What if the only way to stop the end of the world was by making love to an older version of yourself who claimed to be from the future? What if you brought someone back to life, but they annoyed you so much that you were tempted to just kill them again? These are just two of the many bold and bizarre “what ifs?” featured in Tiny Cinema, Tyler Cornack’s new anthology that world premiered as the opening night movie at this year’s Popcorn Frights Film Festival. And no matter how “out there” or uncomfortable these questions may seem, Cornack (who also co-wrote the anthology along with Ryan Koch and Bill Morean) does not shy away from answering them in brazen, comical, and at times disturbing fashion, with many of the film’s segments feeling like they would be right at home airing in the late-night hours alongside The Eric Andre Show or Too Many Cooks on Adult Swim.
Featuring multiple tales tied together with pleasant narration by Paul Ford, who serves as the Rod Serling-esque host of the anthology, Tiny Cinema cleverly and creepily subverts everything from board game nights to time traveling tropes, often with a sexualized or scathingly psychological twist. While the anthology takes big swings with its absurdist humor setups, its smaller moments are equally effective. For instance, in the opening segment, “Game Night,” a suburban husband (Austin Lewis) gradually loses his mind when he doesn’t understand a popular joke reference during a game night with his friends. It’s such a brief moment of an otherwise mundane evening, but Cornack and company hilariously (and eerily) show how just one tiny, misinterpreted moment from a conversation can fester in someone’s mind until it takes over their entire life and turns them into a murderous, obsessive, and unrecognizable version of themselves.
Other stories throughout Tiny Cinema are less subtle but no less enjoyable, such as the segment “Edith,” featuring a lonely woman (Olivia Herman) who finds a man’s body (Matt Rubano) in the river and enjoys the corpse’s companionship… until she brings him back to life and discovers that he’s unbearably annoying. This Frankenstein-esque tale of modern love gone wrong is as surprisingly heartfelt as it is side-splittingly funny, culminating in an empowering tale of how sometimes being alone isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially when your newfound love from beyond the grave is a passive aggressive nightmare.
Perhaps the most mind-bending segment of all is “Deep Impact,” in which the latest package for a deliveryman (played by Tyler Cornack himself) leads him to an eccentric gentleman (Kevin Michael Moran) who claims to be an older version of the deliveryman from the future… and that they must intermingle their DNA to avoid the destruction of the entire world. Thanks to the committed performances by Cornack and Moran, what at first seems like an outrageous impossibility slowly begins to take shape into something plausible, making you wonder right along with Cornack’s character whether the fate of the entire space-time continuum really does hinge on him having sex with himself… or not.
At times subtly ambiguous and at other times shockingly in-your-face with sexual and psychological humor, Tiny Cinema is definitely not for everyone, but it is also definitely never boring, and although it may sound cliché, it really does seem like a movie that everyone involved enjoyed working on. Whether they’re reanimating the dead or transforming into the deceased father of their recent date, all of the cast members gleefully dive headfirst into the material and play it believably straightforward… no matter how absurd the premise may be, making Tiny Cinema engrossing even at its most absurdly disturbing moments.
Ultimately, Tiny Cinema feels like an R-rated (and at times X-rated) version of The Twilight Zone. And while your mileage may vary segment to segment, as a whole it’s hard not to admire just how weird and wild Cornack and company go with their anthology, providing plenty of “did that really just happen?” moments on a cinematic trip you won’t soon forget.
Movie Score: 3.5/5
Go HERE to catch up on our previous coverage of the 2022 Popcorn Frights Film Festival!