Psycho II. Fright Night. Child’s Play. These are the film’s that Tom Holland has worked on in the past, sometimes, as in Child’s Play, as a director and all of them a writer. He was even included in Masters of Horror with We All Scream for Ice Cream back in 2007. I bring these up because a quick perusal of Holland’s background in horror will tell you that he’s had his name on some pretty prestigious titles.
But did he really write those himself? With Tom Holland’s Twisted Tales, you have to wonder how a writer of intelligent, worshiped films could throw out such terrible drivel; in the case of these nine shorts, nearly all of them are awful from a screenwriter’s standpoint, and not much better in terms of organization.
Part of this might be because these were originally shorts on FEARnet; they weren’t meant to be organized into a cohesive film, and the seams show on the DVD when switching from one tale to another. Tom Holland introduces each short, but they also show an introductory sequence that the viewer will see again later in the story, and really, it’s just a mess.
But the low budget of the web shorts and the organization of the DVD doesn’t excuse the sloppy writing and direction of all of the tales collected on this overly long two-and-a-half-hour snoozer. Generally compilation movies are uniform in length, and the best ones are at least organized by an adherence to theme, yet Tom Holland’s tales are all over the place, some shorter or longer and none sitting well within context to the other.
Holland picked up some star power for his stories, though, which is about the only thing that one can praise about Twisted Tales. AJ Bowen leads the story “Fred and His GPS,” Danielle Harris and William Forsythe show up in a tale about the devil’s temptation, Ray Wise is a magician with a magic mirror, and Amber Benson (you know, Tara from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) is in a short about the apocalypse.
None of them are able to elevate the stories to watchable levels, however. Holland has a penchant for taking an interesting idea and stagnating it until the viewer can’t take it anymore. “Fred and the GPS” forces the viewer to watch Fred simply talk to his GPS, and “Bite” wastes its plot about werewolves cracking jokes about salvia instead.
But most egregious of the time-wasters is “The Pizza Guy”; if it’s not the longest short on the disc, it certainly feels like it is. The devil comes in the form of a pizza man with a California accent, and the characters are stuck standing in a pentagram for nearly the entire short; they talk about devils and stuff, and nothing really happens, and finally, mercifully, it ends.
The worst short of the disc is not “The Pizza Guy,” though. It’s the final tale, “Vampire’s Dance,” that takes this prestigious award. It’s so haphazardly directed, with not-so-subtle vignettes from Tom Holland, that it’s difficult to tell what the story is actually about. One gets the sense that Holland was grasping for one final story per a contract, and he didn’t have much, so he was forced to throw whatever ideas he had into a pot to make a terrible short horror story stew.
Everything about Tom Holland’s Twisted Tales is awful, from the stories themselves to the running time, the ordering of the shorts, and even the disc’s box art – hey, guess what, there aren’t any stories about dolls. These tales certainly are twisted – malformed, directionless, uninspired, enough to drive the viewer crazy.