P.O.E.: Project of Evil (2012)

*. Things get off to a good start. I thought the minimalist interpretation of “The Pit and the Pendulum” set n a THX 1138 environment was clever, replacing the darkness of Poe’s story with a glaring, undescriptive white. But then something crawls out of the pit — or does it? — and we’re back in the twenty-first century.
*. The next story,”Solo,” bridges well, with the main character presented in a similar antiseptic cage. But before we know it he’s tied to a chair and the torture is about to begin. I told you the twenty-first century would be calling. Not that Poe had anything against torture. “The Pit and the Pendulum” is a tale of torture. But I don’t think Poe was quite our contemporary in this regard. In the third segment we’ll see yet another character (a porn actor) tied to a chair, this time as his cock is being cut off with a pair of pruning shears. The camera spares us nothing. Torture and porn are getting all mixed up, again.
*. I mention the bridge between the first two stories because there is nothing at all in the way of a frame here. Admittedly, these are often minimal in horror anthologies, but here there is just one damned thing after another.

*. I was curious how they were going to do “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” The answer is, not very well. They should have gone with the guy in the ape suit being a guy in an ape suit. That’s where I thought they were heading with it. It would have made more sense.
*. “Murders in the Rue Morgue” also tacks on a twist revenge ending. Revenge seems to be a major theme in this movie. That’s not really there in Poe, aside from the “murder will out” theme. But revenge is a visceral emotional driver, and today’s horror is all about the viscera.
*. It’s a lot more “shocking” in its graphic presentations of sex and extreme violence than P.O.E.: Poetry of Eerie. But I don’t think it gains anything by this, or by going from 13 stories to 7.
*. They also seem to be drifting further away from Poe. In the first film they had a voiceover that narrated parts of the original stories, but that’s scrapped here for what’s far more of a freestyle approach.
*. One of the more interesting things to think about when considering anthology films is the order of the stories. This can be really important, especially when it works well. It can also be nearly irrelevant, or flawed. Here I think it’s poorly handled. I guess “The Premature Burial” (or not so premature, as the case may be) belongs at the end, but I think it’s one of the worst of the films. Really, the only one I liked less was the one before it, which is based on “The System of Doctor Tar and Professor Feather.” So I didn’t feel like we were ending on a high note.
*. Most of the stories are less inventive than they try to be, somewhat incoherent, and too brief. But as with P.O.E.: Poetry of Eerie I thought the interpretations of Poe were occasionally interesting, even when they weren’t successful. I mean, without the bit of voiceover in “The Tell-Tale Heart” episode I don’t think anyone would be able to identify Poe’s story, but when you stand back and squint a bit you can see there’s something in this twisted tale set in Cambodia that recalls the classic tale of obsession. I can’t say I liked it, but it did stick with me.
*. So it’s an interesting idea, and I think there was a genuine ambition to do something different. But the individual films just aren’t very good, like a lot of the shorts done in these “showcase” anthologies (I’m thinking of the V/H/S and ABCs of Death series). I guess any chance to make a movie is an opportunity not to be missed for these directors, but the form doesn’t give them much of a chance to put their best foot forward. And they don’t.

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