Scary Tales

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This shot on digital video Horror Anthology is a mixed bag, but is well crafted enough to warrant at least a rental.

We open with the mysterious Mr Longfellow (Joel D. Wynkoop) putting up an ad for his Employment Agency in a shop window, something that catches the eye of, down on his job seeking luck, Dennis Frye (Bill Cassinelli) who decides to give the Agency a go.

Arriving at a seemingly deserted mall, he enters the Agency offices and is led by a Secretary (Ria Rampersad) to see Mr Longfellow.

Longfellow proceeds to offer Dennis an assortment of jobs, but tells him what may happen if he takes them.

Each job becomes one of our 'scary tales'...

Tale #1: "I Ain't Got No Body" – This is a job at 'Maggie's Used Books', that sees Dennis manning the cash register and having a crush on regular customer Jamie (Lindsay Horgan), but finds his lust most definitely not shared by her. In fact she can't stand him.

But a book on 'Astral Travel' and how to influence the mind gives Dennis an idea about he to get Jamie to love him, so one night he leaves his sleeping body and goes on the prowl...

This is the only specifically comedic story and is actually all the stronger for embracing intentional humour rather then trying to avoid unintentional humour.

Comedy is of course the hardest of all things to pull off, but the script (by Bill Cassinelli and Michael Hoffman Jr) does a credible job here and even a basically throwaway scene, of Dennis making a mess of handing out a guy's change, raises a smile.

The other highlight is a wonderfully funny romantic daydream, of Dennis running hand in hand along the beach with Jamie, that concentrates on Jamie's breasts flopping and bopping in her bikini top, and it's a sight that will stick in your mind for decades to come, whether that's a good thing or not is up to each individual viewer!

Best comedic dialogue though is when Dennis goes to Jamie's home, "Good thing I'm obsessed, or I never would have found this place". In fact Bill Cassinelli does a likeable job all round.

The optical effects of the see-through Dennis as he leaves his body are well done and the tale moves along in an enjoyable fashion (even throwing in a pair of naked stunt breasts), but it's pretty much all build up to a ho-hum pay-off.

Tale #2: "Hit and Run" – Dennis has a job as a cook.

One morning, on his way to work, he accidentally runs over a little girl playing by the roadside with her doll (hey! I blame the parents!). In a panic, he drives off.

But Dennis is now haunted by the accident and the next day the girl's doll keeps appearing to him, one minute it's in his kitchen then in the car seat next to him.

Soon one doll becomes many dolls, including the ever evil 'Cabbage Patch Doll'!

But are they real? Or has his guilt driven Dennis mad?...

Hoffman overdoes the optical effects here to show the turmoil in Dennis's mind, but in general (as with the entire film) he does a technically solid job and is again backed by a solid turn by Cassinelli.

We are given a nice and bloody FX scene in this 'tale' (but this single event is as gory as the entire film gets) and the twist is pretty good, but it's all very slight again.

Tale #3: "The Death of

" – Dennis is a struggling cheesy Horror screenplay writer (one of his scripts goes by the title of is called "The Cannibal Carpenter". Hey, that actually sounds pretty good!) who can't get anyone interested in his work.

His girlfriend (Thorin Taylor Hannah) is being worn down by his drinking and the lack of money and Dennis is feeling the strain.

Then one day he is woken from a drunken stupor by someone in his kitchen, someone who he believes is Edgar Allan Poe!...

A generally serious tale again, though some good humour is added by the reactions of the Agents who read Dennis's screenplays, one even files a copy away in a tray labelled 'shit', and you can't help but feel that Cassinelli and Hoffman are taking swipes at the real people they met while trying to get "Scary Tales" of the ground!

Nothing here in this 'tale' again of an explicit nature (a g-string clad butt waived in front of the camera is about your lot as far as skin goes) and it's once gain down to Bill Cassinelli to carry the story. The build-up to the appearance of 'Poe' (Lee Pinder) is overly drawn out and visually rather messy, but the main thrust of the story does lead us into a pretty good twist.

The wraparound story is actually the weakest element of the film and the final pay-off is the weakest twist of all. Bill Cassinelli is also not as strong in his scenes with Wynkoop's enjoyably over the top Mr Longfellow as he was in the 3 'tales.

The best parts of the wraparound are the little things, like the Secretary being introduced via a gratuitous close-up of her mini-skirt clad arse and especially a very nice audio joke, when Dennis points out how deserted the mall is, where Hoffman quick cuts to said deserted mall car park as a distorted scream blasts out over the soundtrack, thus he cleverly makes fun of a Horror cliché for his own ends before the audience rolls it's eyes at it.

As with almost all Anthologies (even with much lauded, big budget entries like "Creepshow") the stories tend to end up as nothing really special once the twist is revealed, but in general this is a well made (with some nicely effective title music), is easy to watch, has some pretty good acting and was obviously a work of love. But unless you are a real follower of Indy SOV projects I would most definitely recommend you rent before buying.

And don't be fooled by the 'Unrated' tag on the DVD, as there is nothing here that needed an unrated release to get through uncut. It's 'Unrated' purely because it was never given to anyone to rate!

Sound and picture quality on the DVD are excellent though considering the SOV origins of the film, and the smattering of extras include trailers for this and its sequel, "Scary Tales: The Return of Mr Longfellow", and an amusing (and genuinely interesting) featurette, hosted by Hoffman and Bill Cassinelli, on the inspirations for the film and some deleted scenes.

Bad movie fans will get a kick from seeing clips from low budget obscurity "Fiend" during the featurette, where it turns out Hoffman and Cassinelli got the names for Dennis and Mr Longfellow from, and the guys come across as very likeable.

Reviewed by 42nd Street Freak