JULY 4, 2011
The girl in the first story is very cute. I liked the music in the second story. The third story has some nice old timey atmosphere.
And there you have it; the only nice things I can say about Deadtime Stories Volume 1, a godawful anthology that ranks as one of the absolute worst films I’ve watched for HMAD this year. In fact, sadly enough, the only thing that might be worse is Night of the Living Dead 30th Anniversary, so I guess it’s just not a good year for Romero cash-ins around these parts.
The difference is, this one (sort of) has Romero’s involvement. Jeff Monahan, who wrote all of the stories, appears to be a friend of Romero’s, having appeared in several of his films going back to Two Evil Eyes, but the other two primary forces behind this thing (Michael Fischa and Matt Walsh) have previous connection to Romero OR Monahan that I could find, so how this thing came together is probably more interesting than anything on screen. Anyway, George provides the wraparound segments, introducing each tale in rhyme as he reads from a book, sort of like The Cryptkeeper, or Carpenter’s host from Body Bags, except, you know, those things are good. The wraparounds are probably the best part of the movie, simply because it’s Romero talking instead of the woeful actors in the stories, but even they reek of sloppiness – even though it seems like his entire performance could have been captured in ten minutes, his outfit noticeably changes mid-sentence on more than one occasion (he appears on a bank of TVs, see picture below because I refuse to put the effort into trying to explain it).
So like he’ll be on one TV in that outfit, and then he’ll finish his thought on another TV but with different clothes. This actually makes me sadder about the whole affair – he apparently had to come back to shoot more footage and thus they wasted his time at least twice. I assume that the continuity errors are the result of switching the stories around. Perfectly fitting for such a sloppy, lazy movie, there has apparently been some re-editing and story swapping between Volume 1 and Volume 2 (which is coming later this year – can’t wait!). The IMDb page for Volume 2 actually lists most of the information for this movie (i.e. the actors), and the lone bit of trivia for Volume 1 concerns a story called The Gorge, which doesn’t appear in the film. And neither the IMDb page (for either volume) OR the DVD case mentions that Tom Savini directed the 3rd short film, which was just repurposed from Tom Savini’s Chill Factor, a would-be anthology series of its own that was released on DVD back in 2004. So even though his name means a lot more to would-be viewers, it doesn’t appear anywhere on the box art. Nice job, fellas.
Sadly, his story is just as terrible as the others, and the fact that it was shot as part of a different production (though has the same writer) is quite noticeable – it’s not even at the same aspect ratio. But as mentioned, it at least has some nice period atmosphere, or is that atmosphere, period? The other two stories take place almost entirely in the daytime, with flat, excessive lighting similar to Full Moon productions giving it an extra bit of horseshitty flair. It’s also the only thing one could see inspiring Romero’s involvement, as it’s a bit of a Martin-esque tale of a young vampire, but with a stupid, somewhat confusing twist.
Couldn’t tell you which of the other two is worse. The first is like a Cannibal Holocaust remake except without anything resembling suspense or even violence, as everything occurs off-screen, often confusingly so. People just suddenly have spikes through their mouths or whatever and then the other characters scream or run around until the next person’s demise is left to our imagination. The actors are largely abysmal, and there’s a final twist that’s almost stupid enough to applaud, and might even have worked if the 20 minutes that preceded it had even an inkling of the dark humor or morbid tone that this final bit did. Instead, it just seems grafted on from a different story entirely, and thus served only to further annoy me.
The second could have been fun, but instead they decided to approach the story as melodramatically as possible, making it the most boring (and seemingly the longest) of the bunch even though it has a fishwoman biting a guy’s dick off. How do you make this boring, you may ask? Just watch Deadtime Stories! Actually, don’t – I’ll just tell you: by having two terrible actors endlessly talking about one of their lost loves and how she’s probably a mermaid now due to some curse. By the time she comes back and reveals her nature (which is kind of a fun reveal, because instead of giving her a fin they just change her face into that of a fish), any sensible viewer would have long since given up caring what was going on.
What ultimately ties all of the films together is their total lack of competence. Everything looks flat and ugly, and I’d be shocked if any of the shorts were shot over more than a two day period. There’s a bit in the first one where a guy is attacked in the water (off-screen, of course) and the others run back to get him, and the entire sequence plays out in a master shot from far back in the beach (I think it’s supposed to be a POV shot of one of the cannibal dudes). Even if you didn’t have a shot of the guy being attacked, it still could have been an exciting sequence with some editing – shots of the heroes trying to get to the injured guy, shots of the guy slowly drowning/sinking/bleeding out/whatever, and even the POV shots to let us know that they were facing more than one obstacle. Instead, we just watch a single shot of a bunch of bad actors splashing around like jackasses for 90 seconds or so, rendering the entire sequence inert.
Again, I’m more interested in the behind the scenes drama than anything else. Bloody Disgusting reported on filming of this thing back in 2007 (and again, Savini’s entry is even older), and even though it’s played a few festivals over the past couple years, I was unable to find a single review of it. Nor can I find any explanation for why the stories seem to have been swapped – logic would dictate that they wanted to put their strongest entries on the first volume and thus get people excited for the (lesser) 2nd, but I can’t imagine anyone would be interested in further entries after watching this. Plus, if that was indeed the case, and these are the best they got, then why add Savini’s pre-existing entry (and then not bother to include his name on the marketing to boot)? They obviously have enough entries to fill a movie (the trailer for 2 is actually included on the disc), so why are they going back and using old shit that’s already available in a different package/title?
However, the only “extra” on the disc is the aforementioned trailers, including one for a Jason Statham movie called Blitz that features one of the greatest one-liners in action movie history (I won’t spoil it, but it involves Gary Coleman - however the joke doesn't appear on the Youtube trailers I found, edited out of respect?). I can only assume that Monahan and his cohorts were either too embarrassed to discuss this rancid pile, or too busy making another to contribute any sort of supplemental material. Fine by me though, the 75 minutes I spent with it were more than enough. A truly worthless disc on every conceivable level.
What say you?