A study of horror films over the last sixty years or so would be extremely revealing. It is a way to gauge the darkest fears of the culture and just what frightens people the most. When Universal Studios started to release movies such as ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘Dracula’ it was enough to hint at the horror. The thought of a corpses stitched together and reanimated by a bolt of lightening was terrifying to those that watched in the darkness of the movie theater. In the sixties George Romereo took horror to a new level by re-imagining the zombie flick and horror flicks were never the same. The eighties brought us such nightmarish terrors as Freddy Kruger, Michael Myers and Jason stalking teens in the dark. Currently this venerable film genre has been relegated to cheap knock offs of the classics and hackney slash and dash flicks. The modern films that get the most notoriety are based on outright torture. Bizarre contraptions are used to inflict the most possible pain on the hapless victims. Movies like ‘Saw’ and ‘Hostel’ have started lucrative franchise that brings new meaning to the term box office gross. This current trend in the genre makes it extremely difficult for an earnest film maker to create a horror flick. He may not want to pander to the lowest common denominator of the fan base but there has to be sufficient gore to keep them happy. Film maker Deon Taylor seems to have fond a way to make such a flick; ‘Nite Tales’. This is a horror double feature that will creep out even the most jaded fan out there. On the surface it may seem to be just another blood and guts flick but if you take enough time to consider the movie fully you will see that there is much more that lies beneath. The film premiered on BET around last Halloween and is now available on DVD through their distributor, Paramount. For several reasons this is better than the average slice and dice flick and will give an evening of scares perfect for a dark and stormy night.
The stories were written by Diana Erwin and Deon Taylor. Both are relatively new to the business and both worked on a little film ‘The Hustle’ together. Taylor also had a previous horror flick; ‘7eventy 5ive’. It was actually a very good idea to package two short stories together as done here. This does several things that tremendously helped the production work. First, the onerous of carrying a story for a feature length movie is gone. In all too many cases the writer comes up short with the plot of the story and is forced to pad it to fill a full length movie. Typically this is done with endless chases through a deserted landscape or spooky house prolonging the moment all fans want; the show down between the evil monster and his prey. The next thing is something that might be more familiar to the older generation. Back when we were kids in the late fifties and early sixties there was a comic book publisher called EC Comics. They specialized in horror with such titles as ‘Tales from the Crypt’ and ‘The Vault of Horror’. They were spectacular for kids of our age. The comics where full of brutal terror and unleashed horror. Naturally they were typically banned by our parents that just meant we read them with a flashlight under our covers or in a nearby vacant lot. They were considered such a danger to the emotional health of the youth the United States Senate held meetings to ban them. The comic usually had two or three stories to an issue and this film brought back memories of those comics. The creative team behind this film is most likely too young to remember those days but they certainly captured the essence of those comics perfectly. Instead of going for the cheap scare the writers of these two short films take the time to create a Gothic type feel and the results are very good.
As the director of the film Taylor maintains this old time feel to the production. He is straightforward with his approach to the subject matter and doesn’t try to impress the audience with fancy camera work. There are more than enough shock moments here but remember that this was originally on basic cable television so it doesn’t go to the extremes that R rated theatrical flicks or unrated DVDs can muster. It is an odd choice to have Flavor Flav as master of ceremonies here. His fame had lapsed since his time in the spotlight as an eighties rapper. Now that VH1 has given him a couple of so called reality dating shows he is back once again. He does seem to fit into the world of horror well as a creepy little dude with the gold teeth and large clock around his neck.
The film opens with Flav walking into a room filled with creepy items. The look is aged as if it was an old horror film. Flav is dressed in top hat, formal tails with shoes that light up. He has rings on every finger and his trademark clock around his neck. In other words it looks like he came to the set in his usual clothing. He speaks directly to the audience telling them to go get some popcorn and snacks and get ready for a fright night. Often in those old EC comics there was a host that introduced the tales of terror; another tie in to the past that worked.
The first story is ‘Karma’. After a little look at a vintage Oldsmobile the scene settles on a local bank. People are busy doing their transactions while outside a group of four young men with mean and highly suspicious looks on their faces pull up. They pull their masks over their faces, draw their guns and burst into the bank intent on robbing it. In a panic the tellers empty the cash draws for the thieves. Just as they are about to leave one of the robbers is shot by the bank guard who is then killed by one of the crew. They drive into the country side as night falls. The three injured members of the gang plot to kill the wounded man and dump his body. They come across a house in the middle of nowhere where the only inhabitant is an old man. It turns out that he has a taste for human flesh and he is very hungry.
In the second story, ‘Storm’ a group of college students are forced to seek shelter in the house of one of their parents while a raging storm passes. This tale has all the requisite elements of a horror story. There are teenaged couples, pot and the promise of uninterrupted sex. As anyone who is a fan of the genre knows this is a sure fire recipe for mayhem and murder. One of the girls starts to tell the story of Bloody Mary as the lighten flashes through the windows. They then take turns standing in front of a mirror calling for Mary. In short order the body count starts to rise and a strange appears at the door.
This is not a great flick but it is very entertaining. When you get tired of watching the same old thing for your horror fix give this one a try; you will not be disappointed.