Thursday, January 12, 2012

Screamtime (1986)

Screamtime is a bit of an unknown UK horror anthology that completely went under my radar until I saw it featured on Netflix. Being a fan of 80's anthologies and reading about one of the segments concerning killer gnomes(!), I immediately gave it a watch. Sadly, it wasn't as I had hoped it'd be, since not only did it feature a lot of horrendous acting and dialogue, but it was also painstakingly boring to sit through. The film starts off with a couple heavily-accented New Yorkers swiping a few horror VHS tapes from a video store and bringing them over to a female friend's house to watch. This is our poorly implemented wraparound story that has the two wannabe hoodlums watching each tape, which introduces the viewer to the individual stories. This silly wraparound ends in one of the most ridiculous and random fashions I've seen for an anthology. "That's The Way To Do It" 4/10 This segment revolves around an aged puppeteer, who despite continuing to entertain the local children, fails to bring proper income to support his family. The man simply refuses to give up what he loves, resulting in a bitter wife that wants to move, and an asshole
stepson that hates the man for his own selfish reasons. Things boil to a deadly conclusion once the puppeteer's props are mistakenly set ablaze after a silly prank goes awry. Shortly after the incident, people begin dying (bludgeoned by a surprisingly handy piece of wood) thanks to one of the remaining puppets. This proved to be a fairly mediocre and highly predictable story. I supposed during the time it came out that the climax may have been a surprise to most audiences, but it's pretty tame and clichéd by today's standards. The killer puppet wasn't at all menacing (in my opinion) and using a piece of wood as his choice of weapon (although understandable) was boring, to say the least. Bludgeoning everyone to death lead to a lot of yawn-inducing deaths. Though, I'm into killer puppet/doll movies, so this at least kept my interest. "Dreamhouse" 4/10 This second segment proved to be the most boring of the three to me. The story follows a young couple that move into a large new home, where the woman immediately sees strange visions of people who aren't really there. Fearing the house may be haunted, they call upon a psychic, who debunks any supernatural claims. This still doesn't stop the woman from witnessing a strange man murder a family right before her eyes, leaving the lass to question her sanity. Although the smartest of the three segments, this was also the dullest. I literally dozed off on more than one occasion after attempting to sit through the 25-minute runtime. Luckily I was able to go back to the bits that I missed later, only to realize that I hadn't really missed much at all. I think I got the most entertainment from looking at the lead's ridiculously oversized framed glasses; damn thing covered half her face! The ending was clever, but once again didn't really come as a surprise to me. Though I'll admit that the film does have balls (for its time anyway) for showing a young boy being violently killed. "Do You Believe In Fairies?" 3/10 The third and final tale was the one I had been waiting for, as I read that it featured killer gnomes (sweet!). The story revolves around a young strapped-for-cash ex-motorcyclist that takes on a gardening job for a couple sweet old ladies. Once the man realizes that the women has a trunk full of treasures, he decides to recruit some friends to help him steal it during the night. Of course he didn't expect to encounter killer gnomes and an angered Elizabethan spirit during the process. I wanted to like this story, but I just couldn't. I didn't care for any of the characters, and (much like the other segments) thought this was too slow-paced and dull. Things at least picked up towards the end when the gnomes came to life, but even that was rather disappointing since it was only one gnome that was clearly just a dwarf in what looked like a Santa's helper costume. At least this (along with the past two stories) were somewhat imaginative, despite their MANY shortcomings, but that's really one of the few positive things I have to say about it. Screamtime proved to be a rather boring UK horror anthology, despite offering a few somewhat creative nightmarish tales. The outcomes for the stories (though I'm sure were fresh during the time) were easily predicted and coupled with horrid acting and terrible dialogue, made this out to be a much worse film than it should've been. Though I'll give it points for attempting to deliver fairly imaginative tales, especially considering the decade it spawned from. A lot of the unintentionally funny choreography and dialogue also provided some mild entertainment. Worth a look if you're keen on old horror anthologies (no matter how bad they may be), but skip otherwise.

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