11th Oct2023

‘Scary Tales: Dead Zone’ VOD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Lorrie Bacon, Chris Spinelli, Mark Carter, Oselito Joseph, Phil Godeck, Rita Maria, Adriana Medina, Gabbi Mendelsohn, Eric Michaelian, Brent Northup, Nick Sheldon, Jesse Waegelein-Hall, Pawel Watracz | Written and Directed by Geno McGahee

Massachusetts filmmaker Geno McGahee returns to the Scary Tales franchise he created in 2014 with the third film in the series, Scary Tales: Dead Zone, after an 8-year hiatus. Which means that yes, we’re in anthology territory once again – a once-dead format which seems to be gaining momentum as the end of 2023 approaches.

Scary Tales: Dead Zone opens with a couple, Allison and Jay, who are out on a drive when their car runs out of gas. Seemingly lost, they walk through the woods and discover a house in the middle of nowhere. Inside, a friendly man, Wes, with an interesting past as a cop has some tales to tell…

First up in Scary Tales: Dead Zone is a story about a serial killer who’s slaughtering the local children. The cops think they’ve got their man but one cop, whose beliefs have seen him suspended from the force knows that the killer is still out there. Only he thinks it’s a demon… the Muffin Man! Eventually proven right, even turning round his chief’s disbelief, they confront the Muffin Man but he won’t stay dead – even when blasted at point blank range with a shotgun. Obviously.

Next up is a story about alien conspiracies, as a man, now dying from stage 4 cancer, confesses to his psychiatrist about how he’s spent his life working with aliens and alien technology, all under the watchful eyes of the government. The shrink thinks it’s all a tall tale, told by a man looking more for friendship as his life ends rather than confessing his troubles. But it turns out this “crazy old man” is anything but and his story is more of a warning than his psychiatrist could ever believe. Oh, and we learn that alien greys are cannibals too!

The final story follows a small-town newspaper reporter who’s put on to a mysterious “time traveller” who appears in photos of tragedies going back decades. Never ageing, always watching… But it turns out this mysterious man, who appears numerous times before her, is not a time traveller, he’s the grim reaper. Yes, the sickle-carrying harbinger of death isn’t the skeleton-faced, cloak-wearing monster the reporter expects. And there’s a reason he keeps showing up in front of her!

Let’s be frank, there are some weird choices made in this film – such as the Muffin Man story skipping forward six months with no explanation about the ongoing child murders before suddenly bringing the Muffin Man back into the cops’ life; and then there’s behaviours of some of the characters within the film – though how much of that is down to performances, or lack thereof, is debatable.

However, unlike a lot of other anthologies, writer/director Geno McGahee brilliantly chooses to make the wraparound story of Allison and Jay the CENTRE of this film. The stories that Wes tells are a reflection of what is happening to the couple rather than the focus of the film. So much so that the characters from the stories Wes tells, from the Muffin Man to the aliens, come to life and there is seemingly no way out for any of them… after all, outside in the world is a scary place, right?

Whilst the film suffers from some amateurish performances, Scary Tales: Dead Zone;’s biggest issue is that the stories within the anthology and the very wraparound itself feel like ideas that haven’t been totally fleshed out – as if the premise was developed but no one could come up with any truly satisfying conclusions. For theses stories do end but they could also have been so much more.

** 2/5

Scary Tales: Dead Zone will be released on digital platforms on October 13th, courtesy of Cinema Epoch.


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