Brooklyn Horror Film Festival: Sinphony: A Clubhouse Horror Anthology Takes Some Interesting Chances

When it comes to an anthology film a framing device is not always necessary, like when I discussed V/H/S/99, my biggest complaint with it was the pseudo-framing device didn’t really make sense in the grand scheme of things. This leads me to question if the framing device is weak, do you cut your losses and just go the Creepshow route of having the stories technically connected though there is really no through line? When it comes to Sinphony the film is generally enjoyable, but it does not really feel like an anthology film, rather, it feels like a series of short films placed one after another. And that’s totally fine! If that is what you want for your anthology film then more power to you. My personal belief is an anthology film should have an exact through line with a single idea connecting them throughout.

With all of that being said, I think this film is neat in its conception. What confused me initially is the full title: Sinphony: A Clubhouse Horror Anthology. I wasn’t sure if it was just a title trying to sound catchy or what was up, but this lead me to discover an app called Clubhouse. Clubhouse is an audio-social app that allows professionals in different types of professions to network and connect with one another through an audio medium. Learning that this film was conceptualized through Clubhouse was interesting to hear, and seeing how this is billed as Volume 1 it will be interesting to see if they go forward with a second anthology.

Mother Love,written and directed by Jason Ragosta

A woman stands in the dark after a mysterious force shuts the electic off

Starting out the anthology, excluding the wraparound which we will discuss last, is a story following a mother and her child as they are stalked by a masked killer. The best part of this story is the whole time mother (Kristine Gerolaga) is on the phone with her coven of witches. The Ripper (Tony Aldrich) uncharismatically stalks the family through the house, unaware of what situation he is walking into. A lot of the press I have been seeing about this film uses The Ripper’s mask as a focal point, and while the mask does have a tinge of creepiness to it, Aldrich’s performance lacks any real character. During the showdown between the mother and The Ripper, it just feels completely disconnected and there is no weight behind his acting.

There is also a minor issue with the audio, though it’s not as distracting as the audio issues in one of the later stories. It just feels like some of the dialogue and some of the foley just feel off from the rest of the normal audio. That being said, the story here is really intriguing and even has a really brilliant shot of the mother laying on the ground (don’t want to spoil what is happening). I don’t hate this story by any means, I just don’t know if it was the strongest start this anthology could have.

Ear Worm,written and directed by Steven Keller

A boy sits at the end of a table, looking down a dark hall

Remember that one Spongebob episode, this is that but with killer consequences. A father/son contracting team takes on a multi-day job under the guise of being able to do it in one night. After finding an animal carcass that is infested with something more insidious they realize asbestos may just be the least of their worries.

The idea of using an earworm as the conduit for an antagonist is quite interesting, and the story here is pretty solid. While this story seems a little rushed it still succeeds as a story; I don’t know if it succeeds for this anthology. In the sense of the anthology, some shorts directly tie into the whole wraparound idea, while others are connected in a more cursory manner. This is one of those stories. As a short film, it is entertaining and fairly well-shot but doesn’t have an interesting connection to the broader scope.

Forever Young, written and directed by Haley Bishop

Two girls stare into an old camera

What’s worse than someone doing a bad TikTok dance? Someone doing a bad TikTok dance that was created by a demon. Forever Young follows Lauren (Haley Bishop) who is struggling to come to terms with the current direction of her life, on her 30th birthday. Her younger sister seems cooler than her, and all of her friends that are her age are either married or just plain and too suburban. When Lauren attempts to recreate a TikTok dance she saw her sister do, things don’t quite go as planned. I know we all want to turn back time, but this takes it to the extreme.

Forever Young is definitely one of my favorite stories in this anthology. It’s fresh, it’s funny, it’s cringe-inducing, and it makes me scared that I’m a year and a half away from 30. I’m not sure how personal this project was for Bishop but her acting is absolutely fantastic and it felt a little too believable. It feels very Blumhouse-y in the best ways possible.

The Keeper, written by Wes Driver and Greg Green directed by Wes Driver

The innkeeper sits a mother down, trying to see if she is in trouble or needs help

Creepy kid alert! A family arrives at a bed and breakfast, and they’re definitely up to something. The exceptionally nice innkeeper (Ronnie Meek) knows something is off with this family, and it’s definitely not what he thinks it is. The wife’s (Karen Sternberg) wrists are bruised, the husband (David Ian Lee) keeps asking where he can get a drink, and the boy (Beckett Harrison Lee) seems so disconnected from the world. When the innkeeper tries to intervene his life might be put directly in the line of danger.

There may be a practical effect that doesn’t look as great as it could, but this story is exceptionally creepy and straight to the point. A perfect mixture of style and substance, The Keeper subverts your initial reactions to provide an incredibly solid scare. The images may be lacking a flair for the dramatic, I really think the script and acting do a really good job of elevating this story. Also, this story has one of the biggest connections with the wraparound, which, again, we will get to later.

