Friday, July 15, 2011

Deadtime Stories Vol. 1 (2010)

Something To Put You To Sleep

"Be careful what you wish for." When it comes to horror, I can never seem to fully grasp the old axiom as I continually ask for something and get loads of shit in return. I've been requesting more anthologies for the past few years, as I grew up on the classics like Creepshow, Tales From the Darkside: The Movie, and generally everything Amicus released. Somehow, very few modern films can seem to get it right. Deadtime Stories Volume 1 is no exception. Assumingly through personal ties with the film's writer and co-director Jeff Monahan, the movie manages to have horror legend George Romero as both executive producer and host of these three tawdry tales that are so excruciatingly bad, I threw up in disgust and ended up paying more attention to my vomit than the film itself, as regurgitated cereal and sushi remnants were far more entertaining and better produced than this soul-sucking horror effort.

The first story, "Valley of the Shadow", features a pretty lady who wants to have a rich man fund an expedition to the jungles of South America in order to find her missing husband who hasn't been seen for three years. To convince the already wealthy man to fund it, she says "There's money". When he says "I have money," she responds, "A lot more money". Without any questions or further research, he actually agrees. This opening takes up about a minute of film. Utilizing the worst segue in history, we're suddenly in the jungle watching some guy remove bizarre fruits from trees. A few kind shots allow us to realize that the expedition is already underway, with no preparation, dialogue, or traveling scenes in between. Enter a story about a lost tribe who can live forever, some terrible kills and effects, and some acting that makes your local playhouse look like Broadway and your story is over.

"Valley of the Shadow" plays out like Cannibal Holocaust would have if it were made on a budget of turkey sandwiches and bug juice. The story constantly utilizes the same flashback of the husband removing his glasses and having the camera focus solely on said glasses, which I would assume was supposed to convey something important, but this foreshadowing leads to a dead end. To my knowledge, this is never explained whatsoever and serves as inane filler to a lackluster story that had little promise to begin with. The special effects are almost unbearable and the "witty" ending is only exciting because you know the story is finally over.

"Wet", the film's second tale, is about a lonely, alcoholic fisherman named Jack. While scouring the beach, Jack uncovers a jade box hidden very poorly in the sand. Inside is the gnarled hand of a woman. Bringing the contents to an antiques dealer, Jack learns that the hand belonged to...wait for it...a mermaid. After being told not to dig up the remaining pieces of the mermaid because it will bring an ill fate to his life, Jack digs up the remaining pieces of the mermaid and has an ill fate brought to his life.

Slightly more interesting than the first story, "Wet" is still a major dud. The pace is irritable, the story weak, and the ending equally as disappointing. Had it played out Jack's loneliness a bit more, the viewer could perhaps understand why he was going through so much trouble to bring a mermaid back to life. Instead, we just gather that Jack is lonesome because the first shot is of him drinking a bottle of whiskey alone. I will give this entry credit for making me laugh, but only because the ending had me thinking of Ben Stiller screaming "MERMAN!" in Zoolander.

The final nail in the coffin is "House Call", directed by legendary FX artist Tom Savini (who also helmed the wonderful 90s remake of Romero's Night of the Living Dead). The story centers around an old doctor who makes a visit to the home of a worried mother whose son believes he is a vampire. Everyone jibber-jabbers, the son insists, nobody believes him, twist ending, the end.

What you'll first notice about this entry is that its aspect ratio is completely different from the rest of the film. This is because it was extracted from Savini's failed 2004 series, Chill Factor. Well it didn't work then and it doesn't work now, as the story is boring and the finale ludicrously terrible. The story seems as if it were written by throwing darts at notecards with random words on them, seeing how the plot twist serves no real purpose whatsoever. I will say, however, that this is easily the best entry in the movie. The production values look slightly higher and there's a tad of decent gore in the end, but ultimately, this one comes far too late to save Deadtime Stories from its predetermined fate of bargain bin placement.

I usually try not write this harshly when reviewing, but this film really upset me. Perhaps it was because I expected more with names like Romero and Savini being attached. Maybe it was because the IMDb rating was surprisingly high, I don't know. Romero's performance may have well been phoned in because he can hardly muster up the ambition to make any of these stories sound titillating. When he asks the viewer if they're finished screaming after "Wet", I'm pretty sure he didn't even get around to watching this movie. Lucky for him.

1/5 Stars

1 comment:

  1. This was horrible. I watched it about a week ago and was so disappointed. As you were saying, I guess I expected a lot better with Romero and Savini tied into this film. Hopefully he (Romero) just slapped his name on here without watching the film, because if he even had the slightest clue that this film was going to be as bad as it is, then something is going terribly wrong with him in his old age.

    Savini needs to stick to special effects and acting. I did like NOTLD remake, but nothing else he has done directorial-wise has ever caught my attention.

    Hopefully the Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things remake is a much better collaboration between Romeo and Savini. I want something good from them to look forward to, seeing as how I'm definitely not looking forward to Deadtime Stories Volume 2, which I believe is going to be released and also has Romeo's name attached to it. Correct me if I'm wrong.