THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
Deadtime Stories, released in 1986, is one of those horror movies that many people either don't remember or only remember in the most vague of terms. It didn't even crack $3 million at the box office, but it was easily found on video store shelves alongside movies with similar-looking boxes. Scream Factory releases the film in a DVD/Blu-ray combo pack on February 28. That should give this oddity a boost in awareness.
The movie is an anthology. A little boy who is having trouble sleeping asks his uncle to tell him some bedtime stories. The twisted uncle tells him three that are not particularly kid-friendly. The first is about a man named Peter (played by Scott Valentine of Family Ties) who helps a young woman take down a coven of witches. It's the weakest of the trio, maintaining a fairly dull tone until it gets to the end, at which point it features some impressively grisly action. The second tale is a riff on Red Riding Hood, with a young woman named Rachel (Nicole Picard) and a guy who becomes a wolf if he doesn't get his meds on time. When his pills end up in the hands of her grandmother, all hell breaks loose.
The best tale comes last. It's a slapstick comedy take on Goldilocks and the Three Bears, except in this case, Goldi Lox (Cathryn de Prume) is a psychopath who uses her sexuality to lure men to a house so that she can kill them. The “Baers,” meanwhile, are a family of mentally insane individuals, led by MaMa Baer (played by a pre-fame Melissa Leo). They aren't too happy to find the intruder squatting in their home. There's some gore here, but the segment is largely played with exaggerated humor, kind of like a sick joke.
It wouldn't be fair to say that Deadtime Stories is a good movie. The twisted tales range from “pretty bad” to “mediocre.” That said, it's a film with some real interest for fans of '80s horror. The practical effects are outstanding, and there's an overall sense of cheesiness that's oddly endearing. Seeing Melissa Leo in an early role provides some amusement, too. All in all, it's one of those low-quality movies that manages to achieve a bizarre kind of entertainment value.
What sweetens the deal is that Scream Factory has stocked the Blu-ray with their usual awesome bonus features. Even if Deadtime Stories isn't great, watching it and then absorbing the supplementary material, including audio commentary from writer/director Jef Delman, makes for a fun time. “I Like the Grotesque” is a 15-minute interview with Delman, who offers up a lot of enjoyable anecdotes about the casting, the production, writing songs for the soundtrack, and shooting in his own house. “A Band of Gypsies” also runs 15 minutes and features three of the actors – Cathryn de Prume, Scott Valentine, and Oscar-winner Melissa Leo – reminiscing about the collaborative spirit that existed during the making of Deadtime Stories. All of them remain visibly proud of the movie, and their memories are unanimously positive.
“The Black Forest” is an elongated version of the first story. Before firmly settling on the anthology idea, Delman tried to shoot this as a feature. It didn't work out. You can now see what turned into a 30-minute cut of the tale. There are also two deleted scenes – an alternate opening to the Red Riding Hood segment, and a bank robbery gag from the Goldilocks section. Two theatrical trailers and a photo gallery round out the disc.
The picture and sound quality on the Blu-ray are good, despite Deadtime Stories being a very low-budget production.
For more information on this and other great titles, please visit the Scream Factory website.
Deadtime Stories is rated R for sequences of violence and sexual content. The running time is 1 hour and 33 minutes.
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