George A Romero Presents : Dead Time Stories Volume 1 (UK - DVD R2)
Our Marcus watches three of the least scary horror short stories ever to hit DVD
Split into three shorts, George A Romero puts his name to a series of scary stories that really aren’t all that scary.
‘Valley of the Shadow’
A widow goes on an expedition to where her late husband went missing. When one of her team finds a mysterious fruit filled with an odd blue goo and her camp is attacked we soon discover there are blow-darting natives in hiding in the woods and they are out for blood.
A lonely drunk, Jack, lives in a small town and finds a box on a beach. Taking it to a local dealer, the weird man reveals a skeletal hand inside the box and warns Jack to return the box to where he found it and leave it alone. He doesn’t and bad stuff involving mermaids kicks off.
A mother calls a doctor worried that her son is a vampire. When the doctor comes to visit, the son is tied down as a precaution and the doctor makes his diagnosis. Directed by Tom Savini this one is shot with a weird frame rate and tighter 4:3 ratio making the potential ominous story so annoying to watch it kills all the scares.
This low budget project doesn’t do a lot to hide its limitations. Ropey acting from unconvincing actors and some awfully cheap visuals from plastic looking props to dodgy edits just makes for a film that feels more akin to pornography filmmaking than it does horror. Everything about this feels low rent and feels more like those fake horrors movie characters watch in real horror movies as opposed to a genuine horror project. The stories themselves are poorly constructed, made for TV weak sauce that on a good day might get a bit of an ironic cult following for their badness as opposed to reaching the desired fanbase it seems to be after with the Romero connection.
I can’t say any of the stories scared or entertained me and for around twenty two minutes per story they felt much longer due to their boring pacing and total lack of anything going on. I’m not really sure what this project's intentions were but it fails on every level. It’s neither fun or cool, offbeat or quirky and really it’s got nothing special about it whatsoever and even the introductions by Romero himself feel like he's ridiculing the silliness of whole thing.
The low budget visuals aren’t all that good at creating a spooky atmosphere but that doesn’t stop the image from looking quite good. The digital feel has a natural skin tone presentation, with bright colours and a very nice bit of detail. Exterior scenes feel even more natural but can’t hide the low budget nature of set up here. Natives hiding in the woods in ‘Valley of the Shadow’ is entirely unconvincing and we are meant to suspend belief when they are blatantly visible by the person standing right next to them. Darker scenes hold up pretty well and colours tend to get a little warmer so as not to get too murky. The last chapter 'Housecall' is a lot more bitty with its odd frame rate and edges are incredibly jagged because of it too. The cheapness of the project is always apparent and there’s little visual flare here but technically the digitally shot film looks good and clean for the most part.
This stereo track is as basic as they come. Centre speaker based dialogue feels confined and small and the synth score does little to create a mood. Louder sounds, such as screaming are shrill and irritating, peaks in the score are overbearing and tinny and even though the show was made in 2009 the audio here makes Deadtime Stories feels more like mid-nineties late night TV than something made in the last ten years.
There are no extras here at all.
I don’t know who Deadtime Stories will appeal to. If you like horror short stories that neither scare or entertain and you like bad acting mixed with boring low budget visuals I guess this is the thing for you. In fact Deadtime Stories doesn’t even have the good sense to be so bad it becomes good. It just stays bad, lifeless and frankly a whole lot of dull. The video is okay, the audio small and uninspiring and with no features whatsoever this release doesn’t have a lot about it to recommend.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 3rd October 2011
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Stereo 2.0 English
Easter Egg: No
Cast: George A. Romero, Ian Harding, Bjorn Ahlstedt, Patrick Jordan, Adrienne Wehr
Length: 72 minutes
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