2 stars (out of four)
In the spirit of "Creepshow" and other "Tales From the Crypt"-ic anthologies of fright, "Trapped Ashes" is a multisegment lark featuring the work of five different directors, all (alas) stuck with the same screenwriter. Joe Dante handles the wraparound segments with some panache. On a nearly deserted Hollywood studio back lot, a wizened tour guide (Henry Gibson) traps himself and a handful of tourists inside a haunted house. (One good early line: "If this is a joke, an interactive whatever...")
Each nervous guest must tell a true and terrifying campfire-type story in an attempt to appease the filmmaking gods, or something like that. Director Ken Russell lends a 10-ton touch of the hack to "The Girl With Golden Breasts," in which an aspiring L.A. ingenue tells all about an implant operation gone viciously wrong. Sean S. "Friday the 13th" Cunningham improves things, surprisingly (given the quality of "Friday the 13th"), with "Jibaku," a fairly intriguing erotic ghost story about an Anglo couple's encounter with one of the locals. Most rewarding and subtle of the bunch, "Stanley's Girlfriend" takes itself just seriously enough to stick; Monte Hellman treats this McCarthy-era tale of studio ambition and betrayal with a sense of style. Finally, "My Twin, the Worm" (directed flatly by John Gaeta) takes its sweet time telling a story about a parasite competing for food with a fetus. The grown-up version of the latter narrates.
With its gore-comix sensibility and self-conscious flashes of nudity, "Trapped Ashes" clunks along, and (to be completely petty) never really overcomes its clunky title. I enjoyed bits of it, but the whole affair feels like the spotty handiwork of veteran horror geeks geeking-out as best they can, with the material they have. Dante and Hellman in particular deserve far better.
Running time: 1:45, 8:15 p.m. Fri.; 2:15, 6:15 p.m. Sat.; 5 p.m. Sun.; 8 p.m. Mon.; 6 p.m. Tue.; 8:15 p.m. Thu. at Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State St.; 312-846-2600 or siskelfilmcenter.org. No MPAA rating (parents cautioned for violence, nudity, sex and language).Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times