Directed by Tom Holland
Distributed by Image Entertainment
Tom Holland’s Twisted Tales is an anthology film complied from a series of shorts produced for FEARnet. Many beloved horror actors appear in the series, which spans a total of nine episodes. To sum Tom Holland’s Twisted Tales up in three words…feast or famine.
Set up like Creepshow or “Tales from the Crypt”, Tom Holland’s Twisted Tales is indeed that, a collection of dark stories, each presented by Holland, who also directed all nine segments of the anthology. And some of them are very entertaining, especially the first few pieces of the collection. Unfortunately, as the movie rolls on, the stories start to lose the creativity and strength of the earlier entries and the whole thing feels like it’s just running for way too long.
Holland does manage to parade some pretty impressive talent out for some of the segments, and that helps quite a bit. In the first few titles you’ll see AJ Bowen, Danielle Harris, William Forsythe, Sarah Butler and Noah Hathaway. And this is all before we get to the best segment in the film, Shockwave. But we’ll take a quick look at all of the twisted tales to let you know what you’re in for.
The anthology opens with a fun little number entitled Fred and His GPS. It’s a short, but entertaining piece starring AJ Bowen and a particularly bothersome GPS system. Through an unfortunate series of events, Fred has murdered his wife and has only this gadget to hear his confession. As with many of Tom Holland’s Twisted Tales, the wicked get their comeuppance and this one is no different. Short and sweet.
The second entry is entitled To Hell With You and features both Danielle Harris and William Forsythe in a sell your soul to get revenge scenario. Forsythe and Harris playing off each other provides for some of the most enjoyable moments of the entire anthology. A nice twist ending on this one also makes it one of the best parts of the collection.
We roll on to another well-crafted segment entitled Boom about two retired bomb disposal experts. When love, lust and revenge get mixed together, boom is certainly one possible outcome. It’s a cross and double-cross story starring the beautiful Sarah Butler and Noah Hathaway. A slickly constructed prop bomb is the centerpiece prop in this story of betrayal and vengeance.
At this point, things are going okay.
However, now things tail off for a while. Although the next story, entitled Mongo’s Magic Mirror features a nice performance by Ray Wise, the woeful digital F/X really do a number on the quality of the short and basically nullify Wise’s performance. Additionally, real life magician Joel Ward provides some cool sleight of hand magic, but his acting is anything but magical. His overacting also took its toll on Mondo’s Magic Mirror.
Bite is the next segment. It’s a story about a designer drug that is turning users into werewolves. This entire thing is just kind of ridiculous. The acting is meh at best, the F/X are seriously limited. And the notion that a designer drug turning users into werewolves could start an immediate apocalypse on the city is just silly. Not good.
Fortunately, Bite is followed by the best segment of the whole film. Shockwave is the story of a group of dinner party attendees who suddenly find themselves facing the end of the world. And when only two people can fit in a safe room to ride out the disaster and there are five people wanting to get in there, bad things happen. In a May reunion, Angela Bettis and James Duval star in this piece. Simply put, Bettis’ performance is nearly worth the price of admission on its own. She is amazing as usual and carries Shockwave, which is hands down in Tom Holland’s Twisted Tales.
Shockwave is followed by Cached. This is the story of a haunted tablet. Anyone who picks up this gadget is doomed to deal with a Beetlejuice-like character named Danny Doyle, The Tablet Man. Adam Rose is entertaining as Doyle and Jose Pablo Cantillo (who played Martinez in “The Walking Dead”) also plays a good part. Overall, this short is moderately amusing. Nothing special.
Next was the real anchor of the project, The Pizza Guy. Aside from a decent performance by Erin Aine Smith, there is nothing salvageable about this segment. The story revolves around a pizza guy who may or may not be a demon summoned through incantations read out of a grimoire. The pizza guy in question is played by Marc Senter. For some reason, Senter decided to play the role in a Jeff Spicoli-esque fashion…and it’s not good. And when you have something that is this irritating the best thing you can do is keep it short. And that doesn’t happen either. The Pizza Guy segment is long. At least it seems long. It’s one of those films that you find yourself watching and saying, “Please…just end.” And when the end finally, mercifully, comes, there is no payoff. Just some weak special F/X and a clunker of an finish.
The final segment is entitled Vampire’s Dance and is just that. It’s a simple short about the turning of a vampire in a dance club with our host, Tom Holland, strangely interjecting himself into the segment through some type of unexplained magic mirror. Nothing really outstanding about this one, except as a viewer you’re just happy to be out of The Pizza Guy segment.
