Release Date(s)1986 (February 28, 2017)
Studio(s)Cinema Group (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: D+
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B+
Deadtime Stories was released in 1986 to generally no fanfare, but has managed to maintain a steady cult following over the years, mainly due to its obscurity. It’s an anthology horror film with a wraparound tale of an uncle telling his nephew three stories. The first is about a coven of deadly witches and their young assistant kidnapping a young girl, the second is a retelling of “Red Riding Hood” with a teenage girl and an unsavory werewolf after her grandmother, and the third is an alternate take on “Goldie Locks and the Three Bears” with more murder and psychokinesis.
Deadtime Stories is a gonzo kind of horror movie – very cheap and sloppy, almost on the verge of a ’shot on video’ type production. An attempt at a “Grimm’s Fairy Tales” vibe (with an opening nod to Monty Python and the Holy Grail), it tries hard to be funny at times using horror elements but mostly fails. Its dialogue and performances are often atrocious, but the movie’s main flaw is that it lacks pace. The first story, for instance, moves quite slowly, with shots going on for what feels like an eternity. By comparison, the third story has an energy that doesn’t really jibe with what’s come before. There are things about the film worth appreciating, including some of its special effects work. The werewolf appliances and transformation sequence are both well done, and some of the gore and makeup looks pretty slick. This is not a cohesive movie by any means, but genre fans may find it intriguing.
Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release features a brand new high definition transfer from the original negative, which shockingly still exists. It’s not a particularly well-shot movie, but the transfer is a detail-laden presentation with nice grain management and excellent depth. Color reproduction is top notch, with natural-looking skin tones and lush hues, particularly during the third story (which partially takes place in a wooded area). Black levels are mostly deep, though occasionally lightened by the grain. Overall brightness and contrast levels are solid. Minor film artifacts remain, including minute speckling. There does appear to have been some (possibly) alternate footage spliced back in, as the quality changes significantly. It only happens in a couple of places and for short amounts of time, but the density is obviously different and film scratches appear as well. The sole audio option is an English 2.0 mono DTS-HD track. It’s fairly flat overall, but dialogue is mostly clean throughout, though there are some instances of it being too low. Sound effects have decent heft and the musical selection is stronger than any of the other elements. Overall, it’s the best the film has likely ever looked or sounded, which is saying a lot. English SDH subtitles are available if needed.
There’s a decent little bounty of bonus material to sort through here. It begins with an audio commentary by co-writer/director Jeffrey Delman; I Like the Grotesque: A Conversation with Jeff Delman; A Band of Gypsies: The Making of Deadtime Stories featurette; The Black Forest short film with an introduction by Delman, which is an early version of the film’s first story shot before the film had its full funding; 2 deleted scenes with introductions by Delman; 2 theatrical trailers for the movie; an animated photo gallery; and a DVD copy.
I appreciate the idea that Deadtime Stories is now available on Blu-ray, after being obscure for so long, more than I actually like the movie itself. It’s probably best-served by being viewed in the company of like-minded friends over a few beers. If you have a fondness for the movie, though, Scream Factory’s Blu-ray isn’t likely to disappoint you.
- Tim Salmons