MAY 2, 2010
A made for cable anthology film doesn’t have any excuse for its shortcomings. Cable gave us Tales From The Crypt, with episodes that rivaled/surpassed most big-screen fare of its time. The same network (Showtime) gave us Body Bags, which is hardly a classic but is still fun and features a rare “longer than a cameo” acting performance by John Carpenter, back when he was still enjoying his career. So Twists Of Terror, you can blame the director, or the writer, but you can NOT use the “hey we’re just a cable movie” excuse in this particular sub-genre.
For starters, NONE of the stories are very good. No anthology bats .1000 (even Creepshow has a snoozer, IMO), but you can usually count on at least one story being worth your trouble. But Twists of Terror doesn’t deliver. Each one has a few moments to keep it afloat, but that’s about it. Part of the problem is the title - I spent half the time trying to figure out where the promised twists were in each story. I know most anthology tales have a twist ending of some sort, but not ALWAYS, and even if that was the case, they’re usually fun enough to distract me away from trying to figure it out. But every story here is completely bland and dour - nearly all of the characters are unlikable, and none of them have any sort of supernatural bent that could elevate them out of TV movie trappings. I mean, our protagonists are: an unhappily married couple, a greedy businessman, and a lonely single gal who just wants to find love. We’re an anorexic and a split personality shy of a Lifetime Original mix tape (indeed, most of director Douglas Jackson’s resume looks like a Lifetime scheduling sheet - titles like My Daughter’s Secret or A Wife Betrayed, that type of drivel).
The 2nd story fares best, simply because it has the most action. It’s yet another “creepy hospital in the middle of nowhere” tale, but it’s fast paced at least, and has a guy beating an evil dog with a gas pump, which is something I don’t see every day. Also, the main bad guy reminded me of the small-footed terrorist in Die Hard for some reason, so I spent half the time saying “You’re a policeman. There are RULES for policemen” and thus keeping myself entertained, since the movie didn’t seem interested in doing that for me.
The first I’ll give props simply for taking the generic Carnival of Souls setup and turning it into something else, though it’s preposterous (and was somewhat done in Nightmare Man, which I’ve already seen - I have a strict limit on movies with husbands looking to get out of their marriage by setting up ridiculous horror movie situations). And I can’t give it props for its clunky writing (“I thought our marriage was on the rocks”, the wife says, as if anyone has ever actually said that aloud at all, let alone to their partner) or its pointless double twist, which, as anyone who’s ever watched a season of 24 can identify with, renders previous actions completely implausible. Nor can I forgive it for being a cable movie with Jennifer Rubin as an adulteress and yet never offers any Jennifer Rubin nudity. Oh, and she’s the biggest star in the movie, which is another issue - the whole point of anthologies is to attract big stars to do a day or two’s work. Even the weakest ones - Hood of Horror - can boast a few good cameos. Their big draw is the chick from Nightmare on Elm St 3 and Bad Dreams, almost a decade later. Even the guy doing the wraparound is some no-name, nor is his character ever explained, which means his scenes have zero appeal.
Anyway, the third story is by far the worst. Like the first, it features characters acting strangely for no reason other than to mislead the viewer, which is horrible screenwriting 101 at its finest. If you’re writing with tricking the audience in mind, with no plausible motive for your characters to behave the way they do, then you’re an asshole. Anyway, that’s not even the worst thing about the entry - that it’s a complete and utter bore is. After watching this frigid woman get stood up and remind the audience how lonely she is over and over and over (candlelit dinner for one? Check. Video dating service? Check. Cats? Check (also birds and fish!). A “fun” friend who has to practically yell at her in order to get her to go out after work? Check. Etc), she dives right into a three way, and then kills the two guys. Because guess what? She’s a serial killer! Wow!
See, again, they are all about their twists, and even if the other two stories hadn’t ran this concept into the ground, it would still be pretty obvious that the guy she was seeing wasn’t a killer or whatever, because it was “too obvious”. But since there are no other characters of note, or any sort of actual plot beyond their meeting and first date, it’s pretty obvious from the start that she’s the one we should be worried about. Yet it drags on and non (if its not the longest story of the three I would be amazed), finally reaching a (rather abrupt) conclusion in at least twice the amount of time it should have taken.
Showtime really should remake this thing. Each story had some potential to be good, and with some game, recognizable actors playing against type, plus a creative team that truly made the most of their cable freedom, it could be a pretty good modern anthology. It’s almost impossible to think that the network that gave us Masters of Horror and Dexter could give us something so toothless and cheap.
What say you?