Scary Tales: The Return of Mr Longfellow

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We open with a guy paying a hooker for sex in a motel room (though he got ripped off, she kept her bra on!) but all is not as it seems, as in the next scene the hooker is lying dead on the bed, because it turns out the guy is in fact a serial killer named Don Leifert (co-director Jason Daly).

When Don's car breaks down he goes to "Mr Longfellow's Used Cars" to buy another.

Mr Longfellow (as revealed in the first "Scary Tales" movie) is a psycho who likes to tell tales to his victims.

As his two strange Assistants look on, the scruffy Artie (Richard Cecere) and Wesley (George Randol, who sports a headache inducing plaid suit and an outrageous amount of make-up consisting of lipstick and day-glow rouge cheeks), Mr Longfellow (Joel D. Wynkoop) recounts the stories behind the cars he shows Don...

Tale #1: "Charlie's Demons"

A young man named Josh (Benjamin Kanes) goes to a group therapy session, with four other teens, being held by a Dr King (who looks like Longfellow's Assistant Wesley) in a cabin in the woods.

It turns out the cabin has been hired from an astonishingly unfriendly old guy named Charlie.

When one of the kids goes missing Josh decides to leave, but finds himself in a four wheel "Spinal Tap" situation as no matter which road he takes he ends up driving past the scowling Charlie.

Going back to the cabin Josh and the three remaining teens, Tiffany (Heidi Fleisher), Jessica (Tatiana Javorsky) and the foul mouthed "Shoogy" (Neill Cotter), find themselves in deadly danger...

Upping the low blood content seen in the first film from the start, "Charlie's Demons" delivers some well-made splatter via death scenes like an axe in the head and a bloody baseball bat beating. And as with the first film it's all technically excellent, if sadly rather lacking in the acting department.

We are given a nice twist within a twist finale and actually there are hints of the big budget John Cusack movie "Identity" here, which seems to have been made after "Scary Tales".

A good, bloody choice for the first tale

Tale #2: "Dennis Frye vs The Zombies"

This is actually a prequel to the events seen in first "Scary Tales" where that movie's lead character, Dennis Frye (Bill Cassinelli), is working in a garage convenience store.

While Dennis is trying to set up a date with his girlfriend Sarah (Felissa "Sleepaway Camp" Rose) his nagging Mother (Chris Tracey) comes in and embarrasses him about his dirty underwear and soiled sheets!

To add to his pain his long-time nemesis Brady (Max Eben Anderson) comes into the shop with his three friends and starts pushing him around, to his Mother's disgust

"get some gumption, don't be such a pussy".

One day a Wesley King (yes, THAT Wesley) comes to the shop and drops off some candy bar samples. He tells Dennis that if a good man takes a bite he will become a force for good, if a bad person takes a bite they will become uber-evil!

Just then Brady and his cronies come into the shop and start to eat the candy bars...

There are some genuine laughs in this tale with some of the dialogue exchanges being comic highlights.

But there are also some nice visual jokes, most provided by a flashback Dennis has during his retro Heavy Metal days (complete with hysterical big hair wig) and a 'romance' montage that delivers plenty of light humour and a clever twist on the crude trick involving a cinema popcorn bucket.

This is the slightest of the tales and takes too long to get to the main 'candy bar' plot device (where some cheap but fun bloodshed is delivered as Dennis goes into action) but it's amusing enough to keep you entertained and has just enough sick black humour (and a dash of bloodshed) to keep the interest. It also has a nice verbal link to the events Dennis will go through later in the first film.

Tale #3: "7: 23"

Frank Draven (Jesse Furman) has a bag full of stolen money and a bad attitude. After almost hitting another car he decides to pull into a Motel for the night.

As well as a creepy Desk Clerk (Joe Estevez, younger Brother of Martin Sheen and prolific low budget schlock actor) the Motel also has no electricity, "What are you? Fucking Amish"!

Frank is told that he must fill out a thick book of questions before checking-in, questions that ask for all the details of anything the person has ever done wrong. He reluctantly, and angrily, fills it out (mostly with swearwords) and is given his room key.

On the way to his room a man (Wesley again!) shakes his hand and thanks him for everything, before vanishing. Tired and confused, Draven finally goes to sleep.

But if he thought his arrival was strange, Frank finds that when he comes to leave the next morning (and discovers his car missing) things are in fact about to get much, much worse...

This tale is played deadly serious and is actually a very well constructed little tale with a nicely dark twist.

It also has the strongest acting seen so far with Furman and Estevez doing some good work. Estevez in fact does a fine job of stopping his sinister character slipping into parody.

Hoffman provides some striking visuals as Draven explores the creepy Motel, including a suitably demonic (though nudity free) group sex session.

Overall it's a brilliantly crafted, well-acted story that delivers.

The wraparound story is not only much better than the one in the first movie, but also has more screen time. As such it actually delivers some unexpected, if rather weird and very hard to fathom, twists as well as finding room for a cameo by Robert "Maniac Cop" Z'Dar (whose jaw has expanded to such a vast size it almost goes off the edge of the frame!) playing a Cop named Officer Cordell, after his "Maniac Cop" character.

Mr Longfellow himself is even more over the top here and Joel D. Wynkoop wisely plays the entire thing as high camp.

Acting as a whole is up and down the scale, from the bad to the enjoyably crazed to the actually pretty damn good and serious.

The music is made up of some effective instrumental pieces and some less successful songs but basically works well and adds far more than it detracts.

It all ends with a suitably whacked out homage/montage to 'Mr Longfellow' and features some amusing bloopers over the credits, something that basically carries on the good time vibe that has made the entire movie so enjoyable.

And that's what it is, enjoyable. It's a big improvement over the first "Scary Tales" and has a much stronger set of tales (by Jason Daly, Michael Hoffman Jr. and Richard Cecere) that not only deliver a bit more welcome gore but also some genuinely good twists that are worth waiting for.

If the first "Scary Tales" was worth a rent, then "Scary Tales: The Return of Mr Longfellow" is well worth a purchase.

The higher budget (though still a low $11,000) has been put to good use, the film looks marvellous and well done to everyone for a fine slice of low budget, independent horror movie making.

The DVD (again a great looking transfer of this nice looking movie) is rounded off with trailers, production notes, an amusing featurette and a lively and informative audio commentary.

Reviewed by 42nd Street Freak