Saturday, March 15, 2008

Tales from the Grave, Volume 2: Happy Holidays – review


Director: Stephanie Beaton

Release Date: 2005

Contains spoilers

This is a portmanteau film containing five stories, the first of which is vampiric. It is the second volume of the series and the DVD has both volumes. The director is Stephanie Beaton who was a principle actor in Witchcraft X: Mistress of the Craft. After the plain facts let me just say that this is a perfect example of why you should not trust imbd scores. Why? Well, let’s see, Blade Runner (one of my favourite non-vampire movies) gets 8.3 out of 10 – a respectable score. This turkey gets 8 out of 10. Okay, it only has 11 voters (compared to Blade Runner's 130,080), which can obviously skew results especially if all those who score it are connected with the film… I suspect this is the case as anyone who thinks that this deserves a similar score to Blade Runner needs their head seeing to (scores correct at time of posting).

Now perhaps I am being a wee bit too harsh. Nah… To be fair the vampire section is probably one of, if not the, better sections but generically we get poor dialogue, bad acting, poor effects, ineffectual plotting (where plotting takes place) and a camcorder filming style. The whole thing is introduced by the old crone (Beverly Beaton) a sub-crypt keeper, held indistinct in silhouette with the delivery ability of a brick and volume low-lights include the leprechaun section with some of the worst Irish accents ever attempted. As for the vampire section…

Hobart as a vampireLove Bites tells the story of Hobart (Leo Fenwick) a nerd who believes himself to be a vampire. He is holding a vampire party for Valentine’s Day and has invited Maria (Felicia Lamberton) along. She is obviously a friend whom he wants to meet a bloke (hence inviting her). For her part she thinks that his belief that he is a vampire is lame – though I would say not as lame as his costume.

fang shotWe cut to a cupboard where a male vampire, later we discover he is called Seth (Thomas Crnkovich), is biting a woman. The guys outside think some rumpy pumpy is going on. Actually the bite scene worked quite well, due to the darkness of the shots and the close cut shot of blood and fangs did work.

wall flowerHobart tries to convince Maria that the party drinks are blood, but she won’t be fooled by glasses of tomato juice, no sir. Hobart then tries it on with a couple of girls and strikes out. The approaches are painful to watch, yes he is a nerd and inept with woman but the dialogue and acting was poor. For her part Maria stands alone, repelling one approach by a guy.

Thomas Crnkovich as SethSuddenly Seth walks in and Maria sees him and makes a bee-line to him. Now one of the reasons this section works better than the others is because Crnkovich has a natural presence. He looks the part of the vampire and you can actually buy into the fact that Maria is attracted to him. She tells him she wants him and he bites her in the middle of the room.

vamp outHobart comes over wanting to know who Seth is and both Seth and Maria vamp out. For some reason Seth blows smoke out of mouth and note the drawn on veins. Hobart has finally met a vampire and discovered that they are a dangerous breed. They decide to decimate the party, the doors closing and locking themselves, trapping the party goers. This, of course, is convenient.

victimWe get a short sequence of attacks. Seth uses his nails to kill rather than his teeth (probably, one assumes, because of the one bite turns issues). The action in this sequence is poor but the use of red lighting serves to hide the joins in the effects making them fairly effective.

crosses don't workOnly Hobart is left and he holds up a cross. Poor Hobart, crosses don’t work. He is killed and the vampires fly out in full-on, animated, crap bat mode. That, as they say, is it and here is another problem with this section (and the others in this volume). There is no real twist; a short set up leads to slaughter. Full stop. The art of the Portmanteau film, to me, is to make a short film that has an unusual aspect or twist to it (they actually manage that in some of the stories featured in the first volume, though the volume is just as poor as this in every other respect).

This, as I say, is the best of the volume(s). What makes it is judicial lighting hiding/enhancing the effects and the presence of Crnkovich. When I score these type of films I only score the vampire section and this gets 1.5 out of 10. There is no story that would allow a higher score, despite the faults, and the positive aspects do not push it higher. As this (probably) is the best section you can tell how good the rest is. However, a more representative score than that on imdb, but you can check that yourself by going here.

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