There’s almost no such thing as a perfect horror anthology. By definition, the quality of the stories is going to vary so that even in those beloved anthologies where every segment might be considered good—your Trick ’r Treats and Creepshows, for example—we tend to rank our favorites and least favorites. There’s an old maxim that states that any anthology is only as good as its worst segment, but that’s an ideology to which I’ve never subscribed. My experience has always been that the good segments tend to stand out, while the weaker ones melt away in my memory. The beauty of even an uneven anthology is that each new segment offers a blank slate: a chance to course correct after a weak entry or to build on a strong one.
All of this is to say that Shevenge, the new female-directed horror anthology that recently hit streaming services, is, like basically every anthology that came before it, uneven. Masterminded, produced, and partly directed by Staci Layne Wilson, Shevenge compiles 12 short films from 11 female directors (Wilson directs two of the shorts), stitched together with the occasional—but ultimately disposable—appearance of Vanessa Gomez as “The Hostess.” Varied in tone and style, but rarely in theme, the 12 shorts included are: Wilson’s “Psycho Therapy”, directed by Wilson; “For A Good Time, Call…,” directed by Izzy Lee; Kate Beacom’s “All Men Must Die”; “Just A Girl,” directed by Michelle Nessk; Angela Atwood’s “Lady Hunters”; “Hooker Assassin,” directed by Misty Dawn; “The Fetch,” directed by Cheryl Isaacson; Tash Ann’s “Glass Ceiling”; “Doll Parts,” directed by Karen Lam; “Karma Is A Bitch,” again directed by Wilson; “Recipe #42” from Keely Martin, and Elaine Xia’s “Metamorphosis.”
Like XX before it, an all female-directed horror anthology is itself cause for celebration. There has been a long-overdue focus on women in the genre in recent years, spurred on by events like February’s Women in Horror Month and projects like this one. It’s nice to see someone like Wilson assembling a collection of female filmmakers to tell not just any horror tales, but specifically stories about powerful women. Standouts in the film include Wilson’s own “Psycho Therapy,” a talky but well-acted piece with a solid twist and co-starring Ricky Dean Logan (of Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare fame); Izzy Lee’s “For a Good Time Call…,” featuring what is arguably the scariest and most nightmare-inducing imagery in all of Shevenge; Karen Lam’s dreamlike “Doll Parts,” and Elaine Xia’s gory and strange “Metamorphosis.” All of the segments have something to offer, though, be it a strong performance, slick photography, clever writing, or some other sort of visceral intangible that makes it stand out. Some of the stories, unfortunately, come to an end just when it feels like they get going, which might be a function of their originally having been conceived as short films and not as pieces of a whole.
Therein lies what might be the weakest aspect of Shevenge, which is the anthology’s overall lack of coherence. Because it’s been assembled from previously existing short films, this is really more of a compilation than it is a traditional anthology. It offers a lot of variety in style and cinematic voices from the filmmakers included, but is often too disparate to work as well as some of the better anthologies in recent years—there’s “uneven” and then there’s “not necessarily belonging in the same movie.” It’s not enough to sink Shevenge, though, which still manages to function as a kind of sampler of contemporary female voices in the genre and offers more than a few excellent horror shorts. At a time when we’re more aware than ever of the need to amplify women’s voices in horror, projects like this one ought to be supported.
Shevenge is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.
[Editor's Note: Staci Layne Wilson has been a Daily Dead contributor.]
Movie Score: 3/5