You don’t need a hundred million dollars to make a good film because, let’s face it, not every story committed to celluloid requires an epic lens a la Doctor Zhivago or Titanic. Some movies are more character and dialogue driven and lighter on bombastic flashiness than many of their more spandex inclined competition. Such is the case with director Aaron K. Carter’s economical and compact film, An Hour to Kill which, while light on interplanetary invasions and computer animated snarky mascots, is deep and nuanced in the lost art of solid journeyman acting and clever writing.
An Hour to Kill is a throwback in many ways, one of them being the lost art of the anthology movie. These used to be quite bountiful in the land of palm trees (Creepshow and its two sequels, Four Rooms, Sin City, Black Sabbath, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs) and offered hope to your standard filmgoer; didn’t like the first story in the film? Never fear, here’s three more At Bats for you to feast your eyes upon, cinema lovers! Somewhere along the way, however, the film anthology became less of a thing and the occasional sighting of an errant one at the local multiplex was something akin to a UFO or Bigfoot encounter. Under the able and steady hand of director Carter’s An Hour to Kill though, along with the sure and confident pen of co-writer Ronnie Jiminez, perhaps the idea of a full-blown renaissance for the much maligned anthology format might not be such a pipe dream after all.
The setup is simple enough: Two personable hitmen (shades of Mr. Tarantino) are faced with a one hour hiatus before they move on to their next assignment. What’s a self-respecting duo of assassins to do then but while away the next sixty minutes spinning ghostly grindhouse stories to one another? It’s a simple but clever setup that, incidentally, humanizes even more the two hitmen in question as they go about the business of spinning such creepy stories with titles like Hog Hunters and Valkyrie’s Bunker.
The big set piece for An Hour to Kill is Valkyrie’s Bunker which involves a small band of girls who are in search of an urban legend of their own: A nigh legendary weed depository that they’ll stop at nothing to uncover. In the best tradition of the old EC comic books of the 1950s, a seemingly innocent enough quest goes staggeringly awry when they come upon a very condemned old war bunker. A scary and fun (for the viewers, at least) cat and mouse game ensues when the team begins disappearing one by one as they encounter the malevolent presence that does not like to be disturbed. This one gets a huge ‘thumbs up’ for the slow build in suspense, an art form that – like the anthology film – is nearly lost in this day and age of loud stingers arbitrarily slapped onto the soundtrack of every horror film that features a cat jumping unexpectedly out of a garbage can. Considerable screen time is given, too, to the backstory and legend which makes what ultimately goes down even eerier.
Hog Hunters is for those card carrying vegetarians and/or vegans who would like to see a little comeuppance delivered onto the more enthusiast carnivore’s out there. The story is simple but fun. A bowling team initiates a new recruit only to have the script flipped on them: A species of hybrid men-pigs (say it with me ten times fast and try not to laugh, Dear Readers) awaits their sojourn into the wild. This one is good scary fun, in the vein of such 80s horror classics as The Lost Boys, Ghoulies and Fright Night.
The other story that rounds out An Hour to Kill is Assacre. This entry takes a skewed and humorous look at competition eating and the dangers therein and, out of all of the stories, really plies its wares in the fertile grounds of M.C. Gaines and Charles Beaumont.
An Hour to Kill showcases some of the best acting the world of independent cinema has to offer: the legendary Mel Novak is understated and perfect for his role as Mr. Kinski and master thespians Frankie Pozos, Amanda Rau, Jola Cora, Brendan Mitchell, Gabriel Mercado, Cal Alexander and Joe McQueen, among others, are all scene-stealers and a joy to watch.
Check out An Hour to Kill (streaming now on Amazon Prime Video) to remind yourself why it is anthology films can be so potent and fun when done with a deft touch; this one is fun.