I'll take mine with a twist of Judge Erich Asperschlager.
"If I could just get paid for the pizza, I'm gone."
My love of horror anthologies started during my teens with a steady diet of twist ending short stories and late-night reruns of The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Later, it was tales of the "Crypt" and "Darkside" varieties. Some episodes were great, some were terrible, but most fell into a nebulous middle ground. I love the promise of bite-sized stories with shocking endings, but anthologies rarely deliver the goods with any consistency. Even so, I still get excited when I hear about new anthology projects. You'd think I'd have learned my lesson by now.
I was intrigued by the potential of Tom Holland's Twisted Tales Ñ- nine short-form scary stories starring some of horror's biggest names, written and directed by the guy who gave us Fright Night and Chucky. Sounds great to me. Like I said, you'd think I'd have learned my lesson by now.
Tom Holland's Twisted Tales are…
• "Fred & His GPS"—After murdering his wife, a man is haunted by her through his GPS.
• "To Hell With You"—A spurned woman meets a mysterious stranger who offers to help take revenge on her ex.
• "Boom"—Two ex-Army bomb experts match wits when one accuses the other of sleeping with his wife.
• "Mongo's Magick Mirror"—A greedy illusionist tries to steal the world's greatest trick from a back-alley magician.
• "Bite"—A designer drug gives users a peek into their future…and more.
• "Shockwave"—Four friends discover their true natures when confronted by the end of the world.
• "Cache"—A petty thief who takes a murdered man's tablet computer gets more than he bargained for.
• "The Pizza Guy"—A grieving girl hoping to contact her dead sister uses an ancient book to summon the devil. But the devil takes many forms.
• "Vampire's Dance"—A woman looks for her roommate in a nightclub that caters to a specific clientele.
Twisted Tales was developed as a web series for FEARNET, and the limitations of budgets and scheduling hang heavy over the episodes. Everything feels a little too cheap and a little too rushed. There are some great ideas in these tales, but enjoying them requires the viewer to fill in details and character motivations. "Shockwave," for example, takes a concept tackled previously (and more successfully) in The Twilight Zone episode "The Shelter"—a group of friends turn on each other when faced with the end of the world. Where Serling built tension slowly, Holland's foursome goes from besties to beasts in the blink of an eye. It's a good idea, but the execution is jarring and ugly without any emotional depth. Compare it to ÒThe Pizza Guy," which isn't just the best of the bunch, it's also the longest. The short has its share of issues (especially the title character's distracting surfer boy line delivery), but it helps that the story has a full half hour to simmer.
I wish I could tell you that Twisted Tales is great. It's not. I respect the people who made it—not just Holland, but horror actors like A.J. Bowen (You're Next), Danielle Harris (Halloween 4), Ray Wise (Twin Peaks), William Forsythe (The Devil's Rejects), Amber Benson (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), and Angela Bettis (The Woman)—but the whole thing feels underbaked. Lucky for Holland, horror junkies are the most forgiving fans in the world Ñ- championing even mediocre films on the strength of a certain performance, special effect, or idea. That fervent optimism is one reason participating in the horror community is so much fun. I can't guarantee diehard horror fans will love this anthology but if anyone can look past Twisted TalesÕ limitations, it's them.
Tom Holland's Twisted Tales makes the leap to DVD with a decent 1.78:1 video transfer. The best-looking episodes are the most straightforward; the more the stories rely on low-budget effects shots, the less convincing they are. That's not a knock against the series—I respect Holland for stretching his budget—but don't expect big studio production values. The 5.1 surround mix is clear, minus the odd bit of distracting looped dialogue.
Although all of these episodes can be found for free online, Holland and RLJ Entertainment make the DVD version a good value with nearly an hour of making-of featurettes. The behind-the-scenes material is limited to the five episodes "Boom" (12:06), "Mongo's Magick Mirror" (9:13), "Shockwave" (12:58), "Cached" (6:56), and ÒThe Pizza Guy" (15:37)—but each showcases the dedication of the actors and crew, with Tom Holland as charismatic ringleader. Holland gives great interviews. His descriptions of the episodes makes me want to like them more.
Despite the enthusiasm of the people involved, Tom Holland's Twisted Tales is a missed opportunity. All but the most dedicated horror fans should give this disc a pass, or watch an episode or two online first. Those with the ability to look past the shallow scripts and sometimes stilted performances, though, may find something to like. Me, I'm still looking forward to the next horror anthology.
Not quite twisted enough.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: RLJ Entertainment
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