As sure as Dracula is afraid of getting a suntan, our Halloween series here at Forgotten Films is sure to bring out at least one horror anthology film. That’s where those half-baked horror ideas come together to make one film out of several short stories, since none of them is substantial enough to make a film all by themselves. This year we get three stories wrapped together by the framing device of a guy telling his young nephew stories to get him to go to sleep. Plug in your night-light for 1986’s Deadtime Stories.
Story number one concerns a young man named Peter (Scott Valentine…Nick from Family Ties) who has been raised by two witches since he was just a little guy. Now that he’s a strapping young man, the two hags use him to help lure their victims. First he brings them a priest who is expecting an encounter with some lovely young ladies. The witches even cast a spell over the priest so that he sees them as beautiful. This is all so they can chop his hand off, which they need for a spell. Ultimately, though, the hand is just one piece of the puzzle. What they really need is a female virgin to sacrifice so they can resurrect their sister. Peter does help capture a young woman named Miranda (Kathy Fleig), but he starts to fall in love with her. This leads to him trying to free the girl from the witches…only now they have the undead sister to contend with, too.
This first story really only seems to exist so that the effects department could utilize a few cool effects they came up with. The sequence is the one that involves the resurrection of the dead witch sister. A moldy old heart is placed in a skeleton and we slowly start to see the muscles and tendons reform around the bones. Layers of flesh peel away to eventually reveal something that looks semi-human…and for a low-budget production such as this, it is pretty cool. However, the rest of the story is pretty pointless. It doesn’t help that the style of both Peter and Miranda’s look and speach is more Malibu than medieval. Miranda even seems to sport a push up bra. The witches also are ridiculously cartoonish, especially the one with the horrendously fake cockney accent.
Story two is a twist on Little Red Riding Hood. A teenage girl named Rachel (Nicole Picard) stops by a local pharmacy to get her grandmother’s pills. Also at the pharmacy is a creepy guy named Willie (Matt Mitler). He has an arrangement with the pharmacist who gets him special pills he needs for his…uh…condition. See, without them he turns into a werewolf. Unfortunately, when he gets home he finds that he ended up with Rachel’s grannie’s pills instead. So, he goes to track down where grandma lives. Now, Rachel is having sex with her boyfriend in the maintenance shed when Willie shows up at Grandma’s house. By the time she’s done, the moon has come out and there is now a werewolf waiting for her.
This story is the most original of the three. The premise is clever and there are a few fun jump scare moments. The werewolf makeup is decent…nothing groundbreaking but nicely done for what the story needs. There’s also a fair amount of humor in this one. I couldn’t help but laugh at Rachel’s boyfriend trying to make a rendezvous in a shed romantic with candlelight and an air mattress. Grandma (Fran Lopate) is also quite funny. When the wolf comes to her door she shouts, “I have a meat cleaver and I know how to use it!” There are certainly better werewolf stories out there, but this was a fun little twist on the Red Riding Hood story.
Our last story is where things go completely off the rails. This time it’s a twist on Goldilocks and the Three Bears. It begins with father and son Papa Baer (Kevin Hannon) and Baby Baer (Timothy Rule) busting out of a mental hospital with Mama Baer (Melissa Leo) driving the getaway car. These criminals decide to hide out in a house they used to live in (in Amityville). Problem is, another criminal has already set up shop in the house…the lovely young serial killer Goldi Lox (Cathryn de Prume). She’s got the corpses of her various victims all over the place. When Goldi meets the three Baers, they end up deciding to work together. Goldi even falls in love with Baby Baer and they all hit the road on a murderous spree. That’s it.
To say this is the film’s weakest element is an understatement. The segment is played for laughs…unfortunately there are none. Everything about this segment, from the writing to the acting to the production design is amateurish. I’ve seen public access cable programs that had higher production value. It’s painful to watch.
So, as is often the case, we have an anthology film that is very uneven. The first two segments are, at least, worthy efforts. I also liked that segments one and two both feature a fun twist ending. Segment three, though is almost unwatchable. In the end, none of the stories are all that scary…but the third segment is so awful it may still give you nightmares.