1987 straight-to-video horror trash
Plot: A woman shares a pair of horror(ible) stories from the titular book to her invisible son. The first is about a family with not enough to eat. The second is about a vengeful brother.
Whoa, boy. This is from the mind of Chester Novell Turner, the guy responsible for Black Devil Doll from Hell, one of my favorite good-bad movies from recent years. Unfortunately, this is his only other movie. Like Devil Doll, Turner provided the oppressive Casio-heavy score for this movie he also wrote and directed. And like Devil Doll, this features a fucking fantastic performance by Shirley L. Jones. She's not sexually assaulted by a doll in this one, but she still works some serious magic and shows off her artistic talents with some drawings seen over the opening credits. She is absolutely mesmerizing, and if she never stars in a third movie, she still deserves to be in any Bad Acting Hall of Fame that might exist. I love her.
You know what else the opening credits has? A freakin' theme song! It's apparently called "Theme Song," and it might be the greatest thing I have ever heard in my entire life. Here, enjoy this:
I just can't believe that exists.
The movie is the same sort of low-budget funk you'd expect if you've seen Black Devil Doll from Hell. Turner, as a filmmaker, is completely inept but admirably spirited. You could argue the guy has no business making movies, but that would be unfair because how can you discourage a voice this unique and enthusiastic. No, the product isn't exactly a good movie, but there's still something admirable about the thing. If you're a fan of outsider art, this just might be the real deal, a product of a possibly diseased mind.
Jones isn't the only one who gives a magical performance here. Keefe L. Turner plays the living brother in the story about the vengeful brother, and he has two magical moments. First, is a seemingly endless monologue he spitefully delivers at his brother's corpse which, for inexplicable reasons, he decides to dress as a clown. And what is longer that monologue? Only his laughter at what he's done. He's a vengeful brother who really admires his own work.
And that Casio! Did I mention that Casio score?
The color's off, the sound's off, the music's off, the acting's off, the stories are askew, and it's something otherworldly. I really haven't even talked about the stories yet. The second one has the brother, who didn't get the opportunity to actually murder his more successful sibling, dressing him up as a clown and preparing to bury him in his basement. The first is barely a story at all. It's a family preparing for a meal and then arguing when there's not enough food for everybody at the table. It's set up like a terrible joke with no clear punchline, again, like some inebriated game of Telephone. The frame story involves Shirley Jones' character and her ghost (I guess?) son. Hubby comes home, becomes annoyed that she's reading stories to their dead son, and engages in spousal abuse that leads to tragedy. I probably shouldn't spoil anything more.
My favorite things:
--the warbling, completely unintelligible way the dead clown brother talks (oh, another spoiler)
--the repeated prayer of the patriarch of that family with not enough to eat (“Thank God for this food that we’re about to eat. It will keep us alive. There’s 8 of us at the table and there’s only food for five.”)
--a great fight scene
--a death scene that I figured would win any "Best Death Scene of the Year" award I end up having before it's topped by another death scene that's even nutsier
--the weirdo ghostly soul (?) effects
--the invisible boy effects, only a little less impressive than the way he communicates telepathically (?) with some "Shh-shh-shh-shh-shh" sounds and the visual of Shirley Jones' hair blowing around
--the promise that The Tales of the Quadead Zone will return at the end!
So come on, Chester Novell Turner! 30 years is about long enough to wait for more chapters in The Tales of the Quadead Zone! Let's unleash that sequel to your adoring fans as soon as possible.