Anyone remember the 2002 horror flick They? Nah, me either. But from what I've read, it was a substandard horror movie that was made by a couple of unknown people, but the studio paid Wes Craven to put his name on it as a producer, in hopes that this would be enough of a draw due to the movie pretty much being a stinker.
At least Deadtime Stories Vol. 1 does feature George Romero as a talking head introducing each story for a minute or so. But make no mistake about it, this is not his movie, but was instead written by a dude named Jeff Monahan and directed by Monahan and two others. Props to Monahan for snagging Romero to put his name on the movie, given that the film is noticeably low-budget, but Romero didn't write or direct this movie. Right ... moving on.
There are three shorts here, about 25 minutes each (adding up to a total running time of 76 minutes, so it falls just shy of feature-length), and since all three shorts were written by Monahan, they all follow a similar pattern: 1. There is little to no opening hook to grab the audience; 2. The characters engage in a significant amount of dialogue to pad the running time, with a minimum of action due to the lack of budget; 3. There's a twist, and the majority of special effects occur at the end.
The first story, about an attractive woman who organizes a team to look for her missing husband in the jungle, is reminiscent of the junglesploitation flicks coming out of Italy in the 70s, but has none of their charm, message, uniqueness, or anything else, really. This story is a snoozer, there are loose ends to the plot, and the twist is just terrible.
Skipping the second for now, the third story boasts the directorial eye of Tom Savini, but while it features a unique shooting style (that frankly irritated me), it's also bogged down by the formula of talk-talk-talk-twist! that just creates a soporific effect and ultimately forces the movie to limp to the ultimately forgettable finish line.
However, it wouldn't be fair to just unilaterally excoriate the movie as a failure of an anthology, as the second story, "WeT," does do its darndest to redeem the remainder of the flick. While it is bound by the same formula, this segment capitalizes on the simplicity of the story structure and forces it into intimacy, relying on cloistered settings and the dialogue of two characters to propel most of it. The acting here is surprisingly solid (though not great), and the directing here is stark and beautiful at times, taking a beach setting and making it by turns gorgeous and terrifying. Even the spare piano music adds to the lushness of the viewing experience. There is a twist in this story as well, but the ending boasts more than that, including a truly captivating and sorrowful finish.
I swear I didn't direct "WeT," but this story alone makes this worth seeing at least once. And if you do go in for buying the movie, be aware that it is available right now in a standard DVD case with a lenticular cover card (like the first run of Let The Right One In and re-released movies like Killer Klowns from Outer Space. The lenticular card allows the front image to switch from the skeleton pictured to a dead body, still fully intact. So, if you're a packaging fiend like I am, you'll want to pick this up before this card is discontinued.
Thanks for reading.