Five tales of terror (or humor, or humorous terror, or terrible humor) written by Stephen King and directed by George A. Romero, and grouped together in a comic-book framework to bring back memories of pre-Seduction of the Innocents classics like Tales from the Crypt. There is a frequent elbow in the ribs to remind you of the stylistic source: the cartooned freeze-frames that open and close each segment, the hot red-and-blue lighting in a shot here and there, the use of masking devices of all shapes and descriptions. In spite of all that, the movie cannot sustain a comicky graphic style from one image to the next; the cutting is certainly disjunctive, but hardly suggestive of comic frames. And because it is, after all, a movie and not a comic book, it is perhaps somewhat closer to anthology horror movies such as Dead of Night, though not closer in artistic merit. Each of the segments has a single-joke storyline, fumblingly told. E.G. Marshall appears to have fun in the final segment, as a Howard Hughesian cleanliness fanatic inundated with cockroaches. Stephen King himself, starring in another segment, appears to have fun, too, in a performance suitable for Heehaw or The Beverly Hillbillies, but he fails to transfer any of that fun to the viewer. With Leslie Nielsen, Adrienne Barbeau, Hal Holbrook, and Fritz Weaver. 1982.

Duncan Shepherd

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