Grave Intentions is a horror anthology, offering up short tales of terror and moral comeuppance in the Tales from the Crypt or Creepshow tradition. It even features its own host: Magical Madame Josephine (Joy Vandervort-Cobb), a Voodoo-magician who runs her own shop of dark artifacts (there’s even a tie-in website, which is pretty neat). She introduces each of the five short films with a story about one of her customers’ purchases, and usually transitions between segments by cheekily describing the lesson learned by the hapless characters. Although few of the stories are scary, per se, it’s laudable that the team behind the camera assembled an international and diverse array of stories, each with their own conceptual hooks and approach to horror.
I watch a lot of horror, and have helped program genre festival slates. Grave Intentions is a strong example of how an anthology should be compiled, and harkens back to a day where this type of programming was still mainstream. Given how short each segment is, here’s a quick rundown of what is in store, and how I felt about each as an individual piece:
The first story is The Bridge Partner, a more intimate and human approach to everyday social horror. It stars Beth Grant and Robert Forster (it was made in 2015), and plays off the “is she crazy, or is she telling the truth” idea.
Second comes The Disappearance of Willie Bingham. An Australian production, it depicts a world in which violent criminals are dealt with through prolonged dismemberment rather than execution or imprisonment. The title character is a convicted rapist who slowly, graphically loses parts of his body. Coming off of the psychological focus of the initial story, Willie Bingham establishes that this anthology is not afraid to go for the gore.
Which becomes more intense in Violent Florence, which depicts one of the most harrowing feline attacks I’ve seen on film. Having been attacked by a black house cat, this one really triggered me. It’s a little more fast-paced than the first two; a little more rock and roll.
Things return to a more psychological bent with The Son, The Father, which was frankly my least favorite of the bunch. Most of the stories end with a stinger (as good short horror fiction often does), but this one feels a little under-baked compared to the others. A cruel mother plays dead for her son, who decides to return the favor – with tragic and unexpected consequences.
Marian rounds out the collection, and it’s probably my favorite of the bunch. This one hails from the Phillipines, and features some more traditional horror iconography: a creepy house, a little kid, and a Ghost who hides beneath their bed. A clever character twist, some cool gore, and a great performance by child actress Johanah Basanta make this a high note to complete Madame Josephine’s little tour of horror.
There are innumerable sources for good horror online, including an entire streaming service dedicated to curating the genre for eager fans. . Grave Intentions serves up the right balance of gore, tension, and dread to make every segue an interesting question of “What will they come up with next,” and the project as a whole is a nice addition to the anthology tradition.