Film Review of the horror anthology Terror Tales
When abducted by a psychopath, a husband is taken on a ride from hell where he is subjected to three horrific tales of terror while his family is held captive in an attached cargo trailer.
Terror Tales is new horror anthology from writer-director Jimmy Lee Combs which he describes as “A love letter to Creepshow (1982)”. It is a statement which is clearly represented in the film’s macabre delivery and twisted humour, but that is not all the film has to offer. With a great script and a unique depth to the stories, Terror Tales is a showcase of Jimmy’s own take on the sub genre, with each segment holding up as a unique standalone story.
The film itself is held together with a wraparound story in which a disturbed psychopath known as ‘The Driver’ (Christopher Showerman) decided to take Michael (J. Giordano) and his family hostage. Locking his wife and daughter locked in a trailer which is equipped with a poisonous gas which could kill them instantly, the driver forces Michael to comply with his requests. This includes listening to him tell his three-terror tales, which as you would expect do not have a happy ending!
Tale One: By Proxy
The first tale gives you an indication of what you can expect from the trilogy, although with its ominous uncovering of events it is the more serious of the three. Opening with mother Susan McKay (Lynn Lowry) walking in as her son commits suicide by shooting himself in the head, it is a rather melancholy start, which sets up the precedence for the tone of the tale. In a quick succession of events that follow, we see Susan leaving court having been acquitted for the murder of her son, where she is suddenly shot in street. Unable to find peace in her death, she finds now herself confronted by demon, whose intentions are to take her back and show her the errors of her past.
By Proxy is a thought provoking dramatic story which has similarities to the ghost of Christmas past from A Christmas Carol, as Susan is forced to look in on the events of her past. What we soon see however from the chain of events uncovered, is that her actions which are a lot more deceitful than that of even Scrooge and involve more than just a monetary gain.
The main focus of the film is on Lynn Lowry, who once again delivers a brilliantly balanced performance as Susan, who is we find is very much a multifaceted character. With the opening scene and the initial events in which we see her transition from being a renowned horror writer, to the responsibilities of being a mother – you can’t help but sympathise with her character. Yet as the film goes on we soon begin to see a very different side to her character, as her initial caring intentions begin to become tainted.
The effects in the first film are well-executed using a mixture of CGI and practical effects to create the levitating demon. A character which looks like something which she could has written about in one of her novels. As well as some of the more unsettling visions she has involving her son, who appears in a rather gruesome apparition.
Tale 2: Radical Video
Radical Video is my favourite tale of the three, which takes a lighter approach than By Proxy, replicating the styling of an 80’s slasher and delivering not only some films goriest scenes, but also the films best comedy moments as well.
When the bodies of several young girls are found mutilated by a serial killer using a sledgehammer, Detective Ray Stevens (Brett Shafer) develops a personal obsession with catching the killer. It seems at first that the killer is untraceable, but could the disruptive events at a local video store Radical Video be connected to the killer?
Radical Video has some excellent comedy moments which make the most of the nostalgic video store environment and its friendly owners Blaine (Ben Hilzer) and Tiffany Moore (Miranda Byers). A particular mix up with a kids VHS rental is especially memorable; and judging from the shown footage shown the film is more likely to feature Bambi Woods than the film’s title character Bambi.
The most memorable performance however occurs outside of the video store, as Laurene Landon manages to steal the scene again as the peculiar Miss Tate. In the company of her dog Measles, Laurene’s character is unpredictable throughout the scene, fuelled with her quip humour and quirky dialogue she is great fun to watch – even if her character is not all there.
The practical effects in Radical Video work really well considering this is a low budget film, as we get to see some excerpts of the killers handy work as he makes his own home-made snuff movies. These scenes seem to akin back to the video nasties era which are referenced in the film. When it comes to the blood and violence this segment really delivers something that the gore fans will enjoy..
Tale 3: Epidemic
Epedemic is the third film in the series and as the title suggests the most ambitious in how much it tries to cover. When a pastor (Tom Fears) fails an attempted exorcism on his possessed wife, he decides that he has no other option but to take her life. Committed for his crimes he is locked in a mental institution and isolated from the outside world. However, when an epidemic breaks out and people start to become possessed, including his daughter; the church decided to offer him a pardon if he can reclaim his
faith and will help them to exorcise the demons.
Epedemic is not only the biggest of the three film, but also manages to bring together an amazing cast. Tom leads the cast with a convincing performance as a pastor, who not only has to deals with his own emotional battles following the loss of his wife and now possession of his daughter – but now has to regain his own faith as he faces Satan himself; played menacingly by horror veteran Yan Birch.
Yan Birch is always a presence on screen and after tearing through with an impressive entrance, brilliantly portrays the character of Satan in both a human and demon demon form. Credit has to be given to the effects team, who do an excellent job with the demon
As well as the battle in the present it also looks back at the origin of events which take us back to the 1600’s, which introduces us to characters who are portrayed by two of the original camp slasher icons. Ari Lehman (Jason Voorhees in Friday 13th (1980)) plays Edmond Blackburn; a man who is looking to avenge the death of his brother who was killed by a witch – Felissa Rose (Angela Baker in the Sleepaway Camp (1983)). Both seem to really have fun with the characters, enthusiastically overplaying the roles with there energetic performance. Ari with his bold chivalry for revenge and Felissa with her sexualised devilry which makes her irresistible to men.
The film creates a biblical style tension to the film with people around the world becoming possessed, and the pastor trying to redefine his faith to fight the devil. Although the dark tongue and cheek delivery of some of the kills seem more suited to a splatter style film. It is a bit of a diversive delivery of ideas, but overall they seem to compliment each other and work together surprisingly well.
The film however isn’t perfect. There are a few issues with the running times which can feel overstretched at times and it can feel disjointed where the film suddenly jumps between events. Thankfully these do not effect the overall execution of the film.
Terror Tales is a well thought out anthology which adopts the familiar tropes of an anthology films such as Creepshow. Balancing horror, gore and comedy the film emulate the fun compilations as you would expect. Writer-director Jimmy Lee Combs however makes sure he has something different to offer. With the originality of the stories offering a unique take on the sub genre, this is an anthology which manages to stand out on its own.
Terror Tales will be available on VOD from January 8th January