Thursday, July 21, 2011

New Release Review - George A. Romero Presents : Deadtime Stories Volume 1

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RELEASED ON DVD JULY 12TH!

From the moment I heard about this first volume of so called Deadtime Stories, I knew the DVD was going to get my money, no questions asked. Three short horror flicks, one directed by Tom Savini, introduced by George Romero channeling his inner Cryptkeeper ... what's not to love?! As soon as the DVD was released last Tuesday, it seemed as if there was a whole lot not to love, as I couldn't seem to find a single positive review about the film on any of the horror blogs I visit on a daily basis. It seemed everyone hated it and was embarassed for and pissed off at Romero for slapping his name on such drivel. Despite the fact that I bought the DVD on its release date, my interest quickly wained and I put off on watching it until tonight, over a week after its release. A short 76 minutes later and i'm here to stick up for an anthology that I feel is unfairly getting a little too much hate. Lets take a brief look at the three stories.

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VALLEY OF THE SHADOW

A young woman takes a search and rescue team deep into the African jungle to find her missing husband. Early in their journey, the team makes the grisly discovery that they are actually the ones being hunted.

The disc admittedly starts off in highly unimpressive fashion, with a tale both written and directed by Jeff Monahan, who wrote (but did not direct) the other two shorts included in the anthology. I'm not sure why he chose to direct this one or why he decided to kick things off with it, because it's the worst of the bunch. Poor effects and a completely uninspired and generic story make this Cannibal Holocaust-esque tale a wholly unmemorable dud. Not much more to say than that.

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WET

A lonely man strolling on a remote beach discovers a mysterious box buried beneath the sand. His curiosity quickly gives way to terror when he discovers what's lurking inside the box will do just about anything to get out.

Stepping in front of the camera to star rather than direct, Jeff Monahan proves he's both a better actor than he is a director and a pretty decent writer to boot. This mermaid horror tale, a fairly untapped market within the genre, is well written and comes off feeling like a story ripped from the pages of EC Comics. You can literally envision the short in your head drawn out in that iconic EC style as you're watching it. For my money, this is the best of the bunch. A fun little story with a fun little kicker that wouldn't feel too out of place in a superior anthology like Creepshow.

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HOUSE CALL

A mother calls a doctor to treat her mysteriously ailing son. Little does she know the ungodly horrors that this doctor's diagnosis will unleash.

Which brings us to the final tale of the anthology, a period piece directed by none other than Tom Savini. Savini has proven in the past that he's a more than competent director, which he again proves with this, his first directorial effort since 1990's Night of the Living Dead remake. Why the man doesn't direct more often is beyond me. From what I gather, this was actually a short made back in 2004 for a series called Chill Factor, seemingly the only episode of that series that ever got made. In any event, House Call is a very well directed short about a boy who thinks he is a vampire, which he may or may not actually be. Sound familiar? It essentially comes off as Savini's own little remake of Romero's Martin, which Savini acted in. The finale isn't so impressive, but I dug this little homage and it was quite fitting that it finally ended up being released in a compilation presented by Romero.

While I enjoyed two out of three of the stories, enough for me to call this one a worthwhile watch, the main problem I had with the anthology was surprisingly the only thing I expected to be good about it; the introductions by Romero. The intros were all so short and it almost felt like Monahan just caught Romero drunk on Skype one night and got him to read some corny rhymes. It should be noted that Monahan and Romero have worked together several times in the past, so it's likely this was a case of the man just doing something nice for his friend. I love the idea of Romero playing a Cryptkeeper of sorts but I couldn't help but feel like the ball was totally dropped on the whole idea, which I hope is something that's improved upon for the upcoming release of Volume 2 (September 20th). Besides that selling point being poorly pulled off, I love my anthologies and I had fun with this one. I don't know that you should rush out and buy it, but being that it's currently available to watch instantly on Netflix, i'd recommend you skip the first tale and check out the other two on there. It'll take up less than an hour of your time, so I don't expect you'll hate me too much if you end up feeling differently than I did about those two!

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