“Now I lay me down to rest, but there’s a goblin upon my chest. He’s gray and ugly and very gory, and he wants to tell me a deadtime story.”
While shopping in Albuquerque this weekend, I found this DVD at Best Buy. It caught my attention for two reasons: the cool cover art (lenticular card that goes from dead body to skeleton) and George Romero’s moniker. But it turns out Mr. Romero has nothing to do with this anthology series, other than serve as its narrator. The real mastermind is Jeff Monahan, who produced and wrote all three episodes, in addition to directing and starring in one of them.
Deadtime Stories, Vol. 1, is an anthology series inspired by the likes of Creepshow, Tales from the Crypt, and Tales from the Darkside. Serving as the crypt keeper is Romero, who introduces each story with a combination of hammy wit and snippets of info. Deadtime Stories, Vol. 1, consists of three short tales—each little more than 25 minutes—that add up to about 76 minutes.
The first tale, titled “Valley of the Shadow,” is the worst of the lost. The story centers on a woman following the trail of her husband, who disappeared in a South American jungle. It turns out that they were both looking for a special plant capable of bestowing immortality on anyone who drinks its juice. The problem is that there is a tribe of cannibals guarding these precious plants. Sound like a good plot? Yes, it does, but the segment’s execution is lackluster, with the acting, editing, and direction all underwhelming. The twist ending is reminiscent of a scene in Romero’s Survival of the Dead, but otherwise this segment is almost unwatchable.
The second tale, “WeT,” fares a little better, with the acting solid enough. The story concerns a lonely artist who finds a jade box buried in the beach. Inside the box he finds a petrified body part. The artist shows the box to an antique dealer, who relates a story about mermaids—not all of them are nice. Not heeding the dealer’s advice, the artist reanimates the mermaid, with horrible results. Not a bad story, but not a good one, either. The gore effects are effectively realized, but the story is much too talky and there’s little chemistry between the male lead and his lover/adversary.
The final tale, “House Call,” is directed by none other than the great Tom Savini (director of the Night of the Living Dead remake, as well as the makeup man behind Dawn of the Dead), who has some directorial experience and crafts a stylish story from the mediocre script he has been given (the opening with the candle is executed well and sets a nice, gothic atmosphere, for example). The story is about a woman who calls on an elderly doctor to help her save her ailing son, whom she believes has been turned into a vampire. The twist is okay, but overall the story is much too cliché to be effective.
Overall, this DVD is not worth purchasing. The anthology continues, however, as Deadtime Stories, Vol. 2, has been recently released. Let’s hope volume 2 is better than this debut volume.