Packing anthology films with a story count in the double digits seems to be the in-thing lately. A few films, such as For We Are Many can pull it off. Most, however, don’t work for me. Dave Green and Dan McGee’s Surprise, however, is very much a stylistic throwback to classic British anthology films. Running just over an hour and consisting of three stories plus a wraparound, it reminded me of films like Tales From the Crypt and The House That Dripped Blood.
An unnamed writer (Joerg Stadler, Saving Private Ryan, Hannibal Rising) is visited by a figure known as The Teacher (Elliot Reivers, Number One Gun) who may be one of the writer’s own creations. He claims to have come to make the writer and his creations a part of his own story.
From there we move to a writers gathering on Halloween. We share a table with Patrick (Patrick J. Maxwell), Debbey (Debbey Clitheroe, Good Tidings) and Laura (Laura Ellen Wilson, Monster, Coven of Evil). As you may have noticed, the characters all have the same name as the person playing them. And just to make it a bit more meta they all appear in each other’s stories.
Patrick goes first, telling the tale of “Mr Chuckles”. A bitchy barmaid, (seen reading King’s It), is nasty to a little girl on her birthday. She gets a surprise visit from the less than humorous clown Mr. Chuckles.
“Sweethearts” is Debbie’s contribution to the evening. A little girl hoping to catch a shark instead finds a dead body. Much to the shock of the detective assigned to the case, it’s a woman he had an affair with. When a second one turns up things really get complicated.
The last story comes from Laura. “The Last Rites of Byron Vanderbilt”. A tale of what happens when a model gets some unorthodox help to deal with an obnoxious client.
And then The Teacher wraps things up with a surprise for everyone.
The segments are framed by some Creepshow style comic art, something I wasn’t expecting in a film IMDB says had a budget of about $6,000. It’s a nice touch and helps set Surprise apart from the many other microbudget anthologies out there.
The segments though are what really matters. And the stories that makeup Surprise hit the mark. The first two are enjoyably straightforward. The third is a bit more complex and has a nice change of pace. It all ends with a bit that reminded me of another British anthology, The Monster Club.
Surprise is a great way to spend an hour. And as an added bonus, it’s currently free to watch on Vimeo.