Deadtime Stories is a new series of horror anthologies, presented by horror legend George Romero. That I can tell, there’s no shared connection to the film from 1986 of the same title. Apparently there will be volumes of films, at least 2 (as part 2 seems to be already complete) that follow sort of a Tales From The Crypt formula, George being utilized as the Cryptkeeper, so to speak.
The first story is titled Valley of the Shadow and was directed by Jeff Monahan, who despite being a first time director, has a lot of collaboration with Romero as an actor in previous films. Unfortunately, Valley starts Deadtime Stories off with a whispering fart, rather than a bang. In its defense, it did feel like one of the more cheesy episodes of Crypt, but that’s not necessarily a positive thing. The entire concept of the short, people lost in the jungle surrounded by crazy, possibly cannibalistic members of an unknown tribe, has been done before, and done much better. Of course films like Cannibal Holocaust comes to mind as a natural reaction, but even in recent history, the film Welcome to the Jungle was successful at creating a creepy, flesh eating romp through the jungle.
The acting is something you’ll notice immediately. I can’t tell if the actors were told to portray their characters as way over-the-top clichés, or if they just did such a poor job that it turned out that way. In any event, it certainly distracts the viewer from the story. Possibly even worse than the acting was the special effects. If this production was in dire need of anything, it was a better prop department. Severed arms, severed legs, and severed heads on a pike; these all appear to have been picked up that day from a local Halloween store, and painted with terrible looking fake blood. I realize they had next to no budget, and that shows with the quick cuts away from close-ups of the make-up, but with a better team of artists, this could have been remedied, and in my opinion, is not excused by the budget.
Even if the above two complaints were not an issue, the story just doesn’t go anywhere. A woman is looking for her husband that went missing while exploring some weird pod-like plant in the jungle, so she convinces someone to fund her ‘expedition’ in an attempt to locate him. It’s pretty cut and dry; more dry than anything. The pod is never explained, nor is it’s seemingly mystical powers that is possesses. I realize this is a short, but I felt that the director failed to relay to the audience, the story he set out to tell.
The next story is titled Wet and is directed by Michael Fischa whom some of you may know as the director of My Mom’s A Werewolf and Delta Heat. This one opens with the illusion that it’s going to be a little better than the last tale, and I suppose for the first few minutes, it sort of is. It takes a nosedive off of a cliff pretty early on though, and loses whatever potential that it had. This is a story about a mermaid. Yep, a mermaid. A man who’s clearly lost something, spends his days drinking and rummaging through trash to find something to sell to some yuppy sucker so that he can buy that day’s booze supply. One day, whilst taking a brisk walk on the beach, he finds a strange box buried in the sand, and in this box is what appears to be a severed hand. After taking part of the box to a local merchant to try and make a score, he learns that it is the severed hand of a mermaid, because they can only be killed if you dismember their bodies and bury them in a special box.
Mermaid horror has been done before, but it’s not as common as it could be. It’s good to see them utilizing a different sub-genre for an anthology, but it just didn’t click for me. The acting is a little better this time around, and they actually made a faint attempt at character development, but it just seemed like too little too late as the story continued. Here’s a tip guys, if you just had a creepy conversation about mermaids and how evil they were, and that your life will be ruined unless you bury the hand again, chances are the random women creeping into your bed in an attempt to put your junk in their mouth is not a good thing. Nothing good can come from this, so just kick the bitch off.
Something that really bugged me about this one was the fact that mermaids apparently function similarly to vampires. If you’re bitten (or have parts bitten off) by a mermaid, you become a mermaid yourself. It’s way over-the-top ridiculous and just felt far too campy for the tone that was set earlier on in the short. This had the potential to be a spooky little tale, but is ultimately ruined by a cheap ending.
The next story is titled Housecall and is directed by Tom Savini. While this isn’t a particularly wonderful short, it’s certainly the high point of this anthology. Housecall is a vampire tale. A mother has her only son tied to a bed after he begins to act strangely, and starts making claims of being a bloodsucker. She calls the family doctor for a house call, in hopes that it’s all in the boy’s head, and that there might be something that medicine can do to help.
It’s hard to tell whether or not this story would have turned out to be boring in the context of a feature film. Truth be told, it doesn’t have enough time to be good or bad. It’s simply competent, and perhaps even watchable, more so than the previous stories, at the very least.
So concludes Volume 1 of Deadtime Stories. As far as I’m concerned, the first outing for this series was almost a complete dud. I’ve seen trailers and footage for Volume 2 and while it does appeal to me, I’m a little less excited for it after having to sit through this mess. Hopefully they’ll turn in something a little more entertaining next time. If, like me, you’ve been waiting for this to be released, the chances of you being sorely disappointed are pretty great. Deadtime Stories Volume 1 is an affair worth skipping. If you are a Romero completist though, I will forgive you for wasting your time and money.