*Disclaimer: Featured image is, in fact, probably not Misfits Era Glen Danzig

In a darkened room a shrouded figure tells a group of kids three scary tales. “Satan’s Necklaces” follows a man who finds a cursed necklace that transforms him into a murderous demon. The second story, “Sliced in Cold Blood,” shows a man going on a murder spree after learning his wife is cheating on him. In the final tale of terror, a man obsessed with making it to the final level of a video game finds himself transported into the game itself in “Level-21”.

Shot in rural Baltimore, Scary Tales is a charming horror anthology that uses low-budget ingenuity to hide its shoestring budget and simple story devices. Stripped of the ‘Baltimore charm’ and gore the film, admittedly, is so poorly constructed it will only speak to a certain fandom. That’s right, we have another ‘so bad it’s good film’ courtesy of AGFA.

Story-wise, the individual tales are rather repetitive in execution with the first two only offering slight deviations on a murderous crime spree taking center stage. The third tale, “Level 21” offers the most unique premise and is arguably the most entertaining short of the three—where bashing in a ninja’s skull with a stone is the highlight of silliness and gore. In the wraparound story, a dark entity telling a story to children is the weakest attribute and just boils down to a spooky figure in a room going “This story is called Satan’s necklace”. However, there is some added humor here if you take into account that the “scary” tales are being told by this figure throughout; “Well then kids, the man slashed the woman over and over and over again with his machete, mumbling to himself and calling her a b**** and w****”. The content within these stories really does not fit the wraparound or the title of the film and there is certainly more of an exploitative vibe to each segment.

The same cast is recycled in each segment, which actually adds to the charm of the modest budget. The performances reflect both the lack of experience of the crew as well as the locale. Thankfully, there is a certain charm to the Baltimore accent that—when combined with awkward or campy acting—evokes an odd giddiness in most viewers. Set-wise, it is hard not to marvel at the horrible design choices of the past, and the amount of wood paneling and carpeting will probably transport a lot of viewers back to that ‘one room’ that their parents or a family friend had back in the 90s. Notably, the bar in the first segment is obviously someone’s basement bar that has that garish aesthetic of the era where you can almost smell the mold in the carpet.

What horrors await at “Level-21”

Ultimately, as an anthology feature Scary Tales is so crude and laughably amateurish that it is best watched with a group of friends where you can poke fun at it. At just over an hour long (unless you dive into the special features) it is also the perfect pairing for a double-feature movie night. At the same time, despite the limitations, writers/directors Doug Ulrich & Al Darago are obviously passionate about their craft. This is most notable in the gore effects where the goal of ‘shocking’ the audience seems to be the most considered and planned out aspect of the production. Certainly, there are many amusing stabbings, dismemberments, and eye-gougings that will ensure cheers and laughs are shared in equal measure.

Make sure you check this one out, once again 101 and AGFA have killed it in bringing a remarkable gem deserving of cult status to physical media. Now… Fade to belly button…


Scary Tales is Available Through 101 Films and Includes the Following Special Features:

  • New transfer from the original S-VHS master tapes
  • Commentary track with director Doug Ulrich
  • 1987 demo version of SCARY TALES
  • Outtakes and vintage TV promo appearance
  •  Bonus movie: DARKEST SOUL (1994)
  •  Early horror shorts by director Doug Ulrich
  •  Reversible cover
  •  English subtitles*

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