Limited Edition, written and directed by Mark Prithcard

A woman runs her fingers of odd and mystic symbols on rustic parchment paper

Anna (Stella Stocker) is a doctor who has a taste for the more expensive side of life when she gets an all-electric version of an older car. When showing off the car she meets Patricia (Donna-Louise Bryan), the daughter of one of Anna’s former patients. Anna takes Patricia for a car ride, though it may very well be the last car ride for one of them.

Okay, so script-wise Limited Edition is messy. It doesn’t really know what it wants to be. I’m a huge fan of ambiguity, but it seems like this script tried to somewhat explain some of its ideas only to fall victim to its own design. The sloppy storytelling takes away from the beautiful shots of this incredibly gorgeous car. It’s hard to say this is a bad entry with how great it looks, I just really have a difficult time moving past the messy and overstuffed script.

Do Us Part, written and directed by Kimberly Elizabeth

A woman lays alone in bed, wondering why her boyfriend doesn't talk to her anymore

While I don’t feel it’s necessary I would feel weird not mentioning it, I was once a contributing writer for Kim’s horror publication but this will not affect my overall view of this story.

This is my favorite segment! See why I wanted that disclaimer? I don’t want to give much away because this works better blind. Basically, a couple must grapple with the fact that one of them may not be breathing anymore. The idea is simplistic, with no frills, but it’s fantastic. When proposing such a straightforward idea you can’t rely on fantastical images rather you must resign yourself to a constrained sort of direction style. With a combination of really good acting and such a compelling story, Do Us Part is a wholesome and optimistic piece of genre.

Tabitha, written and directed by Jason Wilkinson

A woman sits in her car, bathed in red light, as she is haunted by a ghost who is missing an eye

I love dark, gritty psychological horror, and Tabitha delivers. Tabitha (Alysse Fozmark), suffering from two fatal bullet wounds, spends her last moments in her car dying. Lamenting about a robbery gone wrong, Tabitha must confront one of her victims in a ghost of Christmas past way. Quick, simple, and, again, gritty, Tabitha attempts one last time to talk with those she loves to make amends for her deeds.

This story is perfect. There is no fluff, no useless dialogue, and just the right amount of [on-screen] characters. Tabitha is a highly effective emotional thriller that somehow gets your adrenaline pumping, even in a stationary car. As with Do Us PartTabitha feels out of place here as it doesn’t seem to really have a place in this anthology, though both stories stick out in their respective productions.

Maternally Damned, written and directed by Nichole Carlson

A woman lays on the ground with red-hued water at her feet

It’s become clear they saved the best three stories for last because Maternally Damned wraps up the non-framing device with a brutal and kind of really dope bow. A group of sisters lost their mom during childbirth at a young age. This has put a melancholic emotion behind pregnancy. When one of them becomes pregnant the three sisters will be faced with adversity to an extent that will change their lives indefinitely.

I don’t think I have ever seen a story quite like this one. It takes its respective subgenre (no, I’m not spoiling it!) and brings a whole new canon. The chronicling of the pregnancy gives us specific looks into the different side effects of this very special pregnancy. I think out of all of the stories in this anthology this one would make the most intriguing as a feature. Nichole Carlson does an excellent job with the source material and directs one hell of a bloody story.

Symphony of Horror, written by Sebastien Bazile and directed by Michael Galvan and Sebastien Bazile

Finally, we have made our way to the wraparound story. Rather than going into too much detail, I don’t really want to spoil the wraparound idea, or the specific characters involved because that would just completely ruin it. That being said, even with fully understanding what the supposed consistent through line, I still don’t really feel like it was pulled off properly. The interludes between the stories are interesting on their own; I just think the majority of the stories don’t properly tie everything together. I get what they were trying to do but it feels a bit forced. I can’t decide if the framing device was written first or last, due to feeling rushed and quickly thrown together.

Final Thoughts

I need to start by saying this isn’t a bad anthology in any sense; it just didn’t hit the mark for me. What was supposed to feel like an anthology telling a consistent idea through the shorts, feels more like a block of short films thrown together with one of the stories chopped up and scattered betwixt the other stories. I do think this film will find its audience, and I think that audience is going to eat it up. Anthologies like this are more important for the genre than one may realize because whether you like it or not it puts some lesser-known names in the genre front and center to show the world there are still filmmakers with original ideas out there. With that being said, I would definitely sit down with a bowl of popcorn if there is a Volume 2. I do think this film is worth a watch if you are having some friends over and you want something accessible and entertaining for a group environment.

Dark Sky Films will release the film in theaters and on VOD on 10/21.

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Written by Brendan Jesus

I am an award-winning horror screenwriter, rotting away in New Jersey.

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