The special features are decent, with a look behind the scenes of five of the shorts, including Shockwave which as stated above, is the saving grace of the entire anthology.
Unfortunately, as a whole, Tom Holland’s Twisted Tales is a disappointment. Although Bettis’ performance in Shockwave was great (as always) and there were some entertaining moments with the likes of Harris, Forsythe, Butler and Hathaway, the low points are very low and the bad special F/X cheapen the entire experience. Even Holland’s hosting segments were extremely dry and without much enthusiasm at all. We love you, but you’ve gotta sell it, Tom! With a run time well over two hours, Holland would have been much better off condensing this project and just using his strongest material. Cutting this down to 90 minutes would have been an excellent example of addition by subtraction.
1 1/2 out of 5
2 out of 5
The Hatred Review – A History Lesson Dug Up From The Depths Of Hell
Starring Zelda Adams, Lulu Adams, John Law
Directed by John Law
I don’t know about the scholastic interests the masses had (or have) that read all of the killer nuggets that get cranked out on this site, but when I was an academic turd, one of my true passions was history, and it was one of the only subjects that managed to hold my interest, and when the opportunity arose to check out John Law’s ultra-nightmarish feature, The Hatred – I was ready to crack the books once again.
The setting is the Blackfoot Territory in the late 1800s, and the pains of a lengthy conflict have taken their toll on the remaining soldiers as food has become scarce, and the film picks up with soldiers on the march in the brutal cold and snow covered mountainside. In tow is a P.O.W. (Law), and the decision is made by the soldiers to execute him in earnest instead of having to shorten their rations by feeding him, so he is then hung (pretty harshly done), and left to rot as the uniformed men trudge along. A short time later the group encounters a small family on the fringes of the territory, and when the demands for food are rebuked, the slaughter is on and the only survivor is a young girl (Adams) who prays to an oblivious god that she can one day reap the seeds of revenge upon those who’ve murdered her family. We all know that there are usually two sides to any story, and when the good ear isn’t listening, the evil one turns its direction towards those who need it most, and that’s when the Devil obliges.
The answer to the young girl’s prayers comes in the resurrection of the prisoner that was hung a short time ago, and he has been dubbed “Vengeance” – together their goal will be achieved by harshly dishing out some retribution, and the way it’s presented is drawn-out, almost like you’re strapped into the front-row pew of a hellfire-cathedral and force-fed the sermon of an evil voice from the South side of the tracks. It’s vicious and beautiful all at once, Law’s direction gives this visually-striking presentation all the bells and whistles to please even the harshest of critics (hell, you’re reading the words of one right now). The performances, while a bit stoic in nature, still convey that overall perception of a wrong that demands to be righted, no matter how morally mishandled it might be. Overall, I can absolutely recommend The Hatred for not only those wanting a period-piece with ferocious-artistry, but for others who continue to pray with no response, and are curious to see what the other side can offer.
The Hatred is a visually-appealing look into the eyes of animus, and all of the beauty of returning the harm to those who have awarded it to others.
Before We Vanish Review – A Quirky and Original Take on Alien Invasions
Starring Masami Nagasawa, Ryûhei Matsuda, Hiroki Hasegawa
Written by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
During the J-horror rampage of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Kairo (aka Pulse). A dark, depressing, and morose tale of ghosts that use the internet to spread across the world, the film’s almost suffocatingly gloomy atmosphere pervaded across every frame of the film. Because of my love of this film, I was eager to see the director’s upcoming movie Sanpo Suru Shinryakusha (aka Before We Vanish), which follows three aliens who recently arrived on Earth and are preparing to bring about an alien invasion that will wipe humanity from the face of the planet. Imagine my surprise when the film turned out to be barely a horror title but was instead a quirky and surreal dramedy that tugged at my heartstrings.
Admittedly, I was thrown completely for a loop as the film begins with a scene that feels perfectly at home in a horror film. Akira (Tsunematsu), a teenage girl, goes home and we enter moments later to blood splashed on the walls and floor and bodies strewn about. However, the disturbing visuals are spun around as the young girl walks down a highway, her clothes and face streaked with blood, Yusuke Hayashi’s music taking on a lighthearted, almost jaunty attitude. From there, we learn of the other two aliens (yes, she’s an alien and it’s not a secret or a twist, so no spoilers there): Amano (Takasugi), who is a young man that convinces a sleazy reporter, Sakurai (Hasegawa), of his true form and tasks Sakurai with being his guide, and Shinji (Matsuda), the estranged husband of Narumi (Nagasawa).
