Astonishing Tales of Terror: Rocktapussy! Opens in 1957 when a strange opening in the wall of a mine attracts the attention of a trio of miners. They crawl through to explore but find way more than they expected. The only survivor closes the opening with some convenient dynamite.
In the present Hunter Hazelton (Brigitte Kingsley, Dark Rising, The Baby Stealer) has broken a story of corruption in city hall. She had to go undercover as a stripper to do it, which doesn’t seem to have gone over well with her colleagues. Or her father (Art Hindle, Black Christmas, Woodland Grey) for that matter. “Next time you go undercover, can you be a bit more covered?”
However when a technology demonstration at that same mine awakens the creature we saw in the prologue, what she’s wearing will be the least of her worries, which is good because her father wouldn’t approve.
Writer/director Andrew Cymek is no stranger to the genre, he and his wife, producer/actress Brigitte Kingsley created the Dark Rising movies and TV shows as well as Medium Raw: Night of the Hunter. Now after several years of cranking out family films like A Very Corgi Christmas and Country Crush they’re back, sort of. Astonishing Tales of Terror: Rocktapussy! wants to be another quirky action fantasy like the Dark Rising franchise. And the elements are certainly there, a monster, the remains of a civilization hidden underground, undead miners, knights, and more.
Unfortunately, Astonishing Tales of Terror moves at a much slower pace with only a couple of scenes involving the creature in the first hour. Even the mine cave-in takes only a few minutes and is shown mostly by a shaky camera and bad fire CGI.
What we do get is way too much cutesy romance in the making between Hunter and Carey (Landy Cannon, American Psycho, The Perfect Kiss) a miner reduced to living in his truck because his ex is screwing him so hard on child support. This is poorly integrated into the main plot, and mostly replaces it for a lot of the second act, Sadly Cannon and Kingsley don’t have the same chemistry in Astonishing Tales of Terror: Rocktapussy! that helped to make their previous teaming so enjoyable.
We also get scenes with another group of survivors which mostly means listening to two of Hunter’s fellow reporters Declan (Troy Blundell, A Dark Matter, A Nutcracker Christmas) and Annie (Sara Mitich, Star Trek: Discovery, Control) bicker and stroke their egos while Hunter’s cameraman, Cam (Patrick Kwok-Choon, Star Trek: Discovery, My Ex-Ex) and Kennedy (Winny Clarke, The Door, Swerve) the obligatory genius who looks like a centrefold model, try to find a way to escape.
The last half hour does pick up the pace with a bit more action and general weirdness. But despite the Astonishing Tales of Terror part of the title it still spends too much time on the news media at the expense of the fantasy elements. Do we really need t see the reporters hounding Hunter’s family? There are better uses for the film’s time.
I get that the budget was tight so the creature remains offstage most of the time. But they could have done more with the parasitic zombies or Churchill (David Calderisi, Millennium, The Dark Hours), the surviving miner. Having him show up just long enough to set off an explosion was a waste of what should have been an interesting character. Either would have been a better option and probably cost the same as a hoard of extras to play the reporters.
It feels like Cymek and Kingsley were trying to fuse a Hallmark Channel romance with a low-budget fantasy and ended up with something that falls between the two audiences. Action and fantasy fans will be bored by the amount of time spent on the cheesy romance subplot. And those who would enjoy the heavy dose of romance will probably find many of the fantasy elements silly. And, while I had no complaints, I suspect Ms. Kingsley’s topless scene would not sit well with a sizable chunk of that demographic as well.
They should dialed back the romance, added a few more zombie scenes and satisfied the core audience. As it is, Astonishing Tales of Terror: Rocktapussy! has enough fun moments that It’s worth a watch, but considering what these filmmakers can do, it’s a disappointment.
Black Fawn has released Astonishing Tales of Terror: Rocktapussy as a limited edition Blu-ray and to Digital platforms in Canada. Nicely Entertainment has released it in the US. And if you want more of the same, FilmTagger has a few suggestions for you.