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100 CANDLES (aka THE 100 CANDLES GAME, 2020)

Directed by Guillermo Lockhart, Nicolás Onetti (“100 Candles Game”), Victor Català (“A Little Taste”), Daniel Rübesam (“When Demons Die”), Tony Morales (“Black Eyed Child”), Nicholas Peterson (“The Visitant”), Oliver Lee Garland (“Buried Alive”), Brian Deane (“Blight”), Christopher West (“Drip”)
Written by Mauro Croche, Guillermo Lockhart, Oliver Garland (“100 Candles Game”, “Buried Alive”), Carlos C. Tome (“A Little Taste”), Daniel Rübesam, Linda Bosch (“When Demons Die”), Tony Morales (“Black Eyed Child”), Nicholas Peterson (“The Visitant”), Matt Roche (“Blight”), Christopher West, Alan Lazer (“Drip”)
Starring Magui Bravi, Luz Champané, Amparo Espinola, Clara Kovacic, Agustin Olcese, Amy Smart, James Wright

100 CANDLES is another anthology made by gathering a grouping of short films from various directors and tying them together loosely with a wraparound tale. Now, unlike most of these anthologies, this one actually seems to have put some thought into the wraparound where a game played by four young and adventurous storytellers encircle themselves with 100 candles and tell a spooky tale for each candle. This film doesn’t get around to tell a hundred short stories, but the seven it does deliver are better than most. Here’s a quick review of each of the seven shorts.

“A Little Taste” is an extremely short, but fun little ditty about two girls who meet at a seesaw on the edge of a forest. Anything else will ruin the surprise, but this one plays off more like a well-timed joke than anything else and I’ll leave it at that. It proves to be a fun preview of the horrors to come and that they’ll be of pretty high quality.

“When Demons Die” is a somber and extremely well-choreographed story of a young boy and his caretaker living on a country farm. There appears to be some kind of threat lurking outside in the cornfields and in the nighttime fog, but it is unspecified just what that is until the end. The story really highlights the concern the caretaker has for the young boy who apparently isn’t allowed outside. There is a twist ending and I get it, but also think it isn’t communicated completely well and necessarily vague, but the highlight of this short is that it looks amazing and I hope to see more from director Daniel Rübesam in the future.

“Black Eyed Child” is another good looking short film that is much more ethereal and nightmarish as a sickly elderly woman wanders about her home which seems to be haunted by specters of death. This is another one that is vivid and beautiful as the old woman stumbles around her home trying to get away from this black-eyed monster kid. It’s scary and moody and very darkly toned, ending with a feeling of pure dread. This is a gorgeous little nightmare.

“The Visitant” Amy Smart shows up in this one as a mother who seems to be tormented by demons that threaten the lives of her children. This one dives right into the action and keeps the intensity going all the way through. This one has an amazing demon design with the demon’s mouth lit up with fire and beathing ashy brimstone. It helps that the demon is played by Doug Jones. I really dug the way this film twists your expectations multiple times making it an unpredictable and action packed short.

“Buried Alive” is one of my least favorite of the bunch. It’s nicely filmed, utilizing a single, claustrophobic location. The acting is decent as a woman wakes up in a coffin with a cell phone and no memory about how she got there. It’s just that I’ve seen this story before in Ryan Reynolds’ BURIED among other films like KILL BILL II. It also would have helped if the film would have provided subtitles as it was in Spanish. Maybe it was just the screener I got, but without subtitles I couldn’t really get into the story. I pieced it together with the semester of Spanish education that I got, but even knowing every word, I doubt it would have made the short any more original.

“Blight” feels like an old school Hammer like film utilizing authentic looking Medieval sets and speak. A young priest takes a boat to an island village to visit an ailing and very pregnant woman who seems to be possessed. After the rites of exorcism are performed, the baby is born. Things go sideways after that. This one plays things pretty straight-forward for most of the runtime, only getting to the shocking stuff towards the very end. The final moments are effective, but I feel it takes a bit too long to get to the big payoff ending. Still, the effects are great and the payoff is a devious one.

“Drip” might be my favorite of the bunch. It’s plays as a sort of a fever dream, but seems to have an established and firm set of rules commenting on the callousness our cell phone addicted culture is stricken with. A woman witnesses a man dying at a party and instead of helping, she snaps a picture with her cell phone. This proves to be a mistake as she is haunted by the very phone she carries. As I wrote that last sentence, I understand how goofy that sounds, but this is one doesn’t play for laughs. It really works as a suspenseful story of a curse that cannot be shaken. It’s even got a poetic ending that really pays off. I loved the way this felt like an entire movie played out in just a few minutes.

100 CANDLES, despite the rough acting in the wraparound segments, is one of the more effective short film collection anthologies I’ve seen lately. The shorts that work definitely outweigh the lesser ones, but all of them are done with a high amount of skill and smarts. If you’re a fan of fun-sized horror, this is an anthology that’ll leave you satisfied.

Check out the trailer here!!