and threaten him with various punishments should he fail to act as instructed within limited time frames. As such, he is required to dash back and forth around the room, and never seems to have enough time to finish these meaningless make-work tasks. The poor guy is helpless and the emotionless computer tortures him in a fashion I found, frankly, pretty pointless.
Weirder still (and just outrageous enough to appeal slightly to me), “Eveless” is another future city in ruins. Here, human females are now extinct and, apparently, forbidden. Two guys are out to change that, one impregnating his buddy through artificial means (well, yes, of course) and delivering the infant surgically. Only it turns out to be a boy (what, again!). So the baby is, ahem, recycled–and they begin the process again. Bleak and unique.
“Flesh Computer” is equally bizarre. Another shabby, dark, rundown apartment building includes a character who has created a gooey computer/flesh interface that includes a seemingly functional vagina in among the wall of circuitry. A couple thugs break in, decide to have some “fun” with it. The guy objects and messy, gross violence ensues. Into gross-out gore? This segment is for you.
“They All Die in Space” is about the crew of a sub-light ship damaged long ago by a meteor strike (they say asteroid, but I think anything that big would do more than hopelessly cripple the vessel). Anyway, most of those aboard are in suspended animation. The two guys who are awake revive a tech who might be able to fix the communication system. He fails then finds the ship has been drifting aimlessly far longer than the others told him. Food stores were exhausted long ago, several of the other deep-sleepers’ chambers are now vacant–including the one his wife was in. Think: The Donner Party in Space. He kills the other two in fierce self-defense combat. But later, well, he gets . . . hungry. Given the set-up, it makes grim, if ultimately predictable, sense.
As stated before, Galaxy of Horrors is uneven with a mix of styles, accomplished to varying degrees. You probably won’t like it all (I didn’t), but it’s worth a look for fans of low-budget shockers blended with grim Sci-Fi.