Theme Song: “Bedtime Tales” by Larry Juris, lyrics by Jeffrey Delman.
Granted the music is average, but the lyrics on this song are absurd. All of that credit goes to Jeff Delman who also co-wrote and directed Deadtime Stories. This attempt at summarizing several fairytales to a soundtrack of pseudo-anthemic 80s rock songs is possibly the most ridiculous thing to happen in 1986. I’m all for comedic exaggeration, but to sing words like “despoiled” when describing the property of Three Little Pigs is really far out. Or how about rhyming “magic bean spillage” with “plunder and pillage”? It really is something else. Make note that Delman was so confident in the song he extended the opening credits in order to include all three minutes and 13 seconds of it. Ballsy.
Interesting Dated References: A lone uncle being allowed to babysit a lone child unsupervised; Melissa Leo’s acting career in the 80s.
Best Line: Much of the dialogue in this movie is terrible and no further discussion should be spent analyzing any lines.
Social Context: During the home video craze of the mid-80s, the horror anthology genre had a small swell in popularity. Get yourself some half-completed stories, a special effects guy looking to prove himself, some bad synths, and there you go: Mid-80s anthology horror at its best.
Summary: But it wasn’t quite that simple. Deadtime Stories takes that formula and somehow makes something that, for the most part, is totally unenjoyable. Well, it’s probably enjoyable if you like Troma movies or not doing anything meