Seasoned director P.J Starks is a man well-versed in horror flicks and tricks. In his newest film, Volumes of Blood, Starks introduces his audience to four young storytellers determined to create an urban legend. Throughout the hour and a half feature, no subgenre is left behind as the characters weave together tales of ghosts and monsters. Volumes of Blood is a fresh take on the popular horror anthology trend, cleverly merging together comedy and plot twists. Just as the audience becomes comfortable with a particular mood, Starks jerks the genre wheel, leaving viewers bamboozled and tickled.
For those of us longing to binge watch Are You Afraid of The Dark?, the tales in Volumes of Blood can scratch the itch. The first story focuses on an overworked college student who is locked into a late night study session. A suspicious salesman approaches her and offers a free sample of his new energy drink. Though the student is rightfully resistant at first, she eventually gives in and tries the beverage that he claims will “blow her mind.” Unfortunately, the drink delivers on its promise and literally…blows her mind. The bloody results are impressive.
The second urban legend cuddles up to classic suspense rather than gore. In “Ghastly,” an after hours library worker is haunted by a foreboding female figure. The piece appropriately spooks viewers as it utilizes empty spaces and lighting to build tension. The SFX makeup shines as the face of the figure is not easily forgotten after the credits roll. Although simplistic, the story is enough to give viewers a good chill.
The third story presents a Hermione Granger-like student (Sidney) and her class clown boyfriend. The relationship is a bit confusing, as she seems to loathe him but they’re a steady couple. When Sidney decides to skip a party to work on a paper, she finds herself hunted by a fanged, fuzzy monster at the local library. After an intense chase scene, Sidney confronts the monster. The story ends with a twist that veteran horror movie watchers may see coming.
The fourth film in Volumes of Blood stands out as the most visually stunning. The characters are also by far, the most well developed and complex. Paige (Kristine Renee Farley) is coping with the loss of Derek (Kevin Roach) who committed suicide after she broke his heart. Desperate to make amends, Paige calls upon the “Encyclopedia Satanica” which promises to bring Derek back to her. While the book makes good on its promise, Derek returns as a compromised version of himself. Both the director and actors shine as the subject matter is taboo, but handled with grace.
After all the urban legends are told in Volumes of Blood, Starks waves away the horror and shifts his film in an unexpected direction. The final section now turns the focus on the film crew and himself. Although jarring, at first, the movie wraps up on a lighter note full of comedic charms and clever kills. Twist after twist, each scene becomes madder than the last.
Today, horror films are catering to a crowd with a short attention span. Starks and his team of directors have fully embraced this opportunity in Volumes of Blood. The refusal to stick to one demon, monster or genre does imply a case of filmmaker attention deficit disorder. However, the singular, well- executed moments of thrill speckled throughout the feature demonstrate the lack of focus is not a supplement for lack of skill.