Scary Tales: The Return of Mr. Longfellow

"Weak"

Scary Tales: The Return of Mr. Longfellow Review


As far as straight-to-video, shot-on-video, no budget schlock horror-comedies go, Scary Tales: The Return of Mr. Longfellow is as good as you'd expect. Made on a budget of $2,000 but garnering a host of B-movie straight-to-video talent like Felissa Rose (Sleepaway Camp), Robert Z'Dar (Maniac Cop), and Joe Estevez (Martin Sheen's younger brother, who has appeared in over 120 films), it has a "charm" all its own.

For all those unfamiliar with the original Scary Tales, which introduced the diabolical frame story host Mr. Longfellow (Joel D. Wynkoop) -- and I'm counting on the fact that most of filmcritic.com's readership has not -- have no fear. This sequel offers very little in terms of plot and character development, so you should have no trouble getting up to speed. Mr. Longfellow has set up shop at a used car lot, where he tells his fright-filled anecdotes to unsuspecting buyers.

Scary Tales features three such tales, adding a bonus frame story involving a serial killer (co-director Jason Daly) who wants to buy a used car with no credit. After an appropriately gory introduction to our murderer-protagonist, and a few gauche one-liners from the ebullient Mr. Longfellow, the stories begin and are as skimpy as you'd expect.

Story #1: "Charlie's Demons", is basically a 30-minute reprise of the lame John Cusack thriller Identity. Thankfully, it's shorter and bloodier. George Randol stars as an experimental therapist who gathers a group of hotheaded young twentysomethings to a remote cabin in the woods. Before you can say "plot," these kids are getting splattered across the floorboards. Thankfully, the creative gore effects make up for the predictable narrative and fairly amateurish performances (though Randol is appropriately deadpan and creepy as the doc). Favorite bits: One of the unlucky kids gets an axe to the head that's well-timed; and when the hero tries to escape and discovers there's no exit it's a gag straight from your worst fevered anxiety dream (or ripped off from John Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness, perhaps -- but it's still a goodie).

Story #2: "Dennis Frye Vs. The Zombies". I've never been a fan of that subgenre of horror that's best described as rockabilly horror, or maybe schlock-comedy horror, or fraternity horror comedy. Whatever label applies, there was a certain amount of promise in the story of a nerdy convenience store guy (Bill Cassinelli, reprising a role from the original Scary Tales) who falls in love with cute B-movie horror icon Felissa Rose (and who wouldn't?) and, before the night is over, has to defend her from local bullies turned into drooling, mixed up zombies. But since Scary Tales lacks the budget of straight up gore fests like Dead/Alive or even the tame 1980s cult favorite Night of the Creeps, it comes up lacking in the splatter department. The zombies look like grease monkeys and the battle to the death is peppered with unfortunately lame one-liners ("Paper or plastic?" the hero says before dispatching a foe.) This one doesn't deliver where it counts: a creatively gory denouement after the cutesy love story. This one flies at half mast. But, hey, favorite bit: the hero does the "hole in the popcorn container" trick in a movie theater with Ms. Rose, and just when we're ready to drown in repulsion the story takes a turn for the surprising and, dare I say, endearing.

Story #3: "7:23"... a bruiser (Jesse Furman) stops at a hotel and discovers that he cannot leave. Before you can say, "I see dead people," he's confronted by a host of strange denizens that wander the hallways like the walking dead. The cheap office setting (with curtains as a background) really shows the no-budget roots of this thing, but you can't beat the scene where our anti-hero crawls away from the zombie hordes peeking into other rooms where he catches glimpses of all manner of depravity. All right, we've seen it in The Shining, but Scary Tales multiplies that by ten.

What saddens me is that home video really isn't the best way to see movies like Scary Tales, unless you're throwing a party. This straight-to-video crap-o-la comes from a tradition of drive-ins that used to show these films and others from the grindhouse. Those movies made on the cheap had a charm all their own: shoestring budgets, bad acting, kooky special effects, wall-to-wall bloodshed, and the worst lowbrow comedy. But it's not boring. Just the other day I saw that Fred Astaire movie The Band Wagon, where they were singing frantically about the need to provide entertainment. The funny thing is, Scary Tales delivers on those grounds. It's crap, all right. But entertaining crap!



Facts and Figures

Run time: 88 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 1st May 2003

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

IMDB: 4.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: , Michael Hoffman Jr.

Producer: Michael Hoffman Jr.

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

The Edge of Seventeen Movie Review

The Edge of Seventeen Movie Review

An unusually realistic teen movie, this drama gets deep under the skin of its characters,...

Bleed for This Movie Review

Bleed for This Movie Review

This is such a ripping true story that it can't help but grab hold of...

Moana Movie Review

Moana Movie Review

In a clear echo of Frozen, this Disney animated adventure centres on a fiercely independent...

Bad Santa 2 Movie Review

Bad Santa 2 Movie Review

The 2003 comedy Bad Santa is a holiday classic that skilfully mixes gross-out humour with...

Allied Movie Review

Allied Movie Review

There's a terrific script at the heart of this World War II thriller, with a...

A United Kingdom Movie Review

A United Kingdom Movie Review

Based on a powerful true story from the late 1940s, this drama is packed with...

Indignation Movie Review

Indignation Movie Review

Philip Roth's layered novels are a challenge for filmmakers (see also 2003's The Human Stain...

Advertisement
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review

It's been five years since the last Harry Potter movie, and J.K. Rowling has been...

Dog Eat Dog Movie Review

Dog Eat Dog Movie Review

Yet another bonkers thriller starring Nicolas Cage, this trashy crime comedy comes from director Paul...

Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall Movie Review

Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall Movie Review

"Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall" is a DVD...

Arrival Movie Review

Arrival Movie Review

This sci-fi drama has an enjoyably brain-bending plot that leaves the audience almost stunned with...

Elle Movie Review

Elle Movie Review

There's a boldly comical tone to this outrageous thriller that can't help but unnerve audiences...

100 Streets Movie Review

100 Streets Movie Review

A multi-strand drama set in London, this film is very nicely shot and acted, but...

Nocturnal Animals Movie Review

Nocturnal Animals Movie Review

It's been seven years since designer Tom Ford made a splash with his award-winning writing-directing...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.