Slices of Life (Anthony Sumner, 2010)
What is there to say about Anthony Metzger’s mess of an attempt at a horror anthology film, Slices of Life, that hasn’t already been said? One of my rules of thumb when looking at anthology films is that if your frame piece is the best thing about the movie, you have probably already failed. When your frame piece is the best thing about the movie and it’s this bad, well, I’m glad someone believes in your talents, but before the next time you release something, you may want to see if you can get some sort of outside, objective validation for whether it’s worth releasing (and maybe some constructive criticism on how you can make it better). I have a very hard time believing that happened here.
Whereas with many anthology films, the frame is that part the works least well (note the recent V/H/S series for excellent examples of that), here it was my favorite piece, so we’ll focus on that. An amnesiac young woman, Mira (Dark Realm‘s Kaylee Williams), sits in a grimy hotel room obsessively drawing in a sketchbook, goaded on by motel owners Tiny (Sculpture‘s Marv Blauvelt) and Irma (The Door‘s Helene Alter-Dyche), and trying to piece together her previous life from the sketches already there, which form the bases of the other stories in the film. I’ll give Slices of Life one thing—the other stories were kind of amusing, though I’m not sure comedy was what Sumner was going for here.
I am not one to criticize a low-budget film solely for it being low budget, but if you take a look back at the low-budget films I have championed over the years, there’s always a feeling of less is more about them. 90% of the time (and it annoys me that every time I advance this hypothesis, it’s the glaring exception of Ozone that comes to mind) the “more” involved has to do with a director who went as many extra miles as necessary to find the best actors who would work for beer and pizza, or less. Noctem and Shallow Ground and Baby Blues and every movie Ricardo Islas has ever made and dozens upon dozens more are all as good as they are despite the shoestrings because while many of the actors in them are amateurs, they are very, very good amateurs who deserve to be a whole lot better known than they are. Sumner, on the other hand…well, I admire his drive and dedication, because obsessive amounts of drive and dedication are about the only way I can see someone justifying (or, more likely, overlooking) how bad some of the acting is here. And it’s not a case of “this one story is really horrible and the rest are pretty good”, it’s endemic (another reason the frame is my favorite part of this is that it features the best acting in the film by far—though that is not saying a great deal). Even in a movie with awful acting, I can overlook it if there’s a factor or two on the technical end that really, really stands out, but everything here is workmanlike in its best moments and unapologetically amateur at its worst—and it spends far more of its time on the latter end of that number line.
If you’ve got nothing better to do with a Friday night and you’re really, really drunk, worth checking out for a few flashes of competence in the frame sections. Otherwise, head the other way fast. *