Horror is a medium that, more than most, works well in the short story format. You can chop out the excesses and present a tale that is straight set up and pay off. So when I saw a mini-anthology of short horrors called Don’t Watch This, I was set up to enjoy it!
As it turned out, the name is an accurate description. Of the 5 episodes available, two are total write-offs. Two more are short and simple genre pieces, and the last is more ‘short story’ than ‘filmed piece’.
Friendship Bracelet is a typical ‘shunned weird person’ story. A 15-year-old girl invites friends to her party. It’s clear that something is off about her. The pink surgical mask she constantly wears being one! So after setting up a few bitchy ‘friends’, the subsequent gore is inevitable. This ‘urgh’ factor is brief but effective so for a slasher vignette this works.
CTRL+ALT+DEL is more a case of ‘what was that all about?’. A hacker maliciously publishes some private risqué photos from a young starlet, so we know to hate him. He is taunted into a VR challenge by another hacker known as ‘The Reckoner’. What follows is a series of challenges where his losses manifest as physical pain. But there is no substance to this. Even with allowance for a short story’s mood rather than plot approach, the nonsensical nature and unsatisfying pay off does nothing, decent VR CGI aside.
Anyone who has ever seen a cinema student’s thesis submission will see something familiar in Incommodum. This is definitely a mood piece, consisting of a series of disturbing images quickly cut together and dubbed over with unsettling noises. It plays out like an extended version of the infamous ‘Ring’ video but without any of the actual fear. It’s all blood, stuff in eyes, still mannequins, etc. But it will leave you more curious than afraid as nothing really scares or lands.
Keep Out is more familiar. Some YouTubers on one last shoot go to an old abandoned house to film, only to discover nastiness abides. The camera follows them at low angles as they sneak around the house, unaware that they are being watched. It’s a typical but effective creature feature.
The last clip is the most interesting but also underdeveloped. Real food & wine Queer Eye star, Antoni Porowski, features in a narrated piece about his morning ritual. As the episode is entitled ‘Antoni Psycho’, the American Psycho and Christian Bale references are very clear. He applies an avocado face mask and goes through his morning exercises, whilst a fridge full of meat lurks in the background. This fits the short story format nicely. You are left wanting more but can enjoy the few minutes you get.
Overall Don’t Watch This is a disappointing mix of things. The quality to nonsense ratio tips a bit too far into the latter to make it a worthwhile anthology. But then, the nature of anthology is that the next one could always be better. So, Netflix, make some more. And try to average out the spooks, would ya?
Words by Michael Record