Review: TERROR TALES Brings Great Effects Gags and Engaging Stories
Anthology horror is one of my favorite subcategories of horror flick. I don’t think there’s any other genre that’s more conductive to anthologies than horror is. Between Creepshow, VHS, and Trilogy of Terror, horror anthologies make for an engaging viewer experience. Jimmy Lee Combs’ film Terror Tales is another one of those horror anthologies. The film follows a charismatic killer who kidnaps a family and tells three chilling stories to the father while they travel long-distance to meet their fate. Even though it drags sometimes and occasionally feels stunted, Terror Tales doesn’t take itself too seriously and has great practical effects. On the whole, this is a fun anthology flick with some fantastic cameos.
Both the cast and the makeup effects are excellent, and that’s a big strength in this indie film. There are some amazing cameos that I didn’t expect in this flick, including Felissa Rose and Jonathan Tiersten best known for Sleepaway Camp, Lynn Lowry from The Crazies, and Ari Lehman from Friday the 13th. They bring a lot of star power to this film, which strengthens the cast significantly.
That’s not to say that the rest of the cast isn’t great, though; Christopher Showerman plays the killer in the wraparound story and does a fantastic job. The makeup and gore effects are a welcome addition to this film as well; there were a few gore gags I definitely didn’t see coming in the second story, “Radical Video.” They’re repulsive and extremely well done. Honestly, that one is my favorite story in this anthology. The setting is a tribute to the video store days of horror and it’s by far the most bloody of the series. In addition, the Ink Demon in the first story, “By Proxy,” is a creepy entree to an interesting story about a disturbed mother. I also appreciate that this film doesn’t pad any of the stories with cheap scares. It relies solely on the content and the subject matter is genuinely creepy at times.
There were a few things that distracted me from the overall experience, however, mainly the writing. Some of the dialogue feels a little stilted and too explanatory at times. There are some points where it feels like the writers are trying to stay relevant for younger viewers (for example, the opening scene where the parents and their daughter are arguing over the superiority of Led Zeppelin or Justin Bieber––do teenagers still fawn over Justin Bieber like they did in 2010?––or in scenes where the writing tells viewers what’s happening as opposed to the film showing viewers instead. It feels like the writers really wanted to cover all their bases and make sure we understood what was happening, which is understandable, but the over-explaining of things we easily catch on to pulls me out of the film.
A side effect of this is some of the dragging scenes we get in the stories. This movie felt long. It runs about two hours, and I think there were things that we didn’t need to see to really get the full picture the director painted. On the other hand, though, there were some things that weren’t explained well enough. The first story, “By Proxy,” I think is the film’s weakest; while Lynn Lowry does an excellent job we get little explanation of characters’ motivations and I was left scratching my head. I will say, however, that these weren’t fatally distracting to me. Anthology films, thankfully, are already really engaging as they jump from story to story so I didn’t feel too bored to dislike the film.
Overall, I think this movie is a fun watch, especially the second story, “Radical Video.” It’s got some great cameos and some well-executed effects that left me either impressed or grossed out. I think this one is worth the watch for those alone.