Trapped Ashes

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Omnibus projects are always hit-and-miss, but few are as consistently skunky as this low-rent horror anthology, which exudes a decidedly tomblike air. The framing story, by the usually dependable Dante, finds seven tourists trapped in a haunted film set. Informed by their gnomic guide (Gibson) that telling scary stories is their ticket out, they start gabbing—at which point trapped becomes a sensation viewers are likely to share.

First up is Russell’s evocatively titled “The Girl with Golden Breasts,” in which an aspiring starlet (Veltri) jump-starts her career by getting a pair of vampiric implants. (Better to have called it “The Tits that Suckle You.”) But softcore erotica, even as badly acted as this, is usually more effective when not complemented with nauseating displays of lacerated flesh. The same mix also yucks up Cunningham’s “Jibaku,” centered on a woman (Harris) who has sex with a monk’s decaying corpse. Unspooling last, “My Twin, the Worm” (by F/X artist Gaeta) suggests that tapeworms and obstetrics are a combo best left to David Cronenberg.

The lone semisalvageable leg is by long-MIA director Hellman (Two-Lane Blacktop). His “Stanley’s Girlfriend” is an enjoyable compendium of cinephilic in-jokes, about a director—clearly modeled on Stanley Kubrick—and his unfaithful screenwriter friend (Penikett). But like the other episodes (all were written by unknown Dennis Bartok), “Girlfriend” falls victim to the fallacy that scary equals parasites. At least it doesn’t include a cameo by Russell, wearing a pair of fake breasts.

Release details

Rated: NR
Duration: 105 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Joe Dante, Ken Russell, Monte Hellman, John Gaeta, Sean S. Cunningham
Screenwriter: Dennis Bartok
Cast: Henry Gibson
Rachel Veltri
Lara Harris
Tahmoh Penikett
Amelia Cooke
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