Nite Tales: The Series:
Flavor Flav, known for his finesse talk, doesn't actually lend a whole lot of finesse to his role as The Timekeeper, host of Nite Tales. Seeing as how Nite Tales is a horror anthology series, it needs a host with a catchy or descriptive moniker. Anyone familiar with Flav's accoutrement from his days as the flashy half of Public Enemy will agree that 'The Timekeeper' fits, and ties in pretty well with the series' typically skewed morality tales. Set in a mold respectfully carrying on the ways of previous Tales from The Crypt and The Darkside, Nite Tales proves once again how hard it is to pull off anthology horror successfully.
This single disc DVD collects the first five episodes from 2009's six-episode season one of Nite Tales, inexplicably leaving off the final episode, and neglecting to include the sole episode from 2011's season two. Though a mildly laudable attempt to juice up the horror anthology concept, it's pretty easy to see why this DVD release gives short shrift to the series. In order to include the entire series, you'd probably want to give the seven half-hour episodes two discs, in order to salvage some sense of AV quality, but there probably aren't that many people who'd want to drop the extra dollars. So here we are with five shots to make the horror grade.
Despite a really promising start for a 'black-themed' horror show, Nite Tales quickly falls off the charts, even with its African American hook. It's a good hook, and of course it shouldn't be viewed as a hook at all inasmuch as by now it's pretty sad that shows directed at black audiences are still the exception. Nonetheless, if like me you find yourself drawn to hip-hop culture, Nite Tales' lingo, occasional thematic nods, and delivery at the very least add a new wrinkle to stories that pretty quickly lose their steam. Sadly, horror gives way to humor, moral twists that make little sense, and other things that make the show just another mild freak-show without any scares.
Episode one, Night Watch, grabs a can't-fail concept and does a fine job with it. As a security guard staged in a warehouse full of eerie mannequins lets his imagination run wild, even jaded horror hounds (such as yours truly) can't help but feel a few chills up and down the spine. Paying off with an undeserved comeuppance, Night Watch wrings plenty of tension out of some damn creepy dummies. Dark Heart continues the undeserved comeuppance theme, when an office worker tries to let off some pent up steam surrounding the death of her father, with a séance and a trip to a dance club. Mild tension springs up in a climatic parking garage scene, though the payoff is arbitrary and confusing.
Trapped headlines the formidable Gary Busey, proving that though he's crazy as a shithouse rat, he's still able to deliver lines with a degree of believability. Never mind that fact that he's playing a nut-job with anger issues. Sadly, this one-room mystery of people trapped under mysterious circumstances ultimately makes no sense at all, and is devoid of any scare factor. Ima Star brings back the black, if you will, as an aspiring rap star, Sporty-O, first tries his hand at wowing a room full of white record execs, before hoping to win an emcee battle at a night club. An offer, seemingly too good to be true, finds Sporty-O at the wrong end of the bargaining table. It's not much of a twist, and yet it too makes little actual sense. Our last story, Black Widow, features aging actress Brigitte Nielsen in bondage gear. (You knew she'd turn up, didn't you? And she's sporting a bod that probably only Flavor Flav could really love any more.) This story's just flat-out laughable, even though it involves iPod cases made out of human skin.
Despite a 20-minute making-of extra, that's it for this disc, and that's probably enough, since the stories quickly go from creepy to sickly. Performances are uneven, and even though the atmosphere does a fine job of echoing Tales From the Darkside in particular, bland essence-of-the-'80s and a fairly consistent lack of tension make Nite Tales a collection of stories more likely to put you to sleep than force you to keep the lights on.
Presented in non-anamorphic 16 X 9 widescreen, Nite Tales' five 22-minute episodes look pretty poor. Lots of digital grain is present and colors tend towards the gray, washed-out end of the spectrum. Trapped in particular features some resounding grays that probably should have been black, and grain that turns to posterizing before edging uncomfortably close to macro-blocking.
Digital Stereo Audio, on the other hand, is just fine, mixed well with background music, and containing easily discernable dialog. It's a little weird how many British accents are on display in these episodes, but that is a different story.
Extras are limited to English Subtitles and a 20-minute Making-Of Featurette that follows a typical EPK format but will, of course, influence your opinion of the work, while forcing you to admire the efforts of series writer/director Deon Taylor.
Deon Taylor's Nite Tales starts strong with a creepy mannequins episode, while the other four 22-minute episodes included (the bulk of, but not a complete version of Season One) pretty much abandon any notions of being scary or making sense. While constituting fun, mildly diverting viewing, these 'black themed' scary morality tales are mostly below par - a laudable effort that misses the mark. Rent It only if you really, really can't get enough of horror anthologies.
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com