Tales of Poe (2014)
Directed by Bart Mastronardi and Alan Rowe Kelly.
Written by Alan Rowe Kelly, Bart Mastronardi and Michael Varrati
Starring Caroline Williams, Debbie Rochon and Adrienne King.
Out Oct 11th 2016 from Wild Eye!!
“Based on the classic works of Edgar Allan Poe – a unique spin on three of Poe’s popular stories (The Tell Tale Heart, Cask of Amontillado & Dreams). Directors Bart Mastronardi & Alan Rowe Kelly weave together a compelling and suspenseful anthology that will captivate Poe enthusiasts and horror fans alike!”
I will always hold my hand up and admit to being a fan of Poe. As a writer I’m indebted to the legacy he’s left behind with exemplary works from genres such as murder mystery, the emerging genre of science fiction and, of course, horror. And it’s because of this passion for Poe that I was so keen to look at this film. I love Poe and firmly believe his stories deserve to be reimagined for contemporary audiences.
And, in two thirds of the stories presented here, that reimagining is thoroughly enjoyable.
The first story is based on Poe’s ‘Tell-Tale Heart’.
The original short story seems to be bereft of motivation in that we have no idea why the unnamed narrator wants to murder the old man. Of course, some critics argue that this lack of motive is an essential part of the story’s horror – what could be more chilling than a motiveless crime? However, in our cause-and-effect outlook of modern society, this explanation can sometimes seem a little like an excuse for the story’s shortcomings.
This appropriation of ‘Tell Tale Heart’ is clever in that it changes the genders of the central characters and provides a motive far stronger than Poe managed. It’s beautifully gory (as one would expect for a story that focuses on eyeballs and essential organs from the circulatory system) and it’s very well-presented. Debbie Rochon (Dollface, Bleed and Santa Claws) delivers a chilling performance as the narrator of this segment and Alan Rowe Kelly (Grindsploitation, She Wolf Rising, Gallery of Fear) is her unfortunate victim. The original is a story of chilling tension. This version is equally tense and is delightfully bloody.
All of which sets the tone neatly for ‘The Cask’ – a short film based on Poe’s ‘A Cask of Amontillado.’ Again, this was well-developed, dancing with the idea of the original and throwing in a couple of moves that weren’t expected, but still managed to add to the impact of Poe’s work. The gore was well done. The acting was entertaining and Alan Rowe Kelly was fun as Gogo Montressor. It was good to see Randy Jones (College Debts, Bleeding Hearts) in the role of Fortunato Montressor and the whole piece was conveyed with a sense of a melodramatic noir caper.
The final tale in the collection is ‘Dreams’, based on Poe’s poem of the same title. It’s a poem that is typical of Poe bleak worldview with its internal tensions between hope for a better world and acceptance of our miserable and grim reality. Stylistically the short film ‘Dreams’ is a striking piece of cinematography. ‘Tales of Poe has won awards for its cinematography and it is likely this segment that most impressed the judges. ‘Dreams’ is presented with occasional voice-over narration from the poem as those onscreen perform an interpretation of the words in a fashion that has echoes of Japanese noh theatre. Cleverly. Kelly. Mastronadi and Varrati have chosen to frame the poem’s content with a deathbed drama that gives structure to the piece. Yet, I have to admit, this was my least favourite short in this collection.
There are surreal elements that allude to the horror of death’s uncertainty and cultural fascinations with this topic. There are stunning locations and intriguing concepts. But the whole piece seemed like such a drastic stylistic change from its two predecessors that the contrast, for me, was too distracting. After the OTT blood and gore of the two previous shorts, after the fun of the melodrama and the intrigue of the noir, the elegance and subtly of ‘Dreams’ (combined with its comparatively lengthy running time) left me bemused and dissatisfied.
That said, there’s a lot of horror fun to be found in this compilation including horror stalwarts such as Adrienne King (Friday the 13th and Friday the 13th Part 2), Lesleh Donaldson (Happy Birthday to Me, Curtains and Cries in the Night), and Amy Steel (Friday the 13th Part 2 and April Fool’s Day).
For lovers of Poe it’s one to enjoy whilst safely savouring a freshly retrieved Amontillado.