Beyond the Dark (2021)

Entertainment Squad’s genre label, The Horror Collective has put together an anthology of shorts called Beyond the Dark and while usually a collection of previously released shorts can be a mixed bag, the movies within this series are all quite interesting, which is surprising and gives me hope for anthologies in the future.

Episode 1: The Speed of Time (2020): Starring former WWE superstar John Hennigan (he of the many last names) as Johnny Killfire, a time traveling hero that must find his former self (Sean Marquette) and battle the TimeBorgs, who are trying to get an app that can help them destroy the space-time continuum.

In episodic fashion, director William J. Stribling, who wrote this episode with Russ Nickel, this  moves at a faster than fast pace, packed with 80s action and no small amount of hilarity. Another wrestler, Nic Nemeth (formerly in the Spirit Squad and the brother of Dolph Ziggler) shows up and many pizzas are delivered into the past. This is so good that I’m kind of hoping that it becomes a full-length movie.

Episode 2: Midnight Clear (2017): Only seven minutes long, but Joe Russo’s short film is all about David (Kurt Kubicek, who is also in Russo’s full-length The Au Pair Nightmare), an abusive father, and the traumatic holiday he puts his wife (Jessica Morris) and children (Caige Coulter and Kue Lawrence, who was Jody DeFeo in The Amityville Murders) through.

Episode 3: Malacostraca (2018): As his wife Sophie (Amber Marie Bollinger) deals with her pregnancy — which came from a crab-like creature maybe? — Chris (Charlie Pecoraro) wonders what it will be like to raise his crustacean offspring. Writer-director Charles Pieper must have understood the madness that writing, writer’s block and trying to share your life with others as a writer entails because this is pure and wonderful strangeness.

With effects by Gabe Bartalos, who directed the equally strange Saint Bernard and Skinned Deep) and the strange notion that a man can by cucked by the claws of a crab, I have no idea why more people haven’t lost their minds championing this blast of pure madness. The fact that Sophie seems to be completely lost in arousal in the POV soft shell sex scene just makes this even more delightfully off-kilter. Beyond recommended.

Episode 4: Pipe (2018): With characters named Sneer, Wheeze, Bliss, Gimp Hand and Face Tattoo, Pipe — named for a character played by Zoë Bell — this is the story of Pup (Elizabeth Hunter), a girl living in White Rock, a crumbling bombed out crater of a town. When a dead body washes up on shore, she refuses to give it up and undertakes a quest to properly bury the body.

Directed by Max Isaacson from a script by Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing, Pipe offers post-apocalyptic action under time and budget. Again, another episode that could very well be a regular movie.

You can learn more at the official site and official Facebook page for Pipe.

Episode 5: The Wound (2019): Director and writer Chris Levitus has made a 9-minute short in which Otto (Kris Lemche, Ginger Snaps) wakes up with a gigantic hole in his chest. So what does Anna (Letticia Bissondut) have to do with it?

Episode 6: Conversion Therapist (2019): Wow — this episode, directed and written by Bears Rebecca Fonté, has something for everyone. It starts with a conversion therapist named Ira (Michael Dickson) sniffs the panties of Justine (Sara Fletcher), which have been coated with a substance that makes him pass out and awaken to the worst torture he can imagine. After making horrifying remarks about the Orlando Pulse shootings, Justine is going to make him orally pleasure Clay (Jordan Morgan) under the stress of torture or even death. And her partner Salina (Evelyn Jake) has even more reason to hurt Ira, as he abused her before she transitioned her identity.

I kind of enjoyed how this movie used exploitation and gore to push the envelope while taking pages from our headlines — perhaps more pages than we’d like to read — and not being afraid to go hard on gore and language, which definitely has the potential to offend people on either side of the issues that this film raises. The pace needs some help, the story could be together, but this episode takes chances.

Episode 7: Peopling (2019): Speaking of chances, Peopling has a protagonist named George (Josh Fadem) whose masturbatory results end up turning into a clone of himself that his partner/mother/mother/who knows Joy (Kimmy Robertson) ends up loving more than him.

Lucas Amann directed and wrote this short and I don’t know if I want to shake his hand or if I’d be afraid of what fluids would be on his palm. Again, like the previous installment, this is either going to make you laugh, wretch or shut this off in anger. More creatives should be willing to take things this far.

Episode 8: The Final Girl Returns (2019): Alexandria Perez has created a short that really brings the slasher to life and expands on the idea of the Final Girl, as well as a hero called The Driver who is compelled to save them over and over without confronting the monsters in his life. With just 15 minutes of time, this is yet another episode that left me wanting more.

Episode 9: Bad Hair (2019): Made in Estonia, this is the story of Leo (Sten Karpov), a man who has decided that bald is no longer beautiful and if he must, he will cover his head in a strange gelatinous substance in the hopes of having long, flowing locks. Well, he gets what he wants. He gets too much of what he wants and over the 14 minutes of this short, an entire team of wig makers and special effects artists get to transform real life into a delirious cartoon directed by Oskar Lehemaa.

Episode 10: Man in the Corner (2019): Directed by Kelli Breslin, who co-wrote with Daniel Ross Noble, this episode is all about Michael (Christopher Dietrick) and Daniel (Matt Pascua), who are hooking up when Daniel learns that they’re not alone. In the corner, there’s a hidden man named Dave (Larry Weissman) who keeps emerging at the worst moments, reminding viewers that watching cucking videos may seem hot online, but supernatural cucking is as frightening as can be.

Episode 11: The Color of Your Lips (2018): Annick Blanc directed and wrote this short in which a diver (Alexis Lefebvre) and a woman (Katia Lévesque) are potentially two of the last people on Earth, a planet that has less air by the moment, leaving you wondering if they will breathe their last making love or war. It’d be frightening and sad if it wasn’t all so beautiful, but isn’t that life?

Episode 12: Maggie May (2018): Director and writer Mia Kate Russell created this installment about Sam (Katrina Mathers) and Maggie (Lulu McClatchy) who seem like they may come back together after the death of their mother, except that Maggie wants to do nothing. At all. The same thing she did — nothing — when her mother was dying right before her eyes. You can learn more on the official site and Facebook page for Maggie May.

Episode 13: Socks and Robbers (2014): After some of the hard-hitting and thought-inducing films in this series, don’t you want to watch the story of Sniffer, Gout, Bunion and Hammer Toe, one of the deadliest gangs of bank robbers ever? Director and writer David Lilley has some style and wit, because who else would make a Guy Ritchie movie about sock-headed criminals? You can learn more at the official Facebook page.

Beyond The Dark is available on VOD and digital fromThe Horror Collective.

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