Tuesday, December 12, 2017

December to Dismember: TALES FROM THE GRAVE 2: HAPPY HOLIDAYS (2005)

While compiling our preliminary list of Christmas horror titles, we knew things were going to be grim. After all, we’ve covered the “normal” staples in the past (the SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT sequels) and reviewing classics like BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974) or CHRISTMAS EVIL (1980) would offer little insight. We knew we would have to dig deep and, let’s be honest, it was going to be brutal. Looking over our selections, one called out to me. It beckoned my bleak soul. Yes, it was the crappiest looking one. You see, I was immediately drawn to a shot-on-video anthology as I’ve loved anthologies since I was a kid and first saw CREEPSHOW (1982). Who cares if it is shot-on-video? An anthology is usually good for a at least one cool segment, right? A seven dollar eBay purchase later, I was good to go and worked TALES FROM THE GRAVE 2: HAPPY HOLIDAYS into my life. Goddammit!

I should have known I was in trouble the moment the video opens with a wannabe HBO TALES FROM THE CRYPT opening as the camera dashes around a graveyard (in daylight!) toward vault door. Those poor folks buried under the tombstones are about to find out death wasn’t their last indignity. Inside the tomb is a Crypt Keeper-wannabe (labeled the “Old Crone” in the end credits) who conjures up tales from her crystal ball. Full disclosure: My DVD has part one on it, but I figured I could swing part two without watching that; so I’m not sure this character is returning. Anyway, the backlit-to-hell host offers us five stories where “each victim is the creator of their own demise.” Oh, so it is like Match.com? Since it carries the subtitle HAPPY HOLIDAYS, it is safe to tell you all of the stories centered around a holiday.

Now due to bravery (or stupidity) I made sure to watch the first four segments and not just skip to the Christmas themed one. After all, I need to get into the film’s groove. So I’ll give you a quick rundown of the other four entries: “Love Bites” centers on Valentine’s Day and a nerdy guy who thinks he is a vampire; “Luck of the Irish” is about St. Patrick’s Day and a guy in Ireland hoping to catch a leprechaun; “Trick or Treat” focuses on some teens who resurrect a mummy on Halloween; and “Meat the Family” is a Thanksgiving set story about a guy going to meet his girlfriend’s family. This all leads to “Angel,” the fifth and final story set on Christmas Eve.

The story begins with Angel (Shana Bempechat) and Sean (Amir Navison) driving to her parent’s house for the Christmas holiday. As cinematic law dictates, anyone driving to relatives on the holidays has to be arguing and these two do that a lot. Sean feels he doesn’t measure up to her dad’s standards because he doesn’t have money and is nothing but a “lousy teacher.” Hey, if you are a bad teacher, I’d hold it against you too. Haha. After they argue for five minutes straight, they make up and then get into a car crash (which means the crew shakes the camera). A certified Chicago city folk, our lovebirds are completely helpless out here in the wild go looking for a house. They stumble upon a brightly lit up abode and knock on the door. Grandma Patton (Eugenia Care) answers and lets them in to meet Grandpa Patton (Dan Henderson) and mentally challenged Leroy (Paul Howard). B-movie logic dictates they don’t have a phone, but Grandpa offers to drive them into town in the morning. Naturally, something is amiss in this scenario and I’m not talking about the filmmakers insistence that the leads never ask to clean their wounds. Yup, this family is suspect because they have a big Christmas tree. “Now why would anyone want a tree that fucking big,” muses Sean. Sitting down to a big family dinner, our leads can’t help but wonder why Leroy is so anxious to decorate the tree and later Sean spots a phone on the wall. Something is wrong with this family for sure. Well, I’ll spoil it for you: Yes, the old folks are killers and decorate their big ass tree with the severed limbs of their victims. They kill Sean and Angel and then put her head on the top of the tree. Get it? She’s the angel at the top of the tree. I got nothing.

Now we’ve reviewed a lot of crap these past two weeks, but this is a whole new level of bad. TALES FROM THE GRAVE 2 is a terrible film tornado, storming onto our blog and blowing those other movies to bits. I never knew how good we had it until this film assaulted my DVD player. SANTA CLAUS VS. THE ZOMBIES? THE ELF? Come back! I didn’t mean all those terrible things I said about you. I know I’ve used this before in my writing, but this is beyond terrible. You know bottom of the barrel? Pick up that barrel, dig deep into the ground for about ten days and that is where you will unearth TALES FROM THE GRAVE 2. Believe it or not, I am actually familiar with director/co-writer/producer Stephanie Beaton. You see she was Detective Lutz in three of the legendary WITCHCRAFT sequels. Those acting turns were obviously her best work, which should let you know how freakin’ terrible TALES FROM THE GRAVE 2 is.

I honestly don’t know how someone can pool their resources together to make a movie (not an easy feat) and yet make something so shockingly mundane. Every scenario is so by the numbers that it almost feels wrong not posting this on National Mathematics Day (all credit to Tom for that line). I mean, the Thanksgiving segment is called “Meat the Family” and has a girl taking her boyfriend to meet her family for the first time. Can you guess the twist? Each segment is the equivalent of sitting 10-15 minutes while your uncle tells you a joke you know the punchline to the second he starts. Who sits around and conjures up such stories thinking they are going to surprise anyone? This was Beaton’s fourth (and last) film. She debuted with the first TALES FROM THE GRAVE (2003) and co-starred in her first three films, but isn’t in this one. Think about that - she opted not to be in front of the camera this go-around, so she had more time to focus on the filmmaking. I can’t. I just can’t. A holiday themed anthology is a fantastic idea. A holiday themed anthology from one of the co-stars of three WITCHCRAFT sequels is a terrible one. The only enjoyment you can possibly derive from this “film” is that I suffered through it. Avoid as much as a Christmas fruitcake.

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