REVIEW: TALES TO TELL IN THE DARK (2020, TetroVideo)

Tales To Tell In The Dark is a three-story horror anthology from the minds of Domiziano Cristopharo (The Obsessed, Nightmare Symphony, Red Krokodil et al) & Lorenzo Zanoni (Vore Gore, XXX Dark Web). Hosted and narrated by ‘The Bishop’, we are treated to a trio of dark tales, each with their own distinct style and twists.

As an interlude to each story, ‘The Bishop’ sets the premise with his creepy mannerisms, referring to the themes without delving too much into the stories themselves. This is similar to the format of 80s classics Tales From The Crypt (1989) and Creepshow (1982) but it has its own refreshing style.

The first segment in the anthology is called ‘Reveniens’, directed by Domiziano Cristopharo. A family drive is stopped abruptly after their car hits a man wearing camouflage.  In a moment of shock, the family gets out of the car to find themselves engaged in a tussle with the living dead. This segment is a love letter to the Zombie Flesh Eaters series and brings back all the thrills from the bygone era of stomach churning 80’s Italian zombie flicks. Combined with a Fabio Frizzi-esque throwback soundtrack by Antony Coia, we are presented with a gut wrenching zombie splatter fest with buckets of gore. Following the classic format of ‘slow moving’ zombies, there is enough action and carnage to make Fulci fans drool at the mouth.

This segment really manages to hit the ground running and I was beaming with excitement all the way through it. There is plenty to keep hardcore gore hounds entertained as there is a constant flow of Flesh eating and blood squirting scenes throughout. In particular, there is an excellently choreographed scene where a pregnant lady gives birth in a sea of her own blood which makes perfect use of practical effects and animation. The acting during this short story is superb and the cinematography shines through from start to finish.

The follow-up segment is a tale under the name of ‘The Snake With A Poison Tongue’; also directed by Domiziano Cristopharo. There is a change of pace and tone as the theme of the previous short switches to a supernatural element with a strong emphasis on ghosts. A tourist who is desperately looking for a place to stay finds a motel run by a creepy owner and begs him to let him stay for the night. The owner advises that the motel has been closed for a year but the man takes the benefit of doubt due to desperation and stays anyway. While the ‘Reveniens’ story was fast paced and crammed full of action set pieces, ‘The Snake With A Poison Tongue’ is a slow burner.  There is plenty of mystery surrounding the location and the eccentric owner and things do ramp up at a gradual pace, you just have to stick with it. The tourist develops a leg injury which worsens as the story progresses, while the behaviour of the owner and the atmosphere of the motel is ever-changing. 

There is a ghostly figure of a woman with a black veil appearing sporadically. It took a while for this segment to get under my skin but when the plot began to thicken I really became immersed in it. There is a strong theme of history repeating itself which resonated with me and kept it interesting.  The plot twist is carefully and perfectly executed and it will catch you off guard. If you pay close attention, you will spot many horror references, in particular a nod to Italian synth gods Goblin’s Zombi theme in the score around the town scene.

The third and final segment is called ‘Jinxed’ and is a directorial collaboration between Domiziano Cristopharo & Lorenzo Zanoni. A runner stumbles upon a crime scene where he finds the body of a murdered woman. As an opportunistic thief, the runner decides to help himself to a necklace belonging to the dead woman with the hope of giving it to another woman as a gift; unaware that in doing so he has opened a curse. Despite its short run length, this short had alot of tension and returned to the pacing of the first segment. Much like the first two short films, the locations are diverse and interesting and the stories are unique. The acting was great and the claustrophobic scene in the camper van was a distinct highlight.

‘Tales To Tell In The Dark’ is a strong horror anthology which keeps you guessing. It pulls together everything we love from the golden age of Italian Horror and encases it in a shell of modern Indie Horror. The emphasis on atmosphere and original storytelling continues to bring new life to Indie Horror.

Score: 4/5

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