Studio: Freestyle Digital Media
Producer: Lawrie Brewster, Thomas Staunton, Alex Harron
Filmmakers from around the globe deliver over a dozen tales of terror inspired by demons.
2020 might mark a renaissance for traditional anthologies on the horror scene. Preceding years saw an influx of poor patchwork projects where ※couldn＊t care less§ distributors often took random shorts cheaply licensed from YouTube and threw them under a feature-length umbrella. Now with titles like ※The Source of Shadows§ (review here) and ※Scare Package,§ viewers who enjoy frights in small bites are actually getting mini-movies with unifying links from authentic indie filmmakers again, not throwaway trash from total greenhorns playing make-believe in a backyard with an iPhone.
※For We Are Many§ slots snugly between those two movies by being somewhere between micro and low-budget, and actually having a theme connecting its segments. In this case that commonality is ※tales inspired by demons.§ ※For We Are Many§ also purports to collect works by ※13 filmmakers from around the world,§ except it appears ※around the world§ means ※mostly Scotland.§
The film＊s first segment ※Wendigo§ is just a five-minute bit where a cloaked creature kills two men camping in a forest. A stinger suggests maybe the maulings were all in one cannibalistic man＊s mind. Otherwise, that＊s all there is to it.
Like ※Wendigo,§ ※Father§ is another short whose meaning I＊m not sure I fully understand. ※Father§ follows two siblings scheming to get their hands on their dead father＊s fortune. The brother knows his sister plans on using a satanic spell to divine the location of hidden treasure. He probably doesn＊t know his death is part of that ritual, although it seems like his sister might not know exactly what she＊s getting into either. Anyway, a butler who gives winking looks to the father＊s resurrected corpse has a spell of his own that results in a startling transformation. Is he in league with the patriarch or up to his own agenda? I watched this part twice to pay careful attention to the dialogue and I still don＊t think I get it.
See, the ditches ※For We Are Many§ digs in its direct path involve packing 14 shorts plus a wraparound into a 75-minute runtime. 15 total segments is a lot of stories. One hour and 15 minutes isn＊t a lot of time to tell them. Fitting within five-minute windows proves to be a challenge for thin scripts stretching a one-off jolt to fit that space as well as for fatter fiction compressing to do the same.
By the time the anthology＊s ninth segment ※Breath§ rolls around, another realization dawns that demons aren＊t a terrific topic for producing uniquely varied takes on terror tales. Limited to such brief blips, each story＊s demon does one of two things: it either kills the central character(s) or possesses someone else to do the killing. Payoffs thus become redundant as each short essentially continues trampling similar grass into the ground.
Several segments still find creative ways to poke intriguing holes in the ※curse/summoning, creature appears, someone dies§ formula. ※Night Train§ doesn＊t have the money to fully realize its ambitious atmosphere of smoky 1940s noir hiding a surprisingly wild reveal, yet the layers writer/director Brad Watson peels off over the course of his story make it ※For We Are Many＊s§ most memorable standout. ※Three Times Around＊s§ ※found footage§ take on an urban legend involving a tree where a witch was hanged overcomes its familiarity by using creepy staging and efficient effects to become another favorite.
※Intervention§ on the other hand incorporates digital FX so subpar, laughter is the only reasonable reaction to the deaths depicted. ※The Summoned§ features an eerie doll-face person in a robe, although that＊s a loose qualification for a demon. ※Creek§ finishes the film with a monster that emerges from water to simply kill two girls, so I＊m unclear how that＊s a demon either, or even a story really. ※Bad Company§ and ※Murder of Crows§ are shot well enough, but both build to outcomes so predictable, they unfortunately evaporate from your mind almost immediately. Being too slight to register with resonance becomes a problem also plaguing ※Demon in the Woods.§ And did ※The Slaughtering Ground§ really have to deliver a second story centered on a wendigo?
People like labeling anthologies as ※mixed bags,§ but the treats in this one are all coated with the same plain milk chocolate. Variety should be a staple characteristic in any collection of shorts. The lack of it here makes 75 minutes feel oddly longer than it is. It＊s not a knock on the quality of the final few shorts, but after an hour of forests (six of the stories take place in the woods), fangs, and fleeting plots that are little more than pops, attention spans start zoning out, making it much harder to get into individual grooves.
So while several segments might independently earn higher valuations in a vacuum, the draining effect of everything running together makes ※For We Are Many§ a mildly mediocre experience overall. Demons aren＊t often dull, except when you have to go through their recycled rituals 15 times in a row.
Review Score: 55