What is it about the anthology-film format that brings out the worst in filmmakers? Has the visibility of TALES FROM THE CRYPT, THE VAULT OF HORROR, and CREEPSHOW caused them to be so ingrained in directors' psyches that they must automatically copy them for their own multi-story endeavors? Perhaps the reason there are so few anthology pictures (a format I personally have a soft spot for) is they inevitably end up carrying on the same morality tales established by EC Comics many moons ago. Such is the case with Brad Sykes's 2002 release THE ZOMBIE CHRONICLES, which puts an undead spin on the formula (well, on two different stories with an awkward wraparound) yet keeps the stale storytelling firmly in place.
The set up this time around concerns a journalist (Emmy Smith) who picks up a mysterious hitchhiker (Joe Haggerty, in a horrendously grating turn) to help her find an unmarked small town. For reasons unknown except to Haggerty--and screenwriter Garrett Clancy, I suppose--they stop at a dilapidated structure so he can spin a pair of yarns.
The first involves a drill sergeant (Clancy, bravely showing his face to the audience) and his wife befalling a sinister revenge plot hatched by what appears to be a GI Clancy had cold-bloodedly killed. Not an entirely bad concept, but the execution consists mostly of Clancy's wife tied to a tree, festooned with explosives, as a disembodied voice barks exercise commands at Clancy (I've seen SWEATIN' TO THE OLDIES videos more frightening than this) until the double "twist" that's as shocking as it is original. The second tale presents a trio of extremely noisome youths on a camping trip who violate the (wooden) gravestone of a long-dead yokel and suffer the predictable consequences; it's a straightforward one-two punch of mediocrity, capped off with a dunderheaded ending. The wraparound--more like the reach-around in this case--resolves itself in such a done-to-death manner that it'd be a surprise only if you've never watched a movie before.
The acting varies from barely tolerable to "And I cast you in this because . . .?" with a plethora of cut-rate splatter effects. The film's look is the same bargain-basement aesthetic of the average shot-on-video release, though give Sykes credit for not reverting to annoying camera tricks or digital effects and keeping the photography fairly solid. (There is a 3D version of this film that's included on the disc I reviewed; I didn't watch it because I don't own a pair of 3D glasses, nor did I see anything in the "flat" version that would've benefited from the technique.)
You're better off with DEAD OF NIGHT, or maybe ASYLUM (hell, or TALES FROM THE HOOD).