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Tales of the Dead
With 28,350 DVD reviews and growing (and not counting other formats!), the review staff at DVD Talk has clearly covered the home video universe from the biggest blockbusters to the most obscure independents. And while I've been responsible for only a miniscule fraction of these reviews, I can attest to seeing a wide spectrum of genre productions for this site.
Tales of the Dead, a brief 75 minute horror anthology soon to be released by Chemical Burn Entertainment, though, offers something new to me as a reviewer: at the time that I write this, the venerable Internet Movie Database has no record of it. After all these years of turning to the site as a resource, this is the first time that that has happened. Curiously, there's a 2008 entry for Tales of the Dead that, like this release, is a horror anthology, but its synopsis and cast clearly denote a different film. There's also a listing for Kemal Yildirim, the writer, director, star, and all-around jack-of-all-trades behind this production, but his IMDb Profile fails to list Tales of the Dead nor the five shorts individually that are cobbled together here.
While I'm sure this oversight will be corrected very soon (Tales of the Dead, after all, is getting a commercial home video release next month), it perhaps isn't surprising as this anthology is very much an amateur affair. Tales of the Dead has the look and feel of someone's home movies, with Yildirim apparently relying upon family and friends to cobble together these brief vignettes that pay homage to (or rips off, depending upon your point of view) classic horror films. In fact, this film is reminiscent of the old home video movies that M. Night Shyamalan made as a kid presented as extras on DVDs of his films. That comment is not meant to be an insult; Tales of the Dead just feels like the early work of a formative talent. The anthology's framing device has five teenagers gathering together for a Halloween party. Each has a horror story to tell, though the stories are conveniently on discs that they share with each other on a DVD player. Each story is a 10 - 12 minute short film by Yildirim, with the fifth and final story wrapping up the plot device of the party.
Outside of the party story, Tales of the Dead comprises (1) Less Is More, about a woman suffering from Body Integrity Identity Disorder who goes to dangerous lengths to become an amputee; (2) Wolf Cry, about a lazy 19-year-old obsessed with horror movies living an unhappy life; (3) Penance, about an alcoholic detective on the trail of a serial killer; and (4) Missing, one of those Blair Witch Project-styled shaky camera nonsense stories about five friends interested in a curse on Cromwell Street. Out of these, Less Is More has the most interesting concept, though its "shock ending" resolution seems more of a cop out. Wolf Cry goes out of its way to include riffs on classic horror films like Psycho and John Carpenter's The Fog, though the short has the feel of a novice filmmaker learning the ropes by mimicking the masters. Penance has a neat Dario Argento-ish plot device involving mirrors but little else. And Missing, well, I'm not a big fan of the shaky cam / "lost footage" sub-genre to begin with, so the less I say about this last short the better.
I'm all for encouraging young talent interested in filmmaking, especially of the genre kind. I wish Yildirim the best of luck should he pursue this as a career. But as a DVD product, Tales of the Dead is just too amateur to recommend.
Chemical Burn Entertainment gives Tales of the Dead a widescreen presentation that is not anamorphic (a couple of the shorts have a full frame aspect ratio). Given the ultra-low budget constraints at play, the film actually doesn't look as bad as it could have. Still, many night scenes are obscure, and there's a general lack of clarity.
Yikes. The sound quality here is a mess, with dialogue ranging unevenly within shorts not to mention between them. The framing device at the party comes off the worst, as some of the interplay between the characters is barely discernable. The English language track is Dolby Digital Stereo. No subtitle options are available.
Making of Wolf Cry (5:31) and Making of Penance (16:15) are two extras that offer up behind-the-scenes footage, with the latter being more developed. A trailer for Tales of the Dead is also included.
Tales of the Dead is an anthology of very modest means being offered up by Chemical Burn Entertainment. While it has a few interesting concepts, it's just too amateur in execution and presentation to warrant a recommendation for the casual filmgoer.