CEMETERY TALES: A TALE OF TWO SISTERS Short Film Review – A Love Letter To Romero
Starring Traci Lords, Michael Broderick, Bruce Davison
Written By Chris Roe & Matt O’Neill
Directed by Chris Roe
The first of the Cemetery Tales shorts, Chris Roe’s A Tale Of Two Sisters (not to be confused with the popular Korean horror film of the same name) stars Traci Lords, whom John Waters fans are already fans of due to her turns in Serial Mom and Cry Baby. With a performance career spanning decades, Lords is a perfect fit for the role of Victoria Chastain, a glamorous but unemployed actress who feels aged out of her industry. Victoria wallows in melancholy splendor at her estate, a mansion she once shared with her highly-celebrated late sister, Vivian (also played by Lords). Vivian died under mysterious circumstances years prior, and Victoria hasn’t been doing too well ever since. She’s rude to her staff, sneaks booze in her garden, and carries an air of bitterness everywhere she goes.
Filmed in black and white, a good portion of Roe’s story takes place in a cemetery. In a scene that lovingly embraces George Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead, Victoria sits aside her sister’s grave and confesses all of the ways her life has been ruined by the dearly departed. This is halfway through the twenty minute short and frankly, it’s where the short should have begun. The scene establishes far more emotional anchoring and characterization than the previous ten minutes of radio exposition and lingering shots of childhood photos. With that said, the second half of the film moves the plot along wonderfully and takes enough visual and tonal risks to keep it from being a (spoiler alert) derivative of the “Father’s Day” segment in Creepshow.
Lords presents a solid amount of gravitas to her role without going over the top, which keeps the short from veering into absurdity. The Sunset Boulevard aesthetic is well-served by Kris Deskins’ simple, refined costume design; Edith Head would be proud. With Traci Lords’ full-tilt performance as a tether, A Tale Of Two Sisters makes a slightly long-winded but enjoyable part of a potential anthology or series.
A Tale Of Two Sisters offers a fun, spooky yarn if you can stick it out past the bloated first half. Traci Lords is in her element and shines bright against the monochrome.