Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Slaughter Tales VHS Inspired Horror Anthology (2012)

Sitting down to review SLAUGHTER TALES – Johnny Dickie’s VHS-inspired, shot-on-video love letter to trashy low-budget horror cinema – is not an easy task.

Sure, I could slam it for looking cheap and amateurish. But guess what? It was made by a teenager for about $65 and looks only slightly worse than, say, BOARDING HOUSE.

I could definitely complain that it’s often confusing, frequently stupid and occasionally terrible. Then again, the flick’s protagonist (played, naturally, by Dickie) refers to the film-within-a-film as “a pile of shit” and laments that “something tells me this is going to suck” while another character sports a t-shirt that reads “This Movie is Terrible”.

In other words, SLAUGHTER TALES is largely review-proof, a fact that might annoy the hell out of me if I didn’t get such a kick out of its frequently-successful attempts to meld such influences as Lucio Fulci, Andreas Schnaas and Sam Raimi.

The mayhem starts when a teen (Dickie) steals a tape titled SLAUGHTER TALES from a neighborhood garage sale. Despite warnings from a spectre who appears in his bathtub and informs him that the tape is cursed – as well as his own gut feeling that he’s in for a rough 90 minutes – the kid pops in the VHS.

What follows is a horror anthology film-within-a-film interspersed with Dickie’s own observations about what he/we have just witnessed, many of which are so harshly critical that I found myself defending the flick to the on-screen director! Like I said, it’s pretty review-proof – Uwe Boll could learn a lesson or two from this kid.

Eventually, the tape’s contents bleed from the reel world into Johnnie’s as we’re treated to corroding hands, hacked-off appendages, decapitations, NIGHT OF THE CREEPS-style slug creatures, eye violence, demonic possession and a nod to Schnaas’ VIOLENT SHIT franchise.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not about to praise SLAUGHTER TALES as some must-see masterpiece. There are long rough stretches, it’s occasionally hard to tell where the movie-within-a-movie ends, the reliance on “fuck” grows tiresome, and the whole thing probably could have been chopped down to a more user-friendly 75 to 80 minutes without losing any of its impact. (The jokey epilogue featuring notorious ham and Troma honcho Lloyd Kaufman feels especially expendable.)

That said, one can’t help but marvel at what Dickie accomplished with a budget that goes well below “micro”, a cast that seems to be made up mostly of the director, and a reliance on nothing but practical, old school effects (including at least one makeup gag gone wrong).

I’m definitely looking forward to checking out his latest feature – CITY OF THE DREAM DEMONS – in the hopes that Dickie is somebody to keep an eye on. I can’t help but be reminded of THE DEAD NEXT DOOR’s J.R. Bookwalter and his lengthy career as a writer, director and producer, though something tells me that Dickie is more likely to deliver ambitious, over-the-top horror a la Brian Paulin (BONE SICKNESS, CRYPTIC PLASM).

In an era when most kids his age have microscopic attention spans and a what-can-you-do-for-me sense of entitlement, Johnny Dickie gets a ton of respect for putting his $65 where his mouth is and delivering something more than a YouTube clip or viral video to share with friends.

Plus, I can’t help but dig any movie with a line like “you’re not my friend, you’re just an unholy fucktard!”. – Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor is the editor/publisher of Exploitation Retrospect and a total sucker for horror anthologies. This review first appeared in our super-sized 30th anniversary issue, still available at Amazon.

SLAUGHTER TALES is available from Amazon.

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