It seems that the horror anthology cycle is upon us or has been upon or continues to be sitting on our chest. This past year George Romero put his name on Deadtime Stories Volume one and two, which has to be one of the worst anthology collections I’ve seen in quite some time. It lacked humor, quality, good storytelling and even a feeling of cohesion that allowed for the portmanteau experience to feel natural. For those of you who are familiar with the Amicus anthologies of old, you understand what I mean by cohesion… an experience that feel like one solid effort collecting several horror tales as opposed to the feeling of a wannabe TV series without commonality, focused solely on putting shorts into a ball and marketing them. Unfortunately Tom Holland’s Twisted Tears falls into this same pitfall though it does have one thing that Romero’s folly did not, a “so-bad-it’s-good” quality that might make it worth the watch.
Note: I love Holland’s older work, so this review, as damning as it is, is hard to write.
Also Note: I adore George Romero, and Deadtime Stories has been a serious blip in the question zone in my brain.
Synopsis from Image/Fearnet:
I’m going to go about this as a list of problems. It’s the only way I can see to properly convey what is wrong with this without you thinking that I’m picking on anthologies. I love anthologies. I’m an anthology junkie. I’m even a forgiving anthology junkie who enjoys even some of the bad Amicus productions.
Problem: Great actors. Shitty performances.
You can’t just put Danielle Harris, William Forsythe, Ray Wise, Sarah Butler and AJ Bowen in a movie and expect it to rock. They have to give it there all. They have to care, and maybe it’s not they’re fault. This could be the example of bad directing or bad writing. Even the best actor can’t fix bad scripts if the director won’t let them. AJ Bowen’s performance is probably the best of the bunch though still not up to what we’ve enjoyed from in the past. This is a failure to use some of the best tools in the horror industry. It’s a waste.
Problem: Short stories need to not include mini-movies or novellas.
Typically, the most successful anthologies maintain a certain continuity of length and style throughout. Each story is about 15 to 20 minutes long. Transitions are fluid if not comicbooky, if not a fade out. What you have in Twisted Tales is a variety of story lengths from the very short to the exceptionally cumbersome. Including a chapter movie near the end of this dirge of distaste is pure torture. You just want the damn story and the movie to end, but instead they keep feeding you the obvious and forcing you to accept it as a segmented volume of shit. This is over two hours long. Editing. Do it. Cut the shit, and maybe you can salvage the slop pile.
Problem: Tom Holland’s introductions are TV show, not movie quality.
Holland’s intro for each movie feels like John Carpenter introducing each story in Body Bags. Body Bags was actually supposed to be show, so I give it a pass, not to mention the intro’s are funny rather than serious and include some nice makeup and backdrop. Holland is a great speaker, but he is not a host. He is a good storyteller (just no in this feature). He’s an excellent writer, so what happened here? His narration doesn’t help to congeal the tales into one bonded film, and further he actually disjoints it with what feel like mini-title card/TV style introductions. Maybe this was going to be a short series on Fearnet banded together. That would explain the mess, and almost give this problem a pass. Invent a wrap story when all else fails or at least be clever.
Problem: Too much on the plate… filled with MSG.
This is over two hours long. It has too many stories. Think about the greatest anthology horror movies you’ve seen. Typically a five story max with a solid wrap story will do the trick. More than that requires separate viewings. We don’t need to see EVERYTHING you shot. Just the good stuff. Cut it back. Trim the fat. These decisions will make it a movie and not a pile of stories.
Remember when I said I did enjoy the unintentional humor? I did. I really laughed at some of the dialogue and I’m positive you will too. It was on par with Troll 2 or The Room in terms of laughability. Unfortunately you still have to sit through it. My guess is that you’ll watch it until you get bored because you most likely will. If you have the right substances in you, the right group of friends, the complete lack of something else to do and eat only the bright colored paint chips, this might be for you.
You can order Tom Holland’s Twisted Tales NOW! Releases March 18th.
(Remember… Tom Holland has done plenty of amazing stuff… find it, and do not judge the man by this most recent work.)