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Tales from the Other Side (2022) Review

It may still be Spring, but when it comes to horror films, it’s never too soon to be thinking of Halloween. The anthology film Tales from the Other Side, produced and partially written by prolific filmmaker James Cullen Bressack (Hate Crime, Captors) is the latest example of that. It’s seven segments plus a wraparound that frames them as stories told on Halloween Eve.

It’s Halloween and three kids, Rod (Tristan Lee Griffin, Follow Me), Tina (Anna Harr, Eminence Hill, Battlefield 2025) and Nancy (Brooklyn Anne Miller, Blood Craft, The Call), are left to trick or treat unsupervised and decide to do the unthinkable. They knock on the door of reputed witch Scary Mary (Roslyn Gentle, The Punisher, Unborn).

Rather than boiling them up for dinner or turning them into frogs, she invites them in for treats and scary stories. Written and directed by Pablo Macho Maysonet IV, “Scary Mary” serves as the film’s wraparound.

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The first story is one of two segments from writer/director Jamaal Burden (Elves, Abominable), “The Petrified Boy”. It’s a tale about a nineteenth-century sideshow attraction that was reputed to have caused tragedy in its own time and might still be in ours.

What it is is a mildly ugly doll that, like the title creatures in the director’s film Elves, never moves and never really does anything. The story is told by an old woman and accompanied by bland carnival footage and an occasional shot of the doll. It ends at what should be the segment’s start and makes for a very weak opener.

The second segment, “Flicker” was directed by Scotty Baker (5th Passenger) and written by Baker, Zach Ward (Circus Kane, Bethany) and James Cullen Bressack from a story by his late father Gordon Bressack who was best known as a writer on Animaniacs, Pinky and The Brain and other animated series.

Aspiring filmmaker Carter (Brandon Thane Wilson, Lovely Molly, The Dead Ones) gets hired by funeral homeowner William (Vernon Wells, Commando, Camp Twilight) to edit tribute reels for the deceased. For some reason, it needs to be done on-site and overnight, which should be a huge red flag.

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This one is an improvement, but the short running time and the fairly obvious ending work against it. It feels more like a prologue to a feature than a complete short.

The third of these Tales from the Other Side is “Crystal Ball”. Abby (Chelsea Vale, Black Wake, Burial Ground Massacre) steals a crystal ball from a carnival fortune-teller (Paul Clough) with the help of her reluctant boyfriend Jonas (Nick Navarro).

Written and directed by Jacob Cooney (Blood Circus, The Assault) from a story by James Cullen Bressack and Zack Ward, it’s another undeveloped story that, while clichéd, might have been made into something good with a bit more time.

It was at this point that something occurred to me. With the segments’ rather innocuous contents and short running times, Tales from the Other Side may well have been meant for young audiences. While none of the press material actually says it, they do call the segments fun rather than frightening. That would also explain why the wraparound’s leads are kids rather than the more usual teens or young adults.

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The next segment “Either/Or” was co-directed by Lucas Heyne (Mope) and Kern Saxton (The Hard Count, Sushi Girl) from a script by Gordon Bressack. Set in an asylum, it’s the story of Elijah (James Duval, Donnie Darko, May) who claims God told him to kill his family. Calling this story pointless would be doing it a kindness.

“Blood Red” is a noirish tale of a beautiful woman named Ruby (Cat LaCohie, Theatre of the Deranged III), her husband Oliver (Michael Broderick, Meteor Moon, I Am that Man) and another up and coming artist (Hunter Johnson, Paranormal Attraction, Ugly Sweater Party) whom she catches up in a web of betrayal, murder and art.

While the content is more mature than Tales from the Other Side’s other segments with an onscreen throat-cutting and a tame seduction scene, the results are bland. Director Frank Merle (From Jennifer, The Employer) working from another of Gordon Bressack’s scripts can’t seem to put an edge on what should have been an interesting segment.

Tales from the Other Side’s last segment “Krampus Vs Elf”, like the first, is by Jamaal Burden (Elves, Operation Black Ops). There is a fight between an elf and a Krampus doll, but it looks like it was done by editing still photos, not any kind of stop-motion or CGI. I’m actually shocked somebody thought this was worth making, let alone including here.

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Apart from “Blood Red”, Tales from the Other Side really does feel like it was meant for kids. It tries to be spooky without ever being scary, and most of the segments have no onscreen violence, let alone gore. But I doubt even kids will be scared or even entertained by most of these tales.

Uncork’d Entertainment will release Tales from the Other Side on DVD and Digital platforms on June 7th. You can check their Facebook page for more details. If you’re looking for something similar, FilmTagger has some suggestions.

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