Chemical Burn Entertainment presents Tales of the Dead, a horror anthology written and directed by Kemal Yildirim.
The film starts on Halloween night with a traditional framing device as five friends gather to drink, snack, and tell scary stories. A slight modern twist has the stories coming straight from burned DVDs, but for the most part, Tales of the Dead holds onto its formula with a 1980s throwback style.
In the first segment, “Less Is More,” a middle aged woman struggles to find any meaning in life when she secretly (or not so much) longs to go under full body amputation. Actress Caroline Nash brings a solid grounding to the story, making it surprisingly haunting and oddly believable. As twisted as it is, Less Is More stands as the one narrative that could easily be expanded into a fascinating full length film.
Unfortunately, the remaining stories never quite rise to its level. “Wolf Cry” follows a 19 year old slacker obsessed with horror movies, whose fantasies eventually take him to a murky zombie climax. The acting and style are decent, with director Yildirim going all out to capture the manic energy of our protagonist, but the plot never finds its footing and before we know it or start to really care, it ends.
Next comes Penance, a giallo-style detective story about a recovering alcoholic investigating the case of a sadistic serial rapist-killer. The premise is there, but Penance feels too story-heavy for its 10 minute running time, trying too hard to cram in a damaged protagonist with a cat-and-mouse hunt.
Last is Missing, a found footage yarn about a group of friends on an ill-fated ghost-hunt. When done poorly, shaky cam style does little but give its audience a headache and sadly, that’s the case here.
Like most horror anthologies, Tales of the Dead is a mixed bag, offering some genuinely haunting ideas amidst others that fall flat. The film does a nice job of capturing the spirit of low budget ‘80s collections with a grainy spare-no-one attitude, but it peaks too soon with Less Is More and never comes close to matching that intrigue. Filmmaker Yildirim does indeed show a solid foundation of horror potential, so let’s hope he continues to develop his combination of old school nostalgia and gruesome modern storytelling with tighter execution.