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The Hell Plaza Oktoberfest

The Hell Plaza Oktoberfest
CONTINUES...

Adam Jahnke - Main Page

The Severed Head Network

The Severed Head Network
2000-2002 (2007) - Wicked Pixel (Elite)

What... the bloody hell?

This compilation of short films arrived with a number of other horror-related titles from Digital Bits HQ. I knew nothing about it but I like short films and it seemed like it might be appropriate for the Hell Plaza Oktoberfest, so I figured let's give 'er a shot. Well, to say this wasn't what I expected would be a vast understatement.

First off, here's a little background I didn't have before I popped this in. The films collected here are the brain-children of Wicked Pixel Cinema, an independent film collective based out of St. Louis.


You'll see many of the same names pop up again and again in the credits in different roles, variously as directors, writers, editors, actors, cameramen, and what-not. I have nothing but admiration for what Eric Stanze, Jason Christ, the late Tommy Biondo and their collaborators have achieved here. These guys are making movies answerable to no one. They represent indie cinema in its purest form.

Now, I didn't know any of this before I slid this disc into my player. After the usual corporate logos play through, the first thing you see here is a completely nude woman descending a staircase into a basement where she is haunted by a creepy, shadowy figure. Needless to say, I was transfixed by this. Eventually I realized this was the menu and it was just going to keep on playing until I did something. Reluctantly, I pressed the down arrow key on my remote and the options revealed themselves. I bid farewell to the comely naked chick in the basement and here's what I saw.

Vomire - Directed by Chad Eivins, this is a thoroughly bizarre experimental short that cuts between a blood-drenched couple having sex, slaughterhouse footage, a dude in a pumpkin shirt violating a crucifix, and other such wonders and oddities. I'm not sure what it all means but it made an impression.

Faith in Nothing - Directed by Eric Stanze. A music video, more or less, set to a song by a band named Analogue Satellite. There's nothing particularly horrific here... just a woman dancing in various states of undress while apparently pining for her ex-love.

Satisfaction - Directed by Tommy Biondo... one of the longer short films here. This juxtaposes scenes of a woman making love with a guy with images of her being raped by her ex. The climax of the film does get into horror territory but for the most part, the discomfort you may feel stems primarily from the sneaking suspicion that you're watching these people actually have sex.

Unwanted - Another music video, this one directed by Todd Tevlin. Pretty standard issue, not particularly scary or intense.

Victim - Directed by Jason Christ, this comes the closest to traditional horror. Victim is a five-minute black-and-white short riff on slasher film tropes. Well done but over so quickly, it doesn't leave much impression.

Sedgewick - The longest and arguably strongest film here, co-directed by Stephen Lashly and Quinn Botthoff. Sedgewick follows the adventures of the title character, an elderly man, on a trip to the grocery store. Every so often, we slip into his bizarre fantasy world, populated by evil clowns and rifle-toting deer. Sedgewick is both amusing and dark with some genuinely effective moments, even if the whole thing drags on a bit too long.

Liontown - A ten-minute mini-musical directed by Aaron Crozier with a cast of dozens in furry animal hats being drawn to a resort called Liontown. It inevitably ends in a bloodbath. This is OK although it seems like a project conceived as an animated short that switched to live-action when the creators realized none of them could draw very well. That may not be true but Liontown may have been more effective as a cartoon.

Curveball: Pile of Junk - Jason Christ returns with another music video. It's OK. I wouldn't have switched it off if I came across it on MTV or USA's Night Flight back in the day but it's nothing terribly special. Good song, though.

The Severed Head Network is an odd, decidedly mixed bag of sex, blood, music and mayhem. The horror isn't particularly explicit in most of these shorts. It's a dark-edged collection to be sure but Wicked Pixel is more interested in using horror imagery to create mood and atmosphere than in producing scares. Sometimes it works. But even at its best, this is sort of like sitting through a screening of senior projects in film school.

Elite's DVD serves up quite a few extras in addition to the alluring and baffling menu. The title sequences from the original VHS collections of the Severed Head Network are here, offering up more nudity, blood, chains and industrial music. The Gallery of Abstraction presents half a dozen extremely short experimental pieces, none more than a minute or so. There's also behind-the-scenes video from four of the short films, a still gallery and a handful of trailers for other Wicked Pixel productions.

The Severed Head Network would be the ideal background disc to play at your next Halloween party... assuming you're holding it in an abandoned warehouse or abattoir. It's not a home run but it's interesting enough that I'm curious to check out more Wicked Pixel productions to see what these folks are capable of on a bigger canvas.

Program Rating (Average): B-
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): C+/B-/B+


Adam Jahnke
ajahnke@thedigitalbits.com


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