Tuesday, August 21, 2018

DEADTIME STORIES (1986) (88 Films Blu-ray Review)


Label: 88 Films 
Region Code: B
Duration: 83 Minutes 
Rating: Cert. 18 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Mono 1.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Jeffrey Delman
Cast: Matt Mitler, Cathryn de Prume, Melissa Leo, Nicole Picard, Scott Valentine, Michael Mesmer

Synopsis: In the creepy compendium style of CREEPSHOW (1982) comes DEADTIME STORIES (1986) a collection of stories with teeth and torment that are sure to send chills down the spines of viewers even today! A sleazy and shocking pack of splatter fairy tales - this contemporary spin on the likes of "Little Red Riding Hood" has gore aplenty, a sick sense of humour and enough splattered limbs to make for essential late night viewing. Directed by genre veteran Jeffrey Delman and packed full of plastic fantastic charms, 88 Films is enthusiastic about keeping you up at night with this perfectly restored version of a VHS classic!

Deadtime Stories (1986) is a low-budget horror anthology that has a certain regional feel about it, shot by college kids between '82-'85, it feels a bit cheap, but it's fun, sort of silly, a little macabre, hokey and loaded with plenty of DIY charm. It's probably not gonna be for everyone but if you're the adventurous type who craves bite-sized horror with heart there's a lot here to love. 

Like any good anthology we have wrap-around story that frames the segments and bookends the movie, wherein a young boy named Brian (Brian DePersia) is being babysat by his Uncle Mike (Michael Mesmer), who just wants to couch surf with a few beers and some softcore nudie films on skinemax as soon as the kid goes to sleep. This kid, however, has an overactive imagination and worries there might be monsters is in his room waiting to pounce once the lights go out. He begs his uncle to read him bedtime story so the grown-up conjures up a few stories off the top of his head, and they're pretty gruesome for someone trying to coerce a kid into falling asleep. 

First up is "The Black Forrest", a tale of two witchy sisters who have a boy slave named Peter (Scott Valentine, TV's Family Ties), they task him with luring villagers to their cabin in the woods where they kill and use their body parts to cast a spell in hopes of locating and resurrecting their long dead third sister witch. A local Lothario is the first victim, lured and entranced by the witches, believing the rotten toothed witches to be sexy maidens, he loses a hand before dying when they apply a burning liquid to his wrist. The second intended victim is a cute maiden living in the woods, but lustful Peter begins to take a liking to her and things begin to sour for the witches. 

The special effects and atmosphere on this one are cheap but fun, the severed hand and resurrection scenes are lo-fi b-movie magic-making, but some of witchy make-up appliances leave a bit to be desired, as do the set dressing, but this one is not without its charm, but it is my least favorite of the three stories here.  

The second story is "Little Red Running Hood" which offers up a werewolf story, wherein  Rachel (Nicole Picard, Ghoulies Go to College) is a fine-looking young woman living with her granny. She and her boyfriend meet in an old tool shack and mutually lose their virginity to each other, which is awesome, however, back at grannies house there was a mix-up at the pharmacy and the old woman got her prescription refill mixed-up with one for a guy named Willie (Matt Mitler, The Mutilator), who just happens to be a werewolf. He seems like an alright guy, aside from those rocker leather pants he's wearing, and that prescription, for sedatives, is the only thing preventing him from becoming a snarling hairy beast. He tracks grannie down with the best of intentions but she doesn't want to trade prescripts with him, leading to him wolfing out in front of her house when the sun goes down. 

Due to what is surely a budget constraint the werewolf transformation is mostly hinted at, but what we do get is pretty decent, a bulging sternum, canine incisors popping out, but the final werewolf look is only just okay, not great. The finished wolf is humanoid with a hairy facial transformation with clawed, hairy hands... and those tight leather pants! This one is fun, it lacks direction and the editing is wonky, but that final line uttered by Rachel had me howling, so good and cheesy. 