What sets these aliens, and their mission, apart from other invasion thrillers is their means of gathering information. They’re not interested in meeting leaders nor do they capture people for nefarious experimentations. Rather, they steal “concepts” from the minds of people, such as “family”, “possession”, or “pest”. Once these concepts are taken, the victim no longer has that value in their mind, freed from its constraints.
While this may seem like a form of brainwashing, Kurosawa instead plays with the idea that maybe knowing too much is what holds us back from true happiness. A man obsessed with staking claim to his family home learns to see the world outside of its walls when “possession” is no longer a part of his life. A touchy boss enters a state of child-like glee after “work” has been taken. That being said, there are other victims who are left as little more than husks.
Overly long at 130 minutes, the film does take its time showing the differences between the aliens and their individual behaviors. Amano and Akira are casually ruthless, willing to do whatever it takes to send a beacon to begin the alien invasion, no matter how many must die along the way, while Shinji is the curious and almost open-minded one, whose personal journey finds him at one point asking a priest to envision and describe “love”, a concept that is so individualistic and personal that it can’t be taken, much less fathomed, by this alien being. While many of these scenes are necessary, they could have easily been edited down to shave 10-15 minutes, making the film flow a bit more smoothly.
While the film begins on a dark note, there is a scene in the third act that is so pure and moving that tears immediately filled my eyes and I choked up a little. It’s a moment of both sacrifice and understanding, one that brings a recurring thread in the story full circle.
With every passing minute, Before We Vanish makes it clear that it’s much more horror-adjacent than horror. An alien invasion thriller with ultimate stakes, it will certainly have appeal to genre fans. That being said, those who go in expecting action, violence, and terror will certainly be disappointed. But those whose mind is a bit more open to a wider range of possibilities will find a delightful story that attempts to find out what it means to be human, even if we have to learn the lesson from an alien.
Before We Vanish is a beautiful, wonderful tale that explores what it means to be human when faced with the threat of extinction.
Delirium Review – Bros, Cameras And A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On
Starring Mike C. Manning, Griffin Freeman, Ryan Pinkston
Directed by Johnny Martin
When will these testosterone-overloaded frat bros with cameras ever learn that pissing off the evil souls of the departed all in the name of amusement won’t get you anywhere but wrecked? Same goes for filmmakers: when will they learn that found-footage exploits set in a house of pure sadism are something of a wrung-out affectation? Oh well, as long as people keep renting them, they’ll continue to get manufactured…which might or might not be to the benefit of the horror film-watching populous.
Delirium opens with a poor lad, strapped with a GoPro, running for his life through a labyrinth of haunted territory, praying for an escape…and it’s a foregone conclusion as to what happens to this trespassing individual. We then relocate our focus towards a collection of (ahem), “gentlemen” self-titled as The Hell Gang, and their escapades are about as profound as their grasp on the English language and its verbiage. The words “dude”, creepy”, and the term “what the fuck” are thrown about so much in this movie it’ll make your head spin to the point of regurgitation. Anyway, their interest in the home of the Brandt clan is more piqued now than ever, especially considering one of their own has gone missing, and they’ve apparently got the gonads to load up the cameras, and traverse the property after-hours, and against the warnings of the local law-enforcement, who surprisingly are just inadequate enough to ignore a dangerous situation. The cursed family and the residence has quite the illustrious and bleak history, and it’s ripe for these pseudo-snoopers to poke around in.
Usually I’m curb-stomping these first person POV movies until there’s nothing left but a mash of blood, snot and hair left on the cement, but Martin’s direction takes the “footage” a little bit outside of the box, with steadier shots (sometimes) and a bit more focus on the characters as they go about their business. Also, there are a few genuinely spooky scenes to speak of involving the possession of bodies, but there really isn’t much more to crow about, as the plot’s basically a retread of many films before it, and with this collection of borderline-douches manning the recording equipment, it’s a sad state of affairs we’re in that something such as this has crept its way towards us all again. I’m always down for jumping into a cold grave, especially when there could be a sweet prize to be dug up in all that dirt, but Delirium was one of those movies that never let you find your footing, even after you’ve clawed your way through all of the funereal sediment – take a hard pass on this one.
Got about a half-dozen bros with cameras and a wanton will to get slaughtered on camera, all the while repetitively uttering the same phrases all damn day long? Then my friends, you’ve got yourself a horror movie!
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