Tom Holland's Twisted Tales Movie Review
Written by Daniel Benson
DVD released by Bulldog Film Distribution
Written and directed by Tom Holland
2013, 144 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
DVD released on 15th June 2015
Amber Benson as Dhianna (segment "Shockwave")
Angela Bettis as Lidia (segment "Shockwave")
AJ Bowen as Fred (segment "Fred and His GPS")
Jose Pablo Cantillo as Ricardo (segment "Cached")
James Duval as Toughey (segment "Shockwave")
William Forsythe as Mr. Smith (segment "To Hell With You")
Eddie Hargitay as Carlos (segment "To Hell With You")
Danielle Harris as Susan (segment "To Hell With You")
Noah Hathaway as Dave (segment "Boom")
Marc Senter as The Pizza Guy (segment "Pizza Guy")
Ray Wise as Mongo the Magnificent (segment "Mongo's Magik Mirror")
I’ve long been of the opinion that it was almost impossible to make a bad anthology feature, until VHS: Viral came along and shat all over that theory. To be fair, if Viral hadn’t happened then the same fate would have befallen my anthology stance with Tom Hollands’s Twisted Tales.
Presented as a singular feature for its UK release, Twisted Tales is nothing of the sort. It’s a web series that originally ran on the now defunct FEARnet, collected onto one disc for those that prefer the comfort of their TV over a computer monitor. Each episode is written and directed by Holland and gets a Twilight Zone-style intro from the man himself. Unlike the conventional anthology, there’s no wraparound story or common theme between the episodes (because it’s not a conventional anthology).
The two-and-a-half-hour collection kicks off with Fred and his GPS, in which AJ Bowen is the titular Fred who’s just killed his cheating wife and is fleeing to the airport with the aid of the also-titular GPS. No ordinary driving aid, this is the sassiest sat-nav imaginable, giving Fred a hard time over his misdemeanour and eventually causing his downfall. It’s a middle-of-the -road affair (no pun intended) that lacks any real tension and fails to deliver a punch with its ending.
To Hell With You gets a little more interesting with vibes of Tales from the Darkside and some recognisable faces in Danielle Harris and William Forsythe. After a public breakup with her boyfriend over his infidelity, Susan (Harris) is approached by a shadowy character (Forsythe) who turns out to be a demon. He promises retribution in return for her soul, but when she has regrets over the deal, she cleverly hoodwinks the demon and wriggles out of the contract. A decent story with a nice twist that’s let down by some thoroughly awful green screen work when the pair visit Hell.
Boom sets a bomb disposal expert against his best friend, who he suspects is sleeping with his wife (is a common theme emerging yet?). The acting is the standout in this story, along with a solid narrative that sees the opposing parties gain and lose the upper hand more than once. It has another ending that’s spoiled by shonky CGI, though.
Rejoice for Mongo’s Magik Mirror, for not only does it abandon the infidelity/revenge scenario of the first three stories, it also features the always-entertaining Ray Wise. On the downside it puts him alongside a bloody awful actor in the shape of Joel Ward. Wise is a street magician who owns a fabled magic mirror that’s said to open a door to another world where people will see their true selves. Ward is an up and coming wannabe magician, Dunstin Dynamaite, who wants to buy the mirror to ensure fame and fortune. You can see where this is going: magic mirror, true selves, nice guy Ray Wise and a dickhead who wants to buy the mirror. Yup, no surprises here.
Drugs are bad, mmmkay? That’s the message in Bite, where a bunch of kids experiment with a new type of drug that’s rumoured to let the users see the future. It does, and in this particular case it also turns the users into werewolves after they smoke it. So as the group all take turns on a bong full of Bite, they get all hairy and start ripping each other’s throats out while the TV news reports similar occurrences all over town. But fear not, that was just a hallucination. Or was it a glimpse of the future? Uh-oh, the guy who took the first hit is looking a bit hairy...
Bite actually has some promise; the werewolf make-up isn’t bad although the transformation is simply a cross-fade between a guy needing a shave and full werewolf make-up, but I guess you can’t get Rick Baker to work on a web-series. What really kills it, though, is the attack scenes. When someone gets bitten by a wolf, the picture freeze-frames and a tacky blood animation is overlaid along with a shoddy crunching sound.
Angela Bettis brings some star quality to Shockwave, one of the stronger entries in this ensemble of ineptitude. It’s a morality tale that sees a group of dinner party guests threatened by “nuclear EMP waves” (no, I’ve no idea either) which will end civilisation. Fortunately the house they’re in has a safe room to protect against such hazards (what are the chances?), but it will only hold two people. And there are six in the house, so let’s say the after dinner conversation is a little strained. Bodies fall and the mysterious cloud of green nuclear EMP waves (sorry, still no idea) engulfs the house. Who will survive, and what will be left of them?
Just at the point I was thinking Twisted Tales would never deliver, it serves up Cached, which is head and shoulders above anything else on offer. A young street thug steals an iPad from a crazily paranoid guy who kills himself in the street. It becomes clear why, as the device is haunted by the ghost of an evil programmer intent on driving insane anyone who holds the tablet. While it sounds daft on paper, it works really well and features some really good practical effects (maybe they learned their lesson after Bite). Surely this is the point at which the series takes an upturn?
Oh Christ, make it stop. The Pizza Guy is not only a weak entry in the series, for some reason Holland chose to drag it out over a double-length episode. Thirty-odd minutes of crushingly dull action when a young girl summons the Devil from within the safety of a magic pentagram she’s drawn on the carpet. And guess what? Yeah, the Devil is the pizza guy, complete with an amateur dramatics-level Bill & Ted accent that slips from time to time. A complete and utter wasted effort that could easily have been condensed into a regular length episode and even then it would have been as entertaining as toothache.
Vampire’s Dance: “Tom Holland returns to the vampire genre for the first time since Fright Night!”, says the marketing blurb. Shut up, this isn’t even a proper story. Woman goes to nightclub, nightclub is full of vampires. They feed on everyone, they turn her into a vampire. The End. Blessed relief.
Tom Holland made some decent movies once. There’s no doubting the significance that Fright Night and Child’s Play have in horror movie history, but Twisted Tales is a low rent cash-in on past glories and can’t be recommended to anyone who cares about decent storytelling and basic filmmaking. Avoid at all costs.