I have long been a fan of short films, especially in the horror genre. As with their literary counterparts, a short film can deliver with a simple yet effective punch in exchange for a mere few minutes viewing time. Beyond the film festivals I have been lucky enough to attend, which provide a wonderful platform to show these laconic motion pictures, there are not many opportunities in which to become acquainted with the short horror film.

So when I received an intriguing DVD called George A. Romero Presents Deadtime Stories Volume 1 I turned down the lights and ensured I was sitting comfortably…

Before looking at the three actual movies that make up this little anthology there is an operative word in the DVD’s title. The legendary Horror maestro Mr Romero does exactly what he says on the cover and not much else! His quirky black humoured introductions, which hark back to his 1982 effort CREEPSHOW, are his major input, though he is credited as executive producer on a couple of the films. The main creative force being the discs contents is a gentleman called Jeff Monahan. I was vaguely familiar with Mr Monahan from his involvement in previous Romero outings such as 1990’s Two Evil Eyes and Dark Half. What I was unaware of is the fact that he is an ex-cop who used to specialize in ‘undercover narcotics’ who joined the acting game relatively late in life. The former member of Pennsylvania’s finest wrote all three episodes that feature on the disc, along with directing one and starring in another. But as you will discover, his efforts were upstaged from another man who is horror folklore…

The first film Valley of the Shadow, directed by Monahan, focuses on Angela, an explorer who lost her beloved husband (also an explorer) in bizarre circumstances in a previous expedition. She eventually gets granted the funds to search for an exotic new fruit and plant and in doing so gets the chance to retrace his steps in order to finally unravel the macabre mystery of his death. In true Cannibal Holocaust style, complete with South American tour guide, off she sets. With a few shrewdly placed dollops of gore to oil the cogs of the narrative, its only takes 20 minutes for us to indulge in her evil revelations…

Next up is an offering from director Michael Fischa called WET. When an alcoholic beachcomber (Monahan) finds an obscure piece of jade, he tries to cash in at Swann’s Antiques. However, the dealer Swann, (Nick Mancuso) warns him that there is more to the rock that meets the eye. What follows is a nightmarish tale of malevolent mermaids! Again the piece has a few nasty moments especially for male viewers. I won’t spoil it, but guys - I dare you not to cross your legs toward the end of this one!!

Finally, and for me the highlight of the trio, is a mini movie directed by none other than special effects guru Tom Savini, called HOUSECALL. Savini buffs may well have seen this effort before as it was made way back in 2004. I loved the aesthetics of this little vampire story involving an ageing doctor and a middle-aged mother concerned about her sons strange illness. There was a great mix of colours that would probably been a little tedious in a full length movie, but in its shorter format, it worked a treat.

Opulent smatterings of crimson were accentuated against backdrops drained of colour to appear almost black and white. With a good pace topped off with a vital twist, Savini can be proud of this little movie, even though his skilled hands remained firmly on the camera and NOT in the special effects kitchen!

The package had its pros and cons as far as I could see. There were some original ideas but for me it was all a little too uniformed in their neat 20 minute designs which ran almost to the second! I couldn’t help but be reminded of the made for television series which cashed in on the Elm Street franchise entitled Freddy’s Nightmares. It’s true that, along with some reasonable gore, Romero’s tales have superior cinematography making them short films and not a TV series but I couldn’t help feeling it was more likely to be perceived as fiendish fun, rather than keep you awake at night.

With a lot of Horror Fests handing out awards to independently made short films, I would love to see a distributor take a chance and assemble these more obscure titles into a compilation to be showcased on DVD. But for now, Romero’s hack-a-nory will have to do…. Sleep tight!!!

Review by Marc Lissenburg

Released by Lions Gate Home Entertainment
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review