Tales to Tell in the Dark (2020) Review

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Hailing from Italy, Tales to Tell in the Dark is a three-story anthology film featuring two segments directed by Domiziano Cristopharo (Nightmare Symphony, Dark Waves) and the third by Domiziano Cristopharo and Lorenzo Zanoni (XXX Dark Web). Two of the segments, “Reveniens” and “A Snake with a Steele Tongue” are expanded versions of shorts that have appeared elsewhere. “A Snake with a Steele Tongue” as a segment of Phantasmagoria and “Reveniens” as part of E.N.D. – The Movie. I haven’t seen the original versions so I can’t say how different the versions are though from what I read they’ve been re-edited and have a new score by Antony Coia (Virus: Extreme Contamination, Scarecrowd). The third segment, “Jinxed” is an original.

The Bishop (Lorenzo Zanoni) greets us and introduces himself as the keeper of ancient tales now forgotten and proposes to tell us stories from his collection.

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First up is “Reveniens”, a tale of the living dead written by Antonio Tentori (Island of the Living Dead, Dogman’s Rabies). A man (Wayne Abbruscato, House of Ravens) a woman (Alvia Reale) and her pregnant daughter (Aurora Kostova, Doll Syndrome) are fleeing across a zombie-infested countryside. When their van is damaged they have to take their chances on foot. Mom doesn’t last long, but she may be the lucky one.

“Revenienes” unsurprisingly feels like an 80s Italian zombie film compressed into twenty minutes. At least up until the end, when it takes an unexpected turn. The makeup on the walking dead is a bit of a mixed bag, but there’s a good bit of gore.

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Our creepy clergyman returns to talk about straight razors and ghosts as he introduces “A Snake with a Steele Tongue” written by Davide Chiara (Almost Dead, Lilith’s Hell). It opens with a naked man being slashed to death by a straight razor wielding woman (Poison Rouge, House of Flesh Mannequins). A year later Janus (Alberto Cattaneo) is forced to get a room at a now-closed hotel as the town’s new one is full. Once in his room, a strange transformation begins. The Innkeeper (Vittorio Castellano) seems to know what’s going on, but he’s not telling.   

This segment left me scratching my head at times. Some of it is easy to figure out, the rest is a bit of a supernatural puzzle. That may be due to the film lapsing into unsubtitled Italian at one point and causing me to miss something. There are several gruesome moments and plenty of weird imagery to keep it interesting. And something for those looking for a change from naked women in horror films.

The final segment of Tales to Tell in the Dark, “Jinxed” is about a jogger (Claudio Gabriele) who feels compelled to take a  medallion from a dead body he discovers. This is a very short piece and the script by Pasquale Scalpellino (Ill: Final Contagium) is all set up for a bloody payoff.

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And there’s a last visit with The Bishop to close out Tales to Tell in the Dark. A visit that does not go quite as expected.

Overall Tales to Tell in the Dark is an enjoyable film. The first segment is easily the best, but the other two are still quite good. I probably would have liked “A Snake with a Steele Tongue” better if it made a bit more sense but it’s still enjoyably weird. “Jinxed” is the least of the trio, but for the kind of one-note stinger it’s meant to be, it’s enjoyable. Between this and Nightmare Symphony I’m starting to become a fan of Domiziano Cristopharo’s films.

Tales to Tell in the Dark is available as a limited edition DVD from TetroVideo. You can check their website for details or Facebook page for details. As far as I know there are no plans at the moment for a mass market or streaming release.

Our Score

Jim Morazzini

Movie buff, gym rat and crazy cat guy