76 Horror Bookstore – Tin Can of Fear (dir. David Chuang & Hung Tze Peng, 2019) – An anthology of four horror short films.
There is no telling what you will get with movie anthologies. Taiwanese production 76 Horror Bookstore is no different. While adapted from web novels by the same author, the four segments share few similarities, mismatched in tone, style, and even subgenres within horror.
That said, this one starts off strong. Set in an old apartment building, Rent (4/5) conjures the disquiet that comes naturally with its unsettlingly mysterious history. All this spells bad news for its latest tenant, lone and unable to afford a different place. More disconcerting than her new home is her landlord, who seems to hoard secrets of his own. Not every revelation makes sense, yet this detracts little from the excellent build-up.
This effective traditional horror stands in contrast to Hunger (5/5) that posits a world much less grounded, where a fugitive awakes to discover that food has been criminalised. Dark humour accompanies his misadventures as he hunts down illegal cans for sustenance in this odd alternate reality. Tied to Chinese cultural beliefs, the creative concept is genuinely interesting to watch. The near-perfect execution makes this a standout chapter that will linger in memory.
A game of Hide and Seek (2/5) comes next. Playtime becomes a nightmare when the teenagers start losing their friends and seeing odd visions. The creepy backdrop works well, especially when the hallucinations take shape. Unfortunately, the atmosphere doesn’t last for long. A subplot on the youths’ puppy love soon takes the story into melodrama territory, marking an unwanted slowdown in pace.
Its disappointing end segues into a better instalment, Taxi (3/5), in which a pregnant woman contemplating abortion is forced to confront what she truly fears. The final story, while slightly light on scares, is thankfully lighter on the sentimentality and heavier on the feelings of dread.
Interestingly, the horror is much more grounded in common fears and is unafraid to end on a surprisingly uplifting note. This ascent in quality marks a neater end than one would expect with that weaker third episode. Three out of four isn’t half bad, making for a relatively decent horror anthology that is well worth a watch.
76 Horror Bookstore maintains intrigue with four disparate stories, tied together by consistent atmospheric terror.
76 Horror Bookstore is now on Catchplay+.