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Video Shop Tales of Terror (2023) Review

Video Shop Tales of Terror is the latest in a long tradition of British horror anthology films that can trace its roots back to 1945’s Dead of Night and popularized by Amicus Films in the 60s and 70s via films like Tales From the Crypt, Asylum, and The House That Dripped Blood. And even though the anthology film has caught on worldwide, many of the better ones still come from the UK.

Video Shop Tales of Terror uses Video Dungeon, a dark and foreboding video store as its framing device for six tales of terror as The Proprietor (Martin W. Payne, Hate Little Rabbit, Mask of the Devil) and new employee Clara (Hannah Paterson, The Allotment, Gemini) deal with an assortment of bizarre customers and celebrities as well as running an assortment of faux trailers and advertisements of which my favourite is Tony Mardon’s (Libra) trailer for “Don’t Sit on His Face”.

“Egghead” directed by MJ Dixon (Pandamonium, Bannister DollHouse) is the story of Eggbert Humpries (Rami Hilmi, Zombie Lover, Colin) who cracks after being deliberately disfigured by a plastic surgeon. His tormentors thought they were being clever, but they are about to find out the yolks on them.

This is a very tongue-in-cheek segment full of egg-related killings, puns, and intentionally cheesy effects. Dani Thompson (Cowgirls vs. Pterodactyls, Pumpkins) makes one of several of her appearances in Video Shop Tales of Terror as a client who is having herself transformed into a cat.

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The second segment “The Red Lipped Moon” directed by Sam Mason-Bell (Millenial Killer, Lonely Hearts) who co-wrote it with Chris Mills (Found Footage of Fear: Digital Terror) is a black and white vampire noir. Karl (Chris Mills) is on the hunt for a woman named Ivy (Annabella Rich, I Am an Addict, Eating Miss Campbell) who is connected to the death of an old friend.

The short running time robs the story of much of the complexity that the best film noir thrives on, and makes the outcome fairly obvious. But it’s still an acceptable story and benefits from some moody cinematography.

“Fleurs du Mal” by Andrew Elias (The Numbers, Tales from the Great War) is set in the year 1894. Rose (Dani Thompson again), an inmate in the local asylum, claims to be a time traveller and needs to recover a strange artifact to return to her own era. But what could the phrase “Videotape” mean?

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Styled to resemble some of the later Hammer Gothics such as Demons of the Mind, “Fleurs du Mal” is a fun segment with a neatly done twist that leads nicely into Video Shop Tales of Terror’s fourth segment.

“Mary Whitehouse, you’re a…” is co-directed by Alexander Churchyard (I Scream on the Beach!, Cede) and Max Davenport from a script by Churchyard. Mark (James Hamer-Morton, The Haunting of Pendle Hill, Dead Air), Evan (Ross Howard, Taint, One Life Remaining), and Biscuit (Charlie Bond, The Huntress of Auschwitz, Saltwater: The Battle for Ramree Island) intended to watch The Evil Dead but end up summoning the spirit of woman behind the “Video Nasties” panic.

A tribute to Sam Raimi’s film complete with a stop-motion hand and a poke at censorship, this is another highly amusing segment.

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Thomas Lee Rutter’s (Bella in the Wych Elm, Day of the Stranger) segment “These Burnt Children” is one all too many creatives can relate to. Ron Baylis (Cy Henty, Angry Nazi Zombies, The House on the Witchpit) is “a filmmaker, an artist, a man of integrity”. He’s been done wrong by sleazy producer Benny Southpaw (Philip Andrew Rogers, Welcome to Essex, The Vicious Dead) and now the characters from his unrealized projects are driving him to revenge.

The bloodiest of Video Shop Tales of Terror’s segments, “These Burnt Children” benefits from a witty script and a nice decapitation.

The final segment ‘Vergessen’ by Michael Fausti (Exit, The Ingress Tapes) is a bit of a head trip concerning Major Tinto (Laurence R. Harvey, House of Many Sorrows, The Human Centipede III (Final Sequence)) and three women with oddly familiar names Ilsa Lall (Ayvianna Snow, Hollow, The Tombs), Dyanne Thorne (Roe Haven) and Kitty Smith (Dani Thompson again) who work in a brothel/intelligence agency.

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Strong on visuals but with almost no dialogue beyond a voiceover, this is an oddly artsy take on Nazploitation films of the 70s. Then it’s back to the Video Dungeon to wrap things up. At least until the promised Video Shop Tales of Terror II: Lust & Revenge.

The mixture of styles of the various segments and video store set vignettes works surprisingly well, feeling more like the result of renting several films rather than conflicting with each other, something some anthologies suffer from. I don’t know how they chose the individual segments, but it’s obvious there was some thought put into the flow of Video Shop Tales of Terror.

Overall, Video Shop Tales of Terror is a very well-done collection of stories by several of the best writers and directors currently working on the British independent/underground scene along with a talented cast. Yes, the lack of budget occasionally shows in some of the segments, but if you’re a fan of their work, you know to expect that.

Video Shop Tales of Terror will make its debut on January 21st as part of this year’s Horror-On-Sea Film Festival. You can check the film’s Facebook page or the festival’s website for more information. And if you’re looking for more tales of terror, FilmTagger can suggest a few titles.

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