Tom Holland is a heralded horror filmmaker, having both Child’s Play and Fright Night on his résumé, but you wouldn’t know that from his FearNet web series turned anthology horror film, Tom Holland’s Twisted Tales. Stringing together nine whimpering stories of obscurity, stale plotting, poorly budgeted production, and regrettable acting from so many genre stars, I can’t express how utterly disappointing each segment becomes. Thinking of each short as some cheap webisode content for publicity purposes, getting Holland’s name out while FearNet promotes a legendary horror talent, quality lacks drive and ambition, as similar productions like Zombie Roadkill outshine Holland’s feeble attempts. Eliminating the point of owning this release, you can watch all these “twisted tales” over on FearNet – and even then I wouldn’t recommend it.
These nine tales of “terror” span numerous subgenres, from werewolves, to magic mirrors, to deals with the devil, and even a murderous iPad – but each one feels derivative of already existing horror lore. Some stories only provide technological updates on existing storytelling, while others – ugh, alright, I’m going through with it. I was debating whether or not to attack each short story, or provide just a brief overview, but each segment possesses its own major deterrent – I can’t possibly not share the love. Don’t worry, I’ll keep my ranting brief, but let’s do this!
Fred & His GPS
Here’s a real snoozer to start out on – Fred (AJ Bowen) just killed his wife. He’s now driving to the airport in search of a one way ticket to wherever the hell he won’t get arrested. Who does he ask for help? His GPS – which starts psychologically torturing him with guilt. Yes, a man starts going crazy and talking to his GPS, inevitably hearing his dead wife. Don’t get me wrong, I love Bowen, but his talents are wasted on a tired, bothersome story with an ending more obvious than a road flare. Seriously, an evil GPS system – talk about starting off on the wrong foot.
To Hell With You
Another simple affair – Danielle Harris has a fight with her boyfriend, meets a demon in William Forsythe, and she debates selling her soul in exchange for her ex-lover’s life. What that really means is William Forsythe implements this cartoonish, gangster accent and points at things to make them happen, while Danielle Harris makes me wonder what the hell she’s doing in this bit. Holland also shows his budget on this one, as Forsythe brings Harris to Hell – a basement staircase with brutally distracting animated fire covering up the obvious nature of the staircase leading to a basement. Seems like the effects were implemented by first-time Photoshop users ambitious enough to give Final Cut a stab.
If the lackluster graphics weren’t off-putting enough, again we’re presented with a story devoid of any real climax, horror, or intrigue, as Forsythe just points away Harris’ problem. C’mon Tom, Forsythe is playing an ‘effing demon – the most creative death you can muster is a two second heart attack?! Luckily “To Hell With You” runs pretty briskly, so at least this torture is over quick. Pass.
What happens when an honorably discharged bomb defuser thinks his girlfriend is cheating on him? He lures his best friend into an explosive trap in an attempt to uncover the truth, putting numerous lives in danger. A cool concept of sorts, right? We get some Rube Goldberg detonation device and some actual tension, right? Again, not really. The scenario starts out with promise, but once all the characters start screaming about a birthday party, an inevitable downhill slalom begins until reaching an explosively comical ending once again ruined by terrible, shoddy animation. Ever wanted to see a clip-art “object” explode? No, but you’ll see it anyway in “Boom!”
Mongo’s Magick Mirror
Good golly I couldn’t wait until this short was over – completely unrelated to Ray Wise’s performance. I love Ray Wise. I can’t get enough Ray Wise. What killed “Mongo’s Magick Mirror” was a try-hard performance by character Dunstin Dynamite, a rookie magician with a greedy mentality. He wants a special mirror that Ray Wise obtained with dimension-exploring powers, but the mirror doesn’t particularly want to leave. This could have been a curiously fun entry, but Dunstin’s credibility eviscerating presence sucks any ounce of atmosphere like a scene killing vacuum – accompanied by virtual pop-up book CG worlds that relate more to children’s shows. Please, never show me Dunstin Dynamite again.
One of the more passable segments was “Bite,” a take on salvia that turns people into ferocious werewolves. Stoners turning into monsters, OK Tom Holland, you’ve got me here. Oh look, there’s some blood this time, and a tiny bit of gore, everything seems to be going swimmingly – OH WHAT THE HELL?! WHY ARE THERE MULTI-SECOND PAUSES EVERY TIME A WEREWOLF IS ABOUT TO BITE INTO A CHARACTER?
