I’m an optimistic movie fan by nature. To illustrate, I am guilty of dragging my boyfriend to see Rings during its theatrical run despite his adamant protests fuelled by a 2% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I ended up being sorely scathed by my decision, yet it is a feeling I would choose tenfold over writing something off without experiencing it firsthand. Because of this inherent attitude I possess, I went into the task of reviewing TERROR TALES completely blind and with bells on.
Five minutes into this unfamiliar anthology and my bells of intrigue were abruptly silenced – I had been formally introduced to the leading antagonist of the wraparound story. Serving as the connective tissue throughout the 120 minute runtime is a panty-huffing abductor, seemingly hell-bent on relaying three horrific tales to his selected captive. I’m not really sure how to state this eloquently, so I will just come out and say it – The father must listen to these tales, or his wife and daughter will be murdered by gas that causes “involuntary reactions that resemble twerking” before killing them. I really wish I was just yanking your chain, but that is a direct quote.
So, I guess we’re in this thing now. I think pretty much everyone is familiar with Ebenezer Scrooge and the whole three ghosts of Christmas bit by now, yeah? Well, imagine that Scrooge is actually Lynn Lowry (Shivers) as a recently divorced horror author that had just witnessed her very small child kill himself. Sound weird? Well, it essentially serves as basis for the first tale, ‘By Proxy’. I actually am greatly fond of this as a concept, however the clunky editing, abysmal CGI, and inconsistent continuity left me feeling puzzled and a tad disappointed.
Truthfully, I deeply loathe being so critical of an individual’s artistic expression. I live for seeking out that silver lining, and in this instance it is the inarguable passion writer/director Jimmy Lee Combs’ has for the horror genre. With easter eggs alluding to films such as Creepshow and Maniac, plus the horde of horror icons serving as cameos throughout, his second tale in this picture really worked for me. ‘Radical Video’, a really fun and gruesome homage to video nasties/snuff films, glimmered like a diamond in the rough. Both the dialogue featured and a fabulous cameo by the effervescent and adorable Laurene Landon (Maniac Cop) really tugged on my movie-loving heart strings. I truly believe this would have functioned very well as a standalone film – Plus, who doesn’t love a good bludgeoning delivered by a sledgehammer?
The third tale, ‘Epidemic’, could be viewed as an attempted amalgamation of plot points borrowed from films such as The Exorcist, Evil Dead, and strangely enough, M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening. Once again an interesting concept on paper, it receives the same treatment as the earlier tales and drastically fails to translate on screen. I would love nothing more than to provide a brief outline of the events that take place herein, but truthfully I remain perplexed in hindsight. To my understanding, it centralizes around a global, seemingly airborne epidemic of sudden demonic possessions. There is a muddled backstory involving witches in Salem during the trials, which purpose was to provide insight as to the cause of this unusual epidemic. I was left bewildered, and yet again pummeled by yet another slew of cameos including Felissa Rose (Sleepaway Camp) and Ari Lehman (Friday the 13th).
In summation, I cannot really think of any other way to describe this film other than completely bonkers. Despite having a bountiful bouquet of ambitious, well-intended ideas, the final product feels haphazardly put together. Perhaps this is the curse of low-budget films, but had this received a facelift in terms of the cinematography, and a slight dose of liposuction ridding the stories of unnecessary fat to cut the runtime, I feel like it would have eased the restlessness I felt.
My viewing experience was perpetually plagued by confusion. I found myself, more often than not, laughing hysterically at things I wasn’t entirely sure I was supposed to be laughing at. I find the line between self-awareness and total seriousness here is blurred – I pray that the former is true. Regardless of intent, these TERROR TALES are unfortunately destined to collect dust at the back of the bookshelf. TERROR TALES will arrive on VOD January 8th.