I first heard about the horror anthology Terror Tales when I interviewed Laurene Landon when she mentioned upcoming projects (read that interview here). Other than likely including several stand alone stories of horror – after all, that is what makes an anthology – I had no idea what to expect with this film. While this low-budget Creepshow-esque feature is far from perfect, there were many enjoyable moments, with writer and director Jimmy Lee Combs’ (Beautiful Scar 2012) passion for ’80s horror bleeding through from scene to scene.
Setting the stage for the wraparound story, Terror Tales opens with a nameless man (Christopher Showerman: Big Game) abducting Michael (J. Giordano: Justice League Dawn of Apokolips) and his family. For some unknown reason, this scenario reminded me of Kurt Russell’s ’90s thriller, Breakdown. However, whereas Russell portrayed a man who went to great lengths to find his kidnapped wife, Michael merely needs to look behind the moving truck in which he awakens to find a cargo trailer trailing behind. Startled to find himself riding shotgun with his abductor behind the wheel, he learns that his wife and daughter are tied up in said cargo trailer, which is rigged to fill with deadly gas set to go off with the flip of a switch. More accurately, this gas will cause “involuntary reactions that resembles twerking” before killing Michael’s family. This is one of many lines that pokes fun at today’s generational culture suggesting Combs’ wish for the good ‘ol pre-digital days. I can’t say he’s the only one, as I, too, miss the excitement of visiting a video store. But I digress.
“…classically influenced originality”
Anyway, Michael is forced to listen to three horror stories told by this psychopath, a part which Showerman completely owns. Driving to an unknown destination, Mr. Psycho dives into his first story, entitled “By Proxy,” and starring cult horror favorite Lynn Lowry (Shivers, The Crazies). While the overdone CGI threatens to drag this segment down, Lowry gives a great performance as a divorced horror author who is accused of killing her son. With a twist and elements giving an Ebenezer Scrooge/Christmas Carol vibe, this portion of Terror Tales gets points for classically influenced originality and a haunting conclusion symbolizing a personal Hell.
Lowry isn’t the only cult horror star in this three part anthology. Giving an excellent portrayal as a delusional basketcase with a touch of humor is Laurene Landon (Maniac Cop) in a story called “Radical Video.” This not-so-subtle throwback to the ’80s centers on events surrounding a busy video store as a psychotic killer stalks, kidnaps and bludgeons victims with a sledgehammer. The story and use of practical effects makes this segment stand out as an homage to the heyday of slasher films fans of the genre can appreciate, and the appearance of the Maniac Cop cult star just seems fitting.
The third and final tale, entitled “Epidemic,” doubles down on cult horror star power, featuring performances by Ari Lehman (Friday the 13th 1980), Felissa Rose (Sleepaway Camp) and Yan Birch (The People Under the Stairs). Driven mad by the execution of his possessed wife and blamed for her death, Pastor James (Thomas Fears: Reaper: Chapter 2 2019) is recruited by the Vatican to stop a plague of demonic possession that has unleashed itself upon the world. While the conclusion becomes slightly confusing, it is a unique end of times story that serves as fun homage blend of films such as The Exorcist and Evil Dead.
While I do believe a chronicle centering around a motiveless antagonist most certainly has its place in horror, I felt a brief backstory behind the wraparound story’s abductor could have elevated Terror Tales immensely. Connecting the tales through a cleverly placed plot accompanied by a twist on the narrative side of things can do wonders for a anthology such as this. Other than this complaint, there are some issues with rough editing and a moment or two that didn’t quite translate to the screen.
Regardless of the shortcomings, Terror Tales is a fun homage encompassing a wide range of horror from zombies, demonic possession, serial killers and a haunting afterlife. Fans of ’80s and ’90s cult horror will also love seeing favorite familiar faces grace the screen in this indie film that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Indie fans who dig this type of throwback horror anthology can check Terror Tales out when it hits VOD January 8th and see a clip from the film itself right here.