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Haunted Sideshow

Dustin Putman

Deadtime Stories  (1986)

Reviewed for by Dustin Putman

The Film
2 Stars
(Release Date: February 28, 2017) – "Deadtime Stories" is all over the place, a horror anthology whose tonal inconsistencies may, in part, be due to the four-year timeframe it took to complete the film. It's not without a certain homegrown charm, however, the camaraderie of the cast and crew spoken about in the special features of Scream Factory's 2017 Blu-ray release shining through loud and clear. Director Jeffrey Delman, who collaborated with composer Larry Juris on the film's four catchy original songs (including the title earworm), presents a vision—or, more accurately, visions—that feel like his own.

When Little Brian (Brian DePersia) demands his Uncle Mike (Michael Mesmer) tell him a bedtime story, it paves the way for three twisted fairy tales that may do more harm than good in getting him to fall to sleep. In "Peter and the Witches," a servant boy (Scott Valentine) is used by his witchy owners (Kathy Fleig, Phyllis Craig) to lure unsuspecting victims to their lair as a means of resurrecting their evil deceased sister. In "Little Red Runninghood," the paths of a teenage jogger (Nicole Picard), her sweet-natured granny (Fran Lopate), and a werewolf (Matt Mitler) collide as the full moon rises. And, in "Goldi Lox and the Three Baers," Goldi Lox (Cathryn de Prume) is a young telekinetic serial killer who has taken up residence in the thought-abandoned home of the Baer family—Mama (Melissa Leo, in one of her first film roles) and Papa Baer (Kevin Hannon), and the grown son, Baby (Timothy Rule), whom they have just helped escape from the Home for the Hopelessly Insane.

"Deadtime Stories" is a little sleazy and a little scuzzy, a low-budget horror flick with bare breasts and plenty of gory practical effects galore. It's a lower-tier anthology from the era of big hair and leg warmers (certainly no match for 1982's timeless E.C. Comics-inspired "Creepshow"), but fans of this sort of thing—and you know who you are—will still want to indulge in its quirky pleasures. The segments are a mixed bag of chancy writing and direction, but their gruesome twists on time-told yarns earn points for journeying off the beaten path.

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

"Deadtime Stories" unspools on Blu-ray with an eye-opening 1080p transfer taken from the original negative. There are a few age-related speckles and blemishes to be found early on, and at least one instance of mosquito noise during a nighttime sequence in "Peter and the Witches," but these are negligible nitpicks. For viewers who only ever saw "Deadtime Stories" on VHS, this new, startlingly clear high-definition presentation will be an all-out revelation. The increased clarity allows one to admire the effects work all the more, while fresh details are revealed in clothing, backgrounds, and facial features. Colors are healthy, while black levels are usually pleasingly deep. The Mono DTS-HD Master Audio gets the job done. This is, naturally, a front-centric track, and while it won't be blowing away any audiophiles, it gives capable treatment to a film made 30-plus years ago on a shoestring budget. Dialogue is clear, as are the memorable soundtrack cues.

Blu-ray Features
  • Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Jeffrey Delman
  • "I Like the Grotesque: A Conversation with Co-Writer/Director Jeffrey Delman" Featurette (15:42, HD)
  • "A Band of Gypsies: The Making of Deadtime Stories" Featurette (15:35, HD) - featuring interviews with actors Melissa Leo, Scott Valentine and Cathryn de Prume
  • "The Black Forest" (29:49, HD) - an extended version of "Peter and the Witches"
  • Deleted Scenes (2:32, HD)
  • Theatrical Trailers (3:12, HD)
  • Photo Gallery (4:14, HD)
Bottom Line
"Deadtime Stories" is perhaps too niche a title to earn Scream Factory's "Collector's Edition" banner, but there is enough offered here—a new high-def transfer, lossless audio, and two-and-a-half hours of bonus content—that it very well could have without anyone raising their eyebrow. While legitimate scares are in short supply, the film satisfies its exploitative roots and has offbeat charm to spare. Horror buffs who love all things '80s will want to seek out this quality Blu-ray release. Recommended.

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© 2017 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman


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