The next VHS off my shelf is Jeff Delman’s 1986 anthology Deadtime Stories.
While babysitting, Uncle Mike (Michael Mesmer) tells his young nephew three stories to try and get him to sleep.
Deadtime Stories is a movie that has always been on my periphery – for the coverbox alone – but one I always reckoned I had seen at some point. When I was a kid I thought it was a George A. Romero joint, perhaps because of its passing resemblance to Creepshow. In my defense, with its hand-drawn opening credit sequence, it does feel eerily similar.
I have to admit this movie did start out a bit dull with the first segment involving a trio of witches and a young Scott Valentine, who would've been a year into his recurring stint on Family Ties by this point. I thought this movie looked a bit cheap until the effects by Ed French & Bryant Tausek rolled out. That's when I realized where most of the money likely went and I was back in. There's a great Hellraiser-style reanimation that was the first sequence in a bunch of solid practical effects pieces throughout the movie.
|The money shot.
Next, there was a take on Red Riding Hood that involves a werewolf. The idea of a RRH being a horny teen is not new, but I did like the idea of the lycanthrope trying to knock himself out with pills. When his pharmacy order got mixed up with Red's Grandmothers', that's when chaos ensued.
It was the third and final story that Deadtime Stories pulls a complete one-eighty. This wacky rendition of Goldilocks & the Three Bears feels a lot like Crimewave-era Sam Raimi. I actually perused Imdb to see if there were any un-credited affiliations to the Renaissance boys (ala The Nutt House) because the tone was so similar. To give you an idea, the “Bears” are actually a maniacal crime family – which begins with “Mama”, played by Oscar Winner Melissa Leo, breaking “Papa” and “Baby” out of the loony bin – and “Goldi Lox” (Cathryn de Prume) is a murderous telekinetic. I got a kick out of the Rockabilly ditty “Looney Tune” featured – also written by Delman – here, as well.
|Cathryn de Prume as Goldi Lox in Deadtime Stories.
I spent most of this segment with my jaw agape because it was so at odds with the rest of the picture. I can only justify it by thinking that perhaps Delman was trying to illustrate how at the end of his rope Uncle Mike might have been by that point in the evening. His tales did become increasingly more inappropriate for underage consumption.
|Michael Mesmer (left) & Brian DePersia in Deadtime Stories
Imdb also told me that both Valentine & Leo were injured right before they went to camera - the former has a noticeable limp and the latter was wearing a cast under her wardrobe. That had to be a pre-production nightmare.
Deadtime Stories is not one of the more memorable anthologies from the eighties, but it's certainly worth watching for shits and gags.