I recall seeing part of this film, the Tell-Tale Heart in 2013, at the Terror Film Festival, in Philadelphia, PA, however it was not the first time I’ve seen his work, in fact I even had the opportunity to meet Bart Mastronardi, a fantastic director, who captures wonderful images, a steady and orchestrated maestro behind the camera and blends everything. He’s an award winning director, cinematographer, producer and writer most noted before this film, Tales of Poe for his award grabbing Vindication (2006). Once again, Bart and Alan Rowe Kelly team together to bring the horror genre another creepy quality story, a collection of stories for a very good anthology movie, with many horror stars filling out the cast, and Michael Varrati also assists in the writing duties. The incredibly talented horror icon Debbie Rochon serves as the narrator, a common aspect in anthologies. Likely even more surprising for the horror fans, comes the distribution company, Wild Eye Releasing in 2016, a firm known for primary lower budget movies, and while the cost for Bart’s movie indeed was small, never effected the production values by any means, sadly only available only in standard DVD. Meanwhile, Wild Eye, in general hinting of launching a new line of higher graded films, fret not fans their core still intact of releasing those special movies.
It was great to view the first chapter of Tales of Poe, again now as a full compete film, with ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ starts with a silent-film actress, (Alan Rowe Kelly) Miss Lamarr, aging disastrously, looking into her mirror covered in dust. The mirror plays as part of the set in many manners by showing that it shows lies, hatred, and distortions, and with the dust the continuous element of one’s heartbeat fading, just as one’s life. While the first story generates a haunting, charm it also features Lesleh Donaldson (Happy Birthday to Me) as a fellow patient and Desiree Gould (Sleepaway Camp) as a nurse.
The second segment based on “The Cask of Amontillado,” starred, written and directed by Alan Rowe Kelly, involves a wine connoisseur Fortunato Montresor (Randy Jones) and his new bride, Gogo (Kelly), celebrate their marriage giving their guests a tour of the maze of cellars. The tale shows the greed and lust of many, the power and depravity of wealth, creeping into the darkness of their world and each soul present. Kelly makes interesting blend of some campy displays from the set design to dialogue and thus crossing over the crisp drippings of horror and black humor.
Varrati’s “Dreams” enters as the third and final chapter and directed by Mastronardi, based from the “A Dream within a Dream” poem first published in 1849 which is only 24 lines long and broken into two stanzas. It also shows the diverse materials used in the Tales of Poe, not restricting themselves to the more popular stories, thereby using poem, a bold and ambitious venture. While the story blurs the worlds of reality and dreams, it also must address time, fleeting and uncontrollable. The short includes performances by Caroline Williams (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2), and from Friday the 13th franchise fame Adrienne King and Amy Steel as the Angel, Queen, and Mother of Dreams, respectively. Blurring the line between dream and reality, and creating the most expressionism story the visuals and sounds might exceed the normal tolerance for many horror fans, but for those that endure the end results a positive experience.
Mastronardi’s vision explores realms that fill the screen and each audience member with suspense just as if the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, was on set, with a measured amount of gore. Bart brings a great twist and challenge unlike others before him; he pulls a powerful switch of sex, presenting a female perspective while staying true to Poe’s tale. In addition, the reasoning of uses of women characters in this manner; comes from the idea to breakdown the common trait that in the horror genre, women are just accessories, and a resting sport for the fodder of T&A, but Bart provides deeper roles that gives the genre and the film depth and acceptance by women fans and industry actress.
A modernized approach to the Poe stories, which often find themselves used in shorts or greatly enhance with gothic qualities of Roger Corman, and to Bart into that same breath. The dedicated Poe readers will find pleasure in this production, though not without a few faults, the final short takes repeat views to understand all the expressionism occurring on the screen. Some critics and fans of the scream queens who starred in this movie had larger roles, however I believe the reason they had smaller roles, as the tales not about them personally, rather on stories themselves literally orchestrated their own souls. One of the sets used in the movie comes at Lambert Castle in Paterson, New Jersey, a location, which Bart and his crew worked over creating good visuals and allows the location to speak volumes.
Anthology films finally become an acceptable form of entertainment in the horror genre, with fans seeking out new filmmakers, tiring of the standard-bearers of the industry and that the stories work to pack a punch with limited budgets, hence more precision storytelling. The charm of the entire movie excels well, especially learning Bart’s movie earned numerous nominations and awards. Most in the horror realm, know of Poe’s work, read the stories often, fondly recalling Vincent Price’s gothic performances, but like all things in the genre a time to move must occur, and while rebooting frowned upon, a retelling accepted graciously.