Judge Clark Douglas doesn't tell deadtime stories, but he does sing killabyes.
Our review of Deadtime Stories: Volume Two, published September 23rd, 2011, is also available.
"I'd like to tell you a deadtime story."
Though the films of George A. Romero have been increasingly frustrating in recent years (let's face it, Survival of the Dead was pretty awful), I'm always willing to check out anything his name is attached to in the hopes that he's recaptured a bit of his former glory. The concept of the straight-to-DVD anthology series Deadtime Stories sounded promising enough, despite the terrible title: Romero introduces a batch of three 25-minute horror tales, each one directed by a different filmmaker.
I'm a fan of the anthology format in general, and with the demise of Masters of Horror it's just about time for another one to pop up. Granted, I never expected this new series to match Tales from the Crypt or Alfred Hitchcock Presents, but I would have been perfectly content if Deadtime Stories: Volume One was essentially the Romero equivalent of Freddy's Nightmares. Unfortunately, the series ranks as one of the most underwhelming horror anthologies I've witnessed to date.
The problems begin with Romero's introductions, which should have been an easy way to score a few points upfront with horror fans. Romero seems alternately hammy and bored from sentence to sentence, flitting between faux-pompous storyteller, devious demon and disgruntled conveyer of general information for no immediately obvious reason. The introductions are curiously disjointed and they certainly aren't helped by the weird staging (Romero's head bounces around between a series of static-filled televisions stacked on top of one another).
Still, Romero's contribution takes up maybe five minutes of the 76-minute running time, so what really matters is the quality of the short films. Sadly, to call these pieces "sub-par" would be generous. Even by low-budget horror standards, these short films are frustrating experiences marked by genuinely terrible acting and stilted screenplays. Here's what you get:
Valley of the Shadow
The transfer is decent enough, as the level of detail is impressive throughout (particularly during the jungle trek of Valley of the Shadow) and blacks are respectably deep (a major asset during the visually murky House Call). However, the audio is pretty abysmal—some dialogue sounds distorted, sound design is wildly inconsistent and other moments of dialogue seem to drop out abruptly. Only the music sounds sturdy, but it's typically generic horror-movie stings and banal sound design. There are no extras included on the disc.
I like the basic idea presented in Deadtime Stories: Volume One, but the execution is disappointing in a wide variety of ways. Here's hoping things improve with Volume Two.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Millennium Entertainment
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