"I Love You" — three simple words. But depending on how they're said, by whom, and what the listener feels upon hearing them… well, that's not always so simple.
The above phrase is the name of one of six stories in this horror anthology film, but it could have been a fitting title enough for the whole shebang. Each of the stories has to do with love and its close relatives: lust, desire, infidelity, procreation and obsession. Without even knowing it in advance, it's obvious these stories were all written and directed by males (same with V/H/S, Little Deaths, Chillerama, et al). While they may not be doing all the killing, a woman is the villain or the catalyst to violence in the majority of the entries.
I Love You, by Buddy Giovinazzo, was my favorite. I'll circle back and tell you more about it, but here's a brief rundown of what to expect from the rest: The Mother of Toads is a special effects heavy creature feature about a ravenous witch seductress looking for her next baby-daddy. Wet Dreams is about a psychologist who's trying to help a patient get beyond horrid hallucinations of his own genital mutilation. The Accident is a mopey drama about a child who witnesses death on the highway. Vision Stains is about a woman who uses a syringe to extract fluid from dying peoples' eyes in order to see scary things for herself. Finally, Sweets is a sick exploration of sploshing that's taken beyond the extreme (this segment in particular is notorious from its limited big screen run for having made at least one person faint, a few vomit, and several become ill).
As with any anthology film, there's ups and downs and hits and misses, and something for everyone. Personally, my least favorites were Wet Dreams (Tom Savini doesn't do it for me, as an actor or a director) and The Accident (I like Douglas Buck's work, usually, but this entry gets a low mark from me mainly because it didn't feel like a part of the program). I kept losing focus during Vision Stains but it was watchable (yeah, I know… rim-shots!). Mother of Toads was fun as a funky fairy tale (would 've fit in perfectly as an episode of "Skinemax's" Femme Fetales), and the interstitials by Jeremy Kasden and starring Udo Kier as a creepy animated puppet offered welcome respite.
Sweets, the one I thought I'd like the least — in addition to found-footage and torture-porn, the gross-out subgenre turns me off most — became my second-favorite of the lot. It's absolutely disgusting, no doubt about it. But it's so very well-done and so meticulous in its dirty detail (however, the donut-barf scene in David Cronenberg's The Fly remake still takes the, er, cake for indelibly heave-inducing imagery), and there's a real story with watchable characters to boot, it's got my kudo. (Plus, it's really the only one extreme enough to jibe with the anthology's title.)
I Love You is not the grossest, nor is it the most original, and it's not especially gory or horrific. But, it is by far the best-directed, well-acted, nicely shot and most memorable of the lot. Unlike the others, which all come off like parts of a television series or a direct-to-disc presentation, I Love You is actually cinematic. Pretty much a two-person, talky exploration of the disintegration of a marriage, one could liken it to Zulawski's Possession or Polanski's Bitter Moon (certain too-high praise, but it's undeniably along those lines). In fact, in the director commentary Giovinazzo talks about a connection to the above — as well as the usual casting decisions, shooting locations, how he was brought on to The Theater Bizarre, and such. It's the standard stuff and yet it's a very good commentary.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson