Scary Tales DVD Review
Written by Daniel Benson
DVD released by Disruptive Media
Directed by Michael Hoffman
Written by Bill Cassinelli & Michael Hoffman
2001, 76 minutes, Not rated
DVD released on August 16th, 2005
Bill Cassinelli as Dennis Frye
Ria Rampersad as The Secretary
Joel D. Wynkoop as Mr. Longfellow
Lindsay Horgan as Jamie
When hapless loser, Dennis Frye, sees a flyer for "Mr Longfellow's Job Placement Agency" he thinks it may be his ticket to a better life and heads along for an interview. When he arrives, Mr Longfellow explains hows his agency is different; how he gives candidates an idea of what may be in store for them on each assignment. And so the Scary Tales unfold...
In "I ain't got No body", a bookstore clerk's advances on his favourite female customer, Jamie, are constantly rebuffed. Until the day he finds a book explaining the secrets of astral projection, and decides to use the techniques to win the heart of the object of his affection.
"Hit & Run", sees a catering company delivery driver run over a young girl while she plays in the street. The girl may be dead, but her toys aren't.
Finally, in "The Death of....." a budding screenwriter hawks his script for Night of the Drinking Dead to various agents, meeting derision and laughter at every turn. One night, during a drinking binge, the ghost of Edgar Allen Poe visits him. Only after talking to the apparition does he find the inspiration he needs to write his masterpiece.
Anthology movies...they're like a horror snack pack; not too much of any particular flavour, and if there's something you're not too keen on, you'll soon have it finished and be onto the next morsel. Citing influences such as Creepshow and Tales from the Darkside, Scary Tales has a lot to live up to.
Filmed on a budget of roughly $40,000, the movie would never look as polished as its peers, but thanks to some very good writing it doesn't let itself down. Each segment gets progressively better in terms of the story, and the final tale rounds out the movie very well.
Because of the way Mr. Longfellow tells each story, his candidate, Dennis Frye, plays the lead role in each one and this hurts the movie. Casting Bill Cassinelli as the lead was a mistake. He's a great writer along with director Michael Hoffman, but an actor he isn't. Obviously budget plays a big role in the quality of the acting talent, and in the case of Scary Tales the lack of money for actors shows. There's a good attempt to keep the overall tone tongue-in-cheek, but it doesn't mask the wooden performances.
Where this film does stand up to scrutiny is the writing. The stories are very well written and compare well to any of the more prominent anthology movies. If the budget could have provided a better pool of actors, Scary Tales could stand shoulder to shoulder with great indie productions like Dead & Breakfast and TrashHouse.
Disruptive Media will release a double disc feature presentation of both Scary Tales and Scary Tales 2: The Return of Mr. Longfellow on the 16th August 2005, with a retail price of $10.99. In the meantime, there are feature packed single editions available on DVD-R through the website www.scarytalesonline.com.
Video, Audio and Special Features:
Picture, Sound and Extra Features are not rated as this was a screener disc only. Having said that, the disc I was sent looks pretty much indicative of the final product, save for the occasional "For Screening purposes only" message. The picture is as sharp and clear as one would expect from Digital Video and the sound is adequate for the quality of the production.
There is a trailer for Scary Tales 2 and a featurette showing behind the scenes footage and deleted scenes. This is a genuinely entertaining extra, with director Michael Hoffman and writer/actor Bill Cassinelli presenting it from the comfort of their sofa. The two are obviously good friends and there is a natural rapport and good humour as the pair present each clip. Imagine it as a behind the scenes featurette, deleted scenes collection and director's commentary all rolled into one 20 minute program.