Yes, in an attempt to cover up the absolute lack of practical effects, every time a werewolf goes to bite someone, the camera freezes, we hear this lame crunching sound, and a stream of fake CG blood squirts across the screen. If you know me, you know how vehemently I detest animated gore, and “Bite” is a sad, shameless offender. Forget the future telling mumbo jumbo, this segment is all bark…and no bite. [Insert picture of David Caruso putting sunglasses on.]
Welcome to Tom Holland’s Twisted Tales, Angela Bettis! Maybe you can save us from another – no? You’ll just participate in a flat apocalyptic thriller about a room that can save your from green dust? Oh, sorry, “nuclear EMP waves” or something of that nature rolling over cities, not green dust – even though that’s the only imagery manageable. Essentially, there are five people fighting for two spots in a panic room closet that can save them from impending doom (hopefully). Why you’d have a panic room built for protection from anti-electric pulses, or why that room would have holes in it, that’s all beyond me – but there’s a bit of psychological deviousness at play. Best friends turning on one another for survival, that’s something original, right? Oh, and that ending, OHHHH that ending. No chills, no thrills, and no amount of fairy dust in the world to make us forget.
Finally, after sitting through six increasingly annoying horror shorts, I FINALLY stumbled upon enjoyable filmmaking with “Cached.” Depicting an online killer who uses technology to hunt his prey, one man attempts to flee an invisible that’s stalker supposedly coming to kill him. Using FaceTime capable devices to communicate, the haunting killer chases our sticky-fingered victim anywhere he goes, like a viral game of hide and sneak – with deadly implications. A cool concept, and one that Holland properly exploits for humor and terror. Our invisible killer sports an 80s mentality that enjoys tormenting his victims, heightening levels of horror fun, plus Holland FINALLY gets around to slitting some throats and spilling some gory goodness. Maybe Twisted Tales could go out with a bang?
The Pizza Guy
Don’t get too excited, because “The Pizza Guy” is next – a heretic story about one girl’s attempt to summon Satan and contact her dead sister. Guess how Satan shows up – as a freakin’ pizza delivery boy with a surfer dude accent, red jacket uniform, and revealing short shorts. Holland tries to deceive us by showing Lucifer as a teenage kid most of the short, but his futile attempt is silly and drawn out – just like “The Pizza Guy.”
Running at an excruciating thirty-four minutes, the novelty of Satan holding some ‘zza and begging for a tip wears off after no more than five minutes, yet Holland introduces chapter after chapter of nonsense, prolonging the inevitable. Honestly, “The Pizza Guy” could have been a winner had all the fat been trimmed, but instead our lead character’s satanic phone call connects nothing but static. What’s the saying, thirty minutes or it’s free? Well I want my money back, for sure.
Finally, an end to all this madness, and what a downer to go out on. “Vampire’s Dance” is exactly that – a woman goes to find her friend at a dance club where everyone turns out to be vampires. That’s it. She walks in, people are dancing, she looks around, there are confusing flashbacks to the night before, then everyone turns into vampires and starts sucking blood. Oh yeah, Holland narrates the whole thing from a mirror, because vampire can’t see their reflection (what wit!) – which makes me feel like Holland thought of that gimmick and based a story simply around such a narrative tactic. There’s no story here, no plot, just a forgettable From Dusk Till Dawn rip-off and some dancing vampires. Seriously, this club sucks.
Tom Holland’s Twisted Tales is an abysmal horror anthology put together like a scrapbook of ideas that could have been, questionably executed with budgetary restrictions reminiscent of a high school musical. Not the movie High School Musical, I mean like the fundraising money earned from a theatrical bake sale. I’m not sure if you can call this production a passion project, because I can’t exactly find much passion anywhere. Characters are wooden and poorly acted, plots are paper thin and barely expanded, the entire ordeal lacks a single true moment of gripping horror, and each segment dismally fights for “Worst of the Worst” honors – I’m talking dreadfully lacking any exuberant life. Tom Holland has made good movies before, I promise – this just isn’t one of them.