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

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Finnish artist Tuoko Laaksonen used the name "Tom of Finland" as he drew explicit illustrations...

A Ghost Story Movie Review

A Ghost Story Movie Review

Filmmaker David Lowery reunites the stars from his offbeat Western Ain't Them Bodies Saints for...

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

From the co-director of John Wick, this similarly styled action romp puts Charlize Theron front...

Girls Trip Movie Review

Girls Trip Movie Review

This movie's premise basically sounds like The Hangover with added black girl power. But it's...

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

There's so much manic energy in this animated action comedy that it can't help but...

The Big Sick Movie Review

The Big Sick Movie Review

It may be rather long for a romantic comedy, but this film has such a...

The Emoji Movie Movie Review

The Emoji Movie Movie Review

There's no reason why this animated comedy adventure needed to be this pointless. Solidly entertaining...

Advertisement
England Is Mine Movie Review

England Is Mine Movie Review

While this is billed as a film about The Smiths' singer-songwriter Morrissey, it's actually an...

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Movie Review

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Movie Review

It's been 20 years since French filmmaker Luc Besson shook up the sci-fi genre with...

Dunkirk Movie Review

Dunkirk Movie Review

Britain's epic 1940 evacuation of Dunkirk has been dramatised on film before, but no one...

Killing Ground Movie Review

Killing Ground Movie Review

From Australia, this dark and edgy thriller is skilfully made by writer-director Damien Power to...

City of Ghosts Movie Review

City of Ghosts Movie Review

This award-winning documentary plays like a thriller as it traces the work of a group...

Cars 3 Movie Review

Cars 3 Movie Review

It's been six years since the last Cars movie (there were two Planes movies in...

The Beguiled Movie Review

The Beguiled Movie Review

In her inimitable loose style, Sofia Coppola remakes the 1971 Clint Eastwood movie from a...

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.