Popcorn Frights Review: ‘Tiny Cinema’ Is An Anthology That Doesn’t Quite Fill The Theater
“This is the kind of place that will make you feel uncomfortable, I can promise you that.” is how we are introduced to Tyler Cornack’s Tiny Cinema. Unfortunately for me I was only uncomfortable due to a number of cringeworthy moments. Several of the chapters are bogged down by lowbrow humor that missed the mark and had me rolling my eyes. What I found most frustrating is that the other chapters are really good, with ideas that kept me interested and wanting more. There was so much potential buried underneath repetitive jokes that took me out of the movie, and had it been dialed back even a bit I feel the whole anthology would have improved.
Tiny Cinema starts off really strong with the first two chapters. There’s an overarching anxiety of not fitting in with what society expects of you. It begins with “Game Night”, Austin Lewis and Shelby Dash are a married couple hosting a game night for their friends. It’s full of drinking, laughs, and games until it all goes wrong with a simple statement: “that’s what she said.” A statement we’ve all heard millions of times, yet here it leads to anger, confusion, paranoia, and conspiracy. The simple act of not getting a joke turns the whole world upside down for this couple. Throughout this chapter I was reminded of Bo Burnham’s Inside as we watch him fall apart in a pop culture fueled depression amplified by the pandemic, but here we see Lewis fall apart over finding out who “she” is. It’s funny and in a way deconstructs how we interact with others and how often we reference TV shows, movies, or viral videos to build and maintain our relationships. No one wants to be “out of the loop” but it’s inevitable when trends come and go at such fast speeds. The concept worked really well for me, and the descent into madness over something so innocuous was clever.
As the anthology moves into chapter two, “Edna”, we move from the anxiety of not understanding a joke to the anxiety of not living up to society’s expectations of us. Edna, played by Olivia Herman, is seen on a bridge contemplating life and whether or not to jump because she cannot find love. Something catches her eye, stopping her from jumping, and we find out it’s a body bag with a male corpse in it. What follows next is a Lars and the Real Girl meets Re-Animator situation, where she builds a life with this corpse that she names Ricky. Edna gets dates, cuddles, and a man to listen to her like she’s always wanted. At first she’s happy even if her friends don’t accept her corpse partner but Edna learns that not always do the reality of our dreams fulfill the expectations, nor do they mean that we’re actually happy. The struggle of finding out what truly brings us happiness and who we really are is something everyone can relate to.
The final segment that I want to mention is chapter six, “Daddy’s Home.” We’re introduced to Sam Landers and Kristina Clifford, who are on a date that seems to be going well until Kristina offers Sam a bump of cocaine. He’s surprised but indulges only to learn that it was not in fact cocaine. Rightfully freaked out, Sam leaves Kristina for the night and tries to move on with his life. What follows is a body horror nightmare for Sam as he begins turning into an old man. The loss of hair, the tone of voice, the mannerisms, it’s clear he’s becoming a father and that terrifies him. He’s forced to track Kristina down and find out what’s going on, only to realize it’s worse than he anticipated. Typically the body horror of parenthood is forced upon women (given that a child is growing inside them) so having the man go through it here is a refreshing change of pace, even if it’s done in an exaggerated and comedic way.
Overall Tiny Cinema isn’t a bad watch, there’s even some references to classic horror films that naturally fit into their respective stories adding fun Easter eggs for horror fans, I just wish it was more consistent in terms of quality and tone. I didn’t discuss chapters three through five here because they just didn’t connect with me, though I’m sure there’s an audience that will enjoy those chapters. Given that the trailer includes some quotes making fun of the movie, it seems that all involved know that this won’t be for everyone and instead they just made the movie they wanted to make. For that honesty, I applaud them and hope Tiny Cinema finds its fanbase.