This DVD release from Image Entertainment collects the nine shorts that the director of Fright Night and Child's Play created as an exclusive web series for FEARnet. Holland is no stranger to anthology horror, having worked on HBO's Tales From The Crypt series back when it was still on the air and this new project sees him collaborate with a few faces bound to be familiar to horror movie devotees.
As the shorts that make up this collection are unrelated, let's cover them in the order in which they appear on the DVD:
Fred And His GPS: The first story follows a man named Fred who murders his wife. When he takes off in his car afterwards, he starts to realize that the woman he just murdered might just be haunting him through his GPS. AJ Bowen from You're Next appears in this one and while it's not particularly scary, it is quirky and weird enough to work.
To Hell With You: A woman goes through an unpleasant break up with her boyfriend and winds up meeting a mysterious person who could be the key to getting the revenge she wants, but what will she have to do to seal the deal? Danielle Harris and William Forsythe both appear in this one. It's predictable, you won't have any trouble figuring out who the stranger is (the title makes it obvious) but it's fun to see Harris and Forsyth on screen.
BOOM: Two military vets who have become the best of friends over the years and who are both experts in explosives get into it when one man accuses the other of having a torrid affair with his wife. This one probably has the most surprising twist out of the lot and earns some points for being, yes, twisted, and quite original.
Mongo's Magick Mirror: A big time illusionist encounters a low rent magician and sees him perform an amazing trick. He decides he's going to steal that magicians trick and use it as his own, but of course, that won't end well. Ray Wise pops up in this one, which is fun, but this unfortunately turns out to be one of the weaker entries on the disc as it's just too easy to see where it's heading.
Bite: If you figured the entry called Bite would be about vampires, the joke's on you! It's actually about an experimental drug with a nasty side effect: it turns people into werewolves (they also bite, so the title still works). This one falls pretty flat, the editing and post production work is clunky and the premise doesn't jive with the intended horror particularly well. The performances aren't all that convincing either. Next!
Shock Wave: When the world is ravaged by nuclear destruction, four friends band together to try and make a go of it but soon realize that human nature isn't as kind and charitable as any of them had hoped. Angelis Bettis, Buffy's Amber Benson and James Duval all appear in this one and they're all fun to watch but once again we can figure out the twist here pretty easily. It's well acted at least, and entertaining enough, just not all that original in its execution.
Cached: One of the more creative shorts on this disc follows a low rent thief who decides to swipe a tablet computer belonging to a recently deceased man. Hey, he's dead… he's not going to need it anymore, right? Maybe not… this one is fun. It's clever, creative, and even a little bit topical in how it uses today's technology in the story. Of course, that means it won't age well and in twenty years it'll be goofy but by the standards of 2014, it works well enough.
The Pizza Guy: A young woman understandably devastated by the recent death of the sister she was so close to decides to try and contact her using a mysterious book she's recovered but winds up contacting the devil himself. This one is also pretty fun, it takes a premise that we've seen done plenty of times before and manages to give it a fun, fresh spin.
Vampire's Dance: Last but not least, we see what happens when a woman goes into a night club for vampires in search of the roommate she thinks has gone inside. It's goofy, not particularly inspired and relies way too much on dancing and silly romance to tell its story. As such, it's pretty forgettable.
These were obviously made fast and on a modest budget for an audience pre-disposed to enjoy horror shorts, and if you find yourself in that specific target demographic, you'll probably find there is more good than bad here. Realistically speaking, a few too many of the shorts are either predictable or suffer from some wooden acting for this to rank up there as highly as some might have hoped it would, but there's fun to be had if you're in the right mood for this type of thing. Go in with expectations in check and know that this material isn't going to compete on the level of classic horror anthology shows like Tales From The Crypt or The Twilight Zone or even less consistent series like Friday The 13th or Tales From The Darkside but it does offer up some passably entertaining storytelling and occasionally with a fun cast member involved.
Tom Holland's Twisted Tales arrives on DVD from Image in a nice looking 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The shorts look okay. There is some crush in the darker scenes and some compression artifacts pop into the frame from time to time but generally speaking this is well detailed and fairly colorful. Skin tones look good, the image is clean and free of any noise and the framing looks good here.
The only audio option on this disc is an English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound track. There isn't a ton of surround activity here but the rears do spring to life a few times throughout playback to help build some suspense. Levels are properly balanced and dialogue stays clean, clear and easy to follow.
Outside of menus and chapter selection, the disc includes making of segments for Boom (12:06), Mongo's Magick Mirror (9:12), Shockwave (12:57), Cached (6:56) and The Pizza Guy (15:36). Holland appears in each of these segments and gives some thoughts on each particular segment and most of the lead actors/actresses also pop up (including Ray Wise and Angela Bettis) and talk about how much they enjoyed working on their respective segments. Though the segments sometimes use a few too many clips from the shorts themselves, some of the behind the scenes material is interesting as it offers us a look at what it was like on set. Menus and episode selection are also included, allowing you to select each episode as its own chapter or marathon the series by way of a ‘play all' button.
Tom Holland's Twisted Tales isn't the be-all, end-all of horror anthology series but it's entertaining enough that fans of this type of material might want to check it out. The fact that a few interesting actors pop up throughout the presentation doesn't hurt and the nearly hour long collection of supplements add some value to a decent presentation. If you're a horror hound and dig on anthologies, consider this casually recommended, otherwise, rent it first.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.