Trapped Ashes is an anthology horror film, along the lines of Two Evil Eyes, Creepshow, Trilogy of Terror, and Tales From the Crypt. It's directed by some names you'll recognize thanks to their diverse bodies of work (Ken Russell and Joe Dante), and some you may know of who have limited repertoires (Sean S. Cunningham, whose claim to fame is the Friday the 13th film series; John Gaeta, the visual effects supervisor on the Matrix trilogy; and Monte Hellman, who did Two Lane Blacktop back in '71 — and a few things since, but nothing I've seen).
As is usually the case with these things, Trapped Ashes is a mixed bag. It starts off by introducing a cast of characters trapped inside a haunted house (these interstitial, wraparound segments are directed by Dante), and before long, the "campfire stories" begin to flow. As does the blood.
The cast of characters include the legendary John Saxon, Henry Gibson, Dick Miller, Amelia Cook, Lara Harris, and Jayce Bartok (son of the screenwriter, Dennis Bartok). There's even a director cameo somewhere!
First up is Ken Russell's titty-twisting tale, The Girl With the Golden Breasts. As told by the starlet stuck inside the house, we are hurtled back into the not-too-distant past when Hollywood casting directors actually placed more importance on ample cup size than they did on big talent. The beautiful blonde, after being turned away audition after audition and noticing all the parts were going to her more well-endowed, though less-talented, fellow actresses, decides the only way to get big in the biz is to go bigger. So, she gets implants from some rather questionable quacks (the male M.D.s have all undergone the breast augmentation themselves, and highly recommend it!) and lives to regret not checking with the medical board first.
Jibaku, a live action/anime-kissed lurid love fable directed by Cunningham, is a total departure and maturation from his Jason heydays. The story centers on a married couple who goes to Japan for business, and wind up with pleasure… of the necrophilia kind. After they discover the body of a suicide hanging from a tall tree, the wife finds out just how well-hung the victim really is after his dead body comes a-calling in the night. The other two tales, Hellman's Stanley's Body, and Gaeta's My Twin, The Worm, round out the disc with quieter, more somber, tonally different tales than their bloody, bawdy brothers.
Personally, my favorite of the anthology was Stanley's Body. It's told by 70-something John Saxon, from his point of view as a young man (played by Tahmoh Penikett), when he had a fateful friendship with an eccentric filmmaker (Tygh Runyan) and the auteur's irresistible girlfriend (Amelia Cooke). Although the special makeup effects are really good in all the stories, this one had the very least (if any), and as it's the strongest story from a character standpoint, it juts out in its simplicity. I also love the fact that it's a period piece, and the context of the subject (50s, filmmakers, the social mores of the era) makes it standout.
As I said, it's a mixed bag. But thanks to DVD, you're not a captive audience (let the fast-forwarding begin!).
Audio commentary with screenwriter Dennis Bartok, and actors John Saxon, Rachel Veltri, Lara Harris, and Scott Lowell
Stanley's Girlfriend extended cut
The Girl with the Golden Breasts extended cut
Making-of Trapped Ashes featurettes
- The Girl with the Golden Breasts featurette
- Jibaku featurette
- Stanley's Girlfriend featurette
- My Twin, The Worm featurette
= = =
Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson