When you sit down to watch a horror film, as most horror fans will tell you, it helps to keep your expectations incredibly low. As sad as that may sound, it's the truth. And the reason for keeping expectations low is because there are so many horror films out there that suck. Some suck worst than others, and some don't completely suck, but when push comes to shove, an overwhelming number of horror movies suck. Part of the problem is that a lot of these film confuse things like gore, people screaming, and pale women spastically walking while a thunder storm rages on outside to be sufficiently terrifying. And that's just not the case; because if it were, Nite Tales would be a much better movie than it is.
Taking its cue from shows and films like The Twilight Zone, Tales from the Darkside and Tales from the Crypt, Nite Tales presents a pair of short tales of terror, only with an urban flava. "Well, wouldn't that make it Tales from the Hood?" you ask. And the answer to that, my friends would have to be, "Sure, it's a bit like Tales from the Hood, if Tales from the Hood was really, really poorly written."
Nite tales starts with an introduction from host and modern day minstrel man Flavor Flav, who is cast as a hip-hop version of the Cryptkeeper. This in and of itself serves as a foreboding harbinger of the crapitude that is to follow, because Flavor Flav is bury-your-face-in-your-hands-while-shaking-your-head-in-shame bad, and his brief intro leaves you second guessing whether or not you want to watch any further. But hey, it's a horror movie, so our expectations are already low.
The first segment of Nite Tales is "Karma," which stars out with four bank-robbing gangstas led by Kirk "Sticky Fingaz" Jones. Spewing the words "motherfucker" and "nigga" more often than an Ice Cube album, our felonious heroes bust into a small town bank where they let loose with a barrage of bullets, killing several bystanders before they take off with the loot. On their way back to the big city, their car breaks down. Leaving their wounded homie for dead, the other three gangstas seek refuge in a creepy old house inhabited by equally creepy white folks. It should come as no surprise that the creepy old white people are more than they appear to be, and soon our heroes are wishing that their car had not coincidentally broken down within eyesight of a house full of screaming doom.
The second segment, "Storm," finds a group of college friends partying on a dark and stormy night. That is Cliché #1. The friends all start talking about the legend of Bloody Mary, and how saying her name six times into a mirror will conjure the deadly spirit. That is Cliché #2. After the friends do the whole Bloody Mary thing, the storm continues to rage outside, when suddenly a creepy clown (Tony Todd) comes knocking at the door. That would be Cliché #3. Just as the friends are getting terrified by the clown, a cop shows up, but he seems a little off balance, and then suddenly one of the friends is discovered brutally murdered, and it appears there is a killer in their midst. This is Cliché #4. More stuff happens, but that would be revealing too many major plot points, so I'll just say that you get treated to Cliché #5 through 12 before the second segment of Nite Tales is over.
It is difficult to talk about Nite Tales critically without relying too heavily on negative descriptors, and that would be because as an entire package, the film pretty much sucks. Concentrating on the positive, "Karma" has a violent climax that will make people squirm, and should satisfy those who confuse graphic violence with real horror. As for "Storm," it has some creepy moments, most of them courtesy of Tony Todd in his clown make-up. Of course, "Storm" is poorly written and about as stupid as a lobotomized bag of shit, which pretty much counter balances whatever creep factor there may be. Seriously, "Storm" is one stupid cliché after another, until you are bombarded by a deluge of dumb crap that seems to get worse with each passing moment. It's as if someone got the bright idea to see if they could throw a bunch of random horror conventions together and see if they could propel a story, even if the conventions are unrelated.
Directed and co-written by Deon Taylor, Nite Tales is not the worst urban horror out there--not as long as the films of Zachary Winston Snygg are still polluting video shelves. But at the same time, Nite Tales isn't something that could be considered "good" even if you were using the most liberal of interpretations. To his credit, Taylor displays a certain amount of competence as a director. I would go so far as to say that from a pure production standpoint, Nite Tales is marginally passable. But when it comes to writing, I'm sorry to say that Taylor ain't cutting the mustard. At its best, the script for Nite Tales is an uninspired jumble of clichés laced with contrived urban vernacular and a ton of profanity. And at its worst, the script is a steaming pile of dung. Either way, you're saddled with a script that is not good, which means that no matter how much violence or creepiness the film has to offer, it doesn't make up for the poorly written script.
Nite Tales is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen. The picture quality is good during the first segment, but gets a bit dark at times during the second. This appears to be a result of the lighting and not the transfer. But overall, the picture quality itself is good, with a crisp clean image and no visible signs of defects or flaws in the print source.
Nite Tales is presented in English in 2.0 stereo. The overall sound levels are a bit low, and the audio mix doesn't have enough separation between dialog and music, resulting in an overlap at times that can be distracting. Or course, at times it's preferable to not hear all of the dialog.
Producer, director and co-writer Deon Taylor hosts a making of featurette in which he regularly references The Twilight Zone and Tales from the Darkside, talking about what big influences those shows were. Well, that much is obvious without anyone explaining it. But somehow, referring to those shows while talking about Nite Tales makes Nite Tales seem that much worse. Perhaps if Taylor had said he was inspired by Creepshow III or Deadtime Stories then he might have not come across like he was overselling his film.
Let's be very clear: I did not hate Nite Tales. At the same time, I didn't much care for it either. This is the sort of film I would loan to close friends with an appreciation for not-that-good horror films. I can't go so far as to recommend that anyone ever rent the film, let alone buy it; but I would say that if you don't mind sub par horror movies, and this were on cable, and you didn't have to pay to watch it, and you were too lazy to get up from the couch and grab your favorite horror DVD and watch that instead, then it might be okay to watch Nite Tales.
David Walker is the creator of BadAzz MoFo, a nationally published film critic, and the Writer/Director of Black Santa's Revenge with Ken Foree now on DVD [Buy it now]