Sunday, January 8, 2012

Only An Anthology Could Make Me Rap

Anthology horror films are my Target brand trail mix. I'll always buy it, but only parts inside will work. You know what to expect--saltiness, twist endings, karma, too many pretzels--but occasionally get nice surprises that are briefly extremely exciting--chocolate covered espresso beans, killer African tribal dolls, corn nuts, Richard Moll. While neither is ever The Greatest Creation Mankind Can Make, both are a tad more exciting than their rivals. I'd rather eat a mixed bag of Cajun peanuts and pumpkin seeds than a mere box of crackers in the same way I'm happier watching Creepshow 2 than I would be with The Prowler. 

It’s how I roll.
Hence, when my blogging brother Cortez the Killer of Planet of Terror gave me the heads up that Nite (sic) Tales, a two-part horrorshow hosted by Flavor Flav, was streaming, you could bet my own personal VH1 dating show that I'll give it a go.
Quick Plot: Flavor Flav says something about something, some of which may or may not rhyme. 
His enunciation is poor and I didn't really catch much, save for him welcoming me to "the new movie, Nite Tales." 
I like when I'm welcomed to movies, although generally that happens when an usher rips my ticket or an animated box of popcorn dances before telling me to turn off my cell phone. But who am I to judge? I worked at a concession stand for 4 months and never came up with the right quip for when I said "Enjoy your movie" and the customers said "You too...oh wait! YOU'RE not going to the movie" so ultimately, I am on par with Flavor Flav.

Story 1 is called Karma, because like 90% of anthology tales, it involves comeuppance. We meet a quartet of bank robbers with twitchy trigger fingers who find themselves at a Texas Chainsaw-like farmhouse inhabited by the other kinds of hoodies (satan worshippers--I think--not Klansmen). There's a lot of shouting in urban style, followed by shouting in white Southern style. Unlike most shorts, the tale doesn't have a twist per say, although it's sufficiently told in an underwhelming, but competent manner.

The second tale, on the other hand, is not. "Storm" follows a group of teenagers partying at home during the titular bad weather, playing around with pot and Bloody Mary (the ghost, not the drink). Just as the power goes out, Tony Todd shows up dressed like a grumpy clown, a one-earring wearing police offer swings by to put everyone off-ease, and some of the prettier stars get sliced up. 

Now all this sounds fine, especially for a quick 45 minute segment. Except Storm has no concept on how to pace itself and just...keeps...going. As I've said before and will inevitably say again, the biggest crime an anthology film can commit is the act of dragging. The whole POINT of a multi-segmented film is that you take a story that doesn’t warrant ninety minutes and pound us with a complete arc in less than forty. 
Perhaps the problem is that Storm tries to be too ambitious, using not one but two urban legends as its basis. There's the early establishment of Bloody Mary, but ten minutes later, we may have well forgotten that name was ever uttered as the mystery of a loose serial killer (is it the clown? the cop? the kid that keeps talking about pot?) takes center stage. Then falls off the stage. But gets back up. Or something.

It's frustrating, mostly because it means it's not fun. Tony Todd is never not great to watch, and he does what he can to keep our interest, while the young cast flops around in ill-defined roles that we never care about in the least. I don't know what director Deon (Chain Letter) Taylor was going for, and while there is potential in the story's complications, it's just too messily done in its brief running time.
High Points
There's some fun humor to be had in Nite Tales, most of which does not actually come from Flavor Flav's mugging. Coulrophobes should snicker at the way the characters in the second story react to Todd's circus reject "DUDE! You let a CLOWN in my house?"

Low Points
In addition to the already discussed pacing, can we address the fact that Nite Tales (note that I'm already being forgiving of its stupidly spelled title) breaks the SECOND rule of anthologies, i.e., Thou Shalt Always Include a Killer Doll Segment
Lessons Learned
If you love deals, your favorite show is Deal or No Deal

Avoid trusting police officers with questionable diamond earrings

Everything scares Clay Aiken
Working in a bank will blacken your blood, literally

Cuss Police
This is the first time I've ever seen this happen on Netflix Instant Watch: all the curses in Nite Tales are muted out. No, there's no VH1 Showgirls hilarity with dubbed alternates. Just silence whenever a character curses. Huh?
Michael J. Pagan Alert!
He is to the Doll's House what Cameron Mitchell is to a Mill Creek pack. In 2011, I've reviewed a total of four films (and counting) starring this young actor, including one that he co-wrote. Yes, it was Chain Letter (the others being House of Fears and See No Evil) and yes, I'm convinced that we're destined to either marry or destroy one another. 

This is the second film I've reviewed by Code Black Entertainment (the first being April Fools) and while it's certainly an improvement, Nite Tales is still sorely lacking. The first story is passable, if a tad predictable, while the second is built on a strong idea but executed with the sluggish confusion of a dyslexic slug. Anthology fetishists may still enjoy the film and it certainly offers something mildly different in that regard, especially in following black thugs in Karma. I guess it's a must for Flavor Flav fans, although I also hope those don't actually exist so I suppose that means it's not a must for anyone in particular. If that makes sense, like a sixpence, but yo yo friend, I don't know what that mends, cause that's how I rhyme, I just say things that kind of sound fine, so go behave, I'm Flavor Flav.
I think I just rewrote the opening to this film.


  1. Have you watched Three Extremes or Chillerama? Both films I think you would like, and they are anthology films!

  2. It's funny, I own Three Extremes but I've only watched the second disc, which is the full-length version of Dumplings (which is awesome). Haven't sat down to ACTUALLY watch the film in its original form yet, but thanks for the reminder! Maybe I'll force it upon myself soon.

    I've seen Chillerama, and I finally decided how I feel about it: I love that it exists. I love the spirit with which it was made. But personally, it just wasn't for me. I think every segment is at least 5 minutes too long and kind of loves itself a little too much. On the other hand, I do adore the spirit inside every segment, and I think each director nails something very special in creating a unique throwback style to the kinds of subgenres you rarely see in horror anthologies. I know most people HATED I Was a Teenage Werebear, but I really liked the idea behind it and dug the first ten minutes. But then (like all the segments really) it just kept GOING! Even Frankenstein felt repetitive to me. Ultimately I'm glad the film has found a cult audience and I'd love to see more from all four of those directors, or even a Chillerama 2 with a new batch of up and coming horror filmmakers. But I also have no desire to ever watch the first one again!

  3. You know I HAVE to watch this now. I don't want to. But I will. THANKS, EMILY! :p

  4. You'll hate it. And I'll love hearing you say that. You're WELCOME!

  5. I've seen this particular "gem" and I completely agree with your review. While I was watching this (as with all Flav's recent projects) all I can do is think about how Chuck D must just love watching Flav do down this path.

  6. Force it upon yourself? No means no Emily.

    I'm the other way around. I haven't watched the full length version of Dumplings yet, but I do have it in my Instant Watch queue. Same with Three Extremes 2.

    I didn't like Chillerama at first. It had to grow on me some before I started to laugh along with it. I didn't like every segment, and I think it would be the first one that I didn't like the most. I watched it again with some neighbors, first time for them watching it, and I agree with you. I still love the film as a whole but it did feel a bit long the second time around.

  7. Well Zach, the sad thing is this 'path' is probably ridiculously lucrative for him!

    Heather, if there was a fan edit with 5 minutes shaved from each segment, I bet I'd feel very differently! I saw it at the Rock 'n Shock convention, which is definitely a good setting to feel like you can laugh along with it. I bet if I watched it on my own I may not have gotten through it.