The third and final story is "Goldi Lox and the Three Baers" featuring Ma Ma Baer (Melissa Leo, TV's Wayward Pines) as the matriarch of a trio of oddball bank robbers. At the start she is breaking her husband and son out of the loony bin, and they immediately rob a bank and drive out to their former residence to lay low for a bit, only to find that a pretty, young telekinetic serial killer named Goldi Lox (Cathryn de Prume, Wild) has taken up living there. The young woman has  acquired quite a stockpile of dead would-be suitors, but her telekinetic powers makes her a formidable addition to the crime family. 

The three stories are fun, lo-fi and not all that inspiring, but I love these regional cheesy horror anthologies, I like the goofy wrap-around story, and I like the amateur can-do attitude of the whole thing, this is a fun late-night b-movie watch. Yeah, the lack of a budget shows throughout but its got a lot of heart. I also love the soundtrack, which was written and performed by director Jef Delman with music by former porno composer Larry Juris (Deep Inside Annie Sprinkle), I sort of wish this had a bonus CD of just for those four songs, they're a lot of fun. Delman didn't go onto direct much, this was his first of only three films, but you can see the cast and crew had a lot of fun making it, making this anthology cheapie a low-rent good time.  

Audio/Video: Deadtime Stories (1986) arrives on Blu-ray in the UK from 88 Films as part of their 88 Vault Series, a 2K scan straight from the original 35mm camera negative. Grain is nicely managed and not overwhelming, the colors are nicely saturated, and the black levels are nice and deep. Audio on the disc comes by way of a DTS-HD MA Stere0 2.0 track, dialogue and score sound good, the synth heavy score comes through with some good decent depth, including that memorable opening theme song which name checks Romero, Hitchcock and De Palma, like the movie itself the tunes are sort of goofy but also fun. The lone audio knock I levee against it is some odd audio distortion for a few seconds during the "The Black Forrest" segment, optional English subtitles are provided. 

Extras on the disc are plentiful and seem to be carried over from the U.S. release from Scream Factory, beginning with a solo audio commentary from director Jeffrey Delman, plus a 16-min interview with him, in which he speaks about the genesis o the film, settling on the horror genre as a commercially viable option, the producer's connection to the film Nightmare, working with and casting Valentine and Leo, who both studied with the same acting teacher, also mentioning they had to shoot around Leo's broken arm in her segment.    

The extras also provide a VHS-sourced alternate cut of the first story segment 'The Black Forest', which plays a bit differently, having been planned as a possible stand alone feature at one point during the production. There are two brief deleted scenes with introduction from Delman, theatrical trailers and a an image gallery of various home video releases, stills, storyboards, and behind-the-scenes stuff. 

The single-disc release comes in a clear oversized Blu-ray keepcase with a sleeve of reversible artwork featuring alternate artwork options which I appreciate, plus a limited edition slipcover.

As I own the U.S. release of this film on Blu-ray/DVD combo from Scream Factory it's worth noting that that  the extras are nearly identical, the lone exception is the absence of 16-min extra that appears on the U.S. release  - that being 'Band of Gypsies: The Making of Deadtime Stories' with interviews from actors Cathryn de Prume, Melissa Leo and Scott Valentine, otherwise these are identical. On the plus side the 88 Films release comes with several non-disc extras, we get a booklet with new writing on horror anthologies from Dr. Calum Waddell, a reversible sleeve of artwork and a sweet slipcover.  

Special features:
- 2K Scan from the Original Negative
-  Audio Commentary with co-writer/director Jeffrey Delman
- I Like the Grotesque – an interview with co-writer/director Jeffrey Delman (16 min) HD 
- The Black Forest – An alternate cut of the first story (30 min)
- Deleted Scenes with Intro (3 min)
- Theatrical Trailers (3 min)
- Still Gallery (4 min) 
- Limited Edition Booklet Notes by Dr. Calum Waddell
- Reversible Sleeve with Alternate Artwork
- Limited Edition Slipcover 

Deadtime Stories (1986) is a spunky slice of regional American horror, an anthology that comes up a bit short but offers up macabre chuckles and spine-tingling hokum in equal measure, glad to see it getting a proper UK Blu-ray with some cool extras and nice packaging from 88 Films, a solid release with nice shelf appeal. 

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