Four writer/directors each contribute a roughly half-hour segment to form the anthology; although three of them primarily work in horror, this collaboration is an outright comedy.
It starts with the funniest, "Wadzilla," from Adam Rifkin ("Detroit Rock City"). Rifkin himself hilariously takes the lead as a guy whose ultra-low sperm count gets an unexpected boost from an experimental drug that accidentally turns his ejaculate to a monstrous size. Said sperm then grows to attack unwitting victims ("Why's it smell like Ajax?") and ultimately the whole of New York City. Spoofing mutated-monster flicks that dominated during the Cold War, it's an inspired piece reminiscent the giant-breast blitz in Woody Allen's "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (but Were Afraid to Ask)."
Equally uproarious and inventive is the third story, "The Diary of Anne Frankenstein," from "Hatchet" man Adam Green. Boasting a terrific performance by Joel David Moore ("Shark Night 3D") as Adolf Hitler, the black-and-white parody of mad-scientist pictures has the Nazi No. 1 steal the titular book so he can create You Know What, a creature well-played by Kane Hodder, who was Jason Voorhees in more "Friday the 13th" entries than I care to go count.
"Wrong Turn 2"'s Joe Lynch bravely tackles "Zom-B-Movie," which also doubles as "Chillerama"'s wraparound sequence, set at the last night of a drive-in operated by Uncle Cecil Kaufman (Richard Riehle, "Bridesmaids"), and one in which the dead rise for an all-night orgy. Although a little too long in the tooth, Lynch's segment more than gets the job done, far surpassing the thankless status that befalls so many wraparounds. (It helps that it contains the closest thing "Chillerama" has to a fake trailer, with the, er, opening of the truly tasteless "Deathication," of which its William Castle gimmick-esque director promises, "This film will rape you with your own feces.")
Other than a need for fake trailers that granted "Grindhouse" extra buoyancy and goodwill, the anthology's lone sore spot is "I Was a Teenage Werebear," from Tim Sullivan of the surprisingly decent "2001 Maniacs" and its surprisingly dreadful sequel, "2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams." This one's tricky to criticize; while it pokes fun at the "Beach Blanket Bingo" pictures, teenage monster movies and huh?!? "Twilight," it's primarily gay porn minus the penetration scenes, and woefully out of place as a result. (Plus, queer cinema is one subgenre that didn't exist at the drive-ins, for the purposes of this "ultimate midnight movie." And neither did "Twilight.")
That aside, "Chillerama" is as much as a love letter to cinema as Martin Scorsese's "Hugo"; instead of bowing at the temple of Méliès, it worships the melee the motion pictures where art mattered not, where anything could happen and often did, be it a chainsaw massacre or an alien invasion or a back-seat impregnation. Rod Lott