** Contains Spoilers **
In the same way that Stephen King’s anthology books Night Shift and Skeleton Crew instilled in me a lifelong love of short horror stories, his and George A. Romero’s CREEPSHOW (still, in my opinion, the greatest anthology horror film ever made) instilled a love of portmanteau movies. Following the critical and commercial success of CREEPSHOW, Romero returned to the anthology format several times in the following years, helming the CREEPSHOW sequel and MONKEY SHINES, and adapting one of the stories in the TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE movie. And now, two decades later, he’s at it again with DEADTIME STORIES (or, to give it its [very] full title, GEORGE A. ROMERO PRESENTS DEADTIME STORIES).
Before you get excited, don’t. Romero’s involvement is minimal (he executive produces and offers a very brief introduction to each of the stories), and the stories themselves are a far cry from the gory glory of CREEPSHOW. The first, ‘Valley Of The Shadow,’ concerns a woman’s search for her missing husband in the jungles of South America. Exposition is sparse, leaving the audience to scratch their heads and wonder what’s going on for most of it, and the whole thing is so unanimously unprofessional as to almost come across as parody. The effects are lousy, the acting even worse, and the suggestion that the rainforest’s indigenous population are nothing but murderous savages out for the white man’s blood is outdated at best, racist at worst. Imagine CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST written by a ten year old, acted by friends and family, and filmed in the park at the end of the street, and you have some idea what to expect.
The next offering is ‘Wet.’ Jacob is a beach comber who uncovers a potentially valuable box, which he takes for appraisal by a local antiques dealer. The dealer warns him that it contains a piece of a mermaid, and if all the pieces are reunited the creature will continue its murderous rampage. Needless to say Jacob returns to the beach the next day to search for more boxes. This is the most ponderous of the three stories, drawing out its paper-thin plot to the point of frustration. There are a few nice moments (the sight of the creature squirming maggot-like across the sand is gruesomely effective), but they’re too few and far between to save it from overwhelming tedium, and the melodramatic ending makes little sense.
The last story, ‘Housecall,’ is the best (which isn’t surprising, given that it’s directed by effects maestro Tom Savini). A period piece about a doctor attempting to treat a case of suspected vampirism, it’s the only segment with even vaguely cinematic pretensions. The script is a marked improvement, it manages to create an authentic sense of claustrophobia, and it’s our first real taste of adult material.
Sadly, however, one decent segment isn’t enough to salvage the whole. DEADTIME STORIES is a shambolic affair, poorly scripted and glacially paced, that hardly ever manages to rise above its cheap TV aesthetic.
** Trailer Not Available **