By: Heather Seebach
Horror fans know the name Tom Holland as the man who brought us such classics as Fright Night and Child's Play. His latest movie is a collaboration with FEARnet called Twisted Tales, which is a horror anthology consisting of nine shorts. As a cohesive film, it's a mess but that is likely because these shorts were originally part of a web-series on FEARnet. So for this review, I will break down and quickly review each segment, as it is (naturally) a mixed bag:
1. Fred and His GPS
AJ Bowen (You're Next) stars as a heartbroken man who just murdered someone and is confessing everything to his talking GPS. Set entirely inside a car, the quality is grainy but the concept is good. It's a bit anti-climactic, especially compared to the other very twist-y shorts in this movie but it's a simple tale of love and murder, and a good start to this anthology.
2. To Hell With You
One of the stronger shorts, this one stars Danielle Harris (Hatchet II) as a recently-dumped woman and William Forsythe (The Devil's Rejects) as a blonde-haired Jersey devil. There is some questionable green screen work, and Forsythe's accent is a bit too cartoony, but overall it's entertaining and has the requisite kitschy ending of classic horror tales.
Noah Hathaway (Sushi Girl) stars in this short all about love, lies, and betrayal. A bomb disposal expert sets a trap for his wife and friend, whom he believes are having an affair. It starts off solid but runs off the tracks a bit with ridiculous dialogue (who says, "She speaks truth!" or "In spades" anymore?!) and a few twists too many by the time it's over. Despite all that, it's still one of the better entries because it looks sharp and feels a bit Saw-like.
4. Mongo's Magick Mirror
Ray Wise (Twin Peaks) is Mongo the Magnificent, a back-alley magician with a famous trick - his magic mirror. Things turn south when up-and-coming magician Dunston Dynamite demands to see the mirror and know how it works. Wise is great as always but this short is loaded with green screen cheese and more characters who talk like Dick Tracy villains. This is where you can feel the movie as a whole starting to slip downhill.
College kids smoke a new strain of salvia called "Bite" and they soon realize it turns everyone into bloody-thirsty werewolves. The drug also shows you the future, by the way. In addition to convoluted writing like that, expect BAD acting, lame attempts at horror references, and incredibly obnoxious freeze-screens that occur whenever someone is attacked. The werewolves look fine, but their corny time-lapsed transformations are laughable. Frankly, there is not much to like here.
Angela Bettis (May) and James Duval (Donnie Darko) star in this short about a cocktail party gone bad when the rich folk realize the world is about to end. I like the concept of this short and it plays on a personal apocalyptic fear of mine but it's riddled with silliness, scientific inaccuracies, and stretches of logic, like why some socialite has a Faraday cage conveniently installed in his home. This one could have been great if it were just better thought out.
This is among my favorite shorts in the anthology. Remember films like Shocker, Virtuosity, and Ghost in the Machine where a serial killer is transmitted into an electronic device? It's like those but for the internet age. A thug takes a tablet from a dead man and in doing so is harassed by a murderous spirit haunting the device. The Tablet Man sounds a bit like Chucky or Betelgeuse, which is fun. The use of a cell phone as the ghost's POV is kinda clever, too. The Walking Dead fans will recognize Martinez aka Jose Pablo Cantillo in a starring role.
8. The Pizza Guy
This is probably the longest short of the piece and it definitely feels that way. Not helping that fact, the short is inexplicably and pointlessly broken up into chapters! Wanting to see her dead sister one last time, Emily summons Satan so he may grant her wish. When a pizza delivery guy shows up instead, her friends are unsure if Em is mad or if the Devil really wears a windbreaker and ball-hugger shorts. This one aims to be a comedy of misunderstandings but it's a big misfire. In addition to its unbearable length and the annoying way it will fade to black mid-scene just to give a chapter title, this segment has audio drops, misspoken lines, and the pizza guy's surfer dude voice gets awfully grating after a while.
9. Vampire's Dance
Even after the endurance test that was The Pizza Guy, this one somehow managed to be worse. It seems to jump right into the middle of a story without explanation. It has something to do with a girl trying to find her roommate in a vampire dance club. I could not tell if it was sing around in time or just terrible edited. I had no idea what was going on for most of it. Worst yet, Holland interjects himself into the segment frequently just to make sarcastic, unnecessary remarks like, "They're not reflecting in the mirror...I wonder why!" It's so, so bad and possibly the worst of the entire film. At least there is a cameo from a Fright Night t-shirt.
Unfortunately, Twisted Tales starts off decent but just falls apart the further it goes. One of its biggest problems is length, as it's nearly two and a half hours long! Each short should have been capped off at ten minutes, or a couple of them definitely could have been cut out. The abundance of bad digital FX sure does not help, nor do the awkward wrap-arounds. I like the way Tom Holland gives deadpan Rod Serling-esque introductions to each short, but there is also a weird, redundant clip of each movie beforehand - why?!
Tales boasts a few enjoyable segments but you would do better to watch them here on FEARnet's site. If you are a fan of these shorts or the actors, the DVD release from Image Entertainment includes behind-the-scenes featurettes for Boom, Mongo, Shockwave, Cached, and The Pizza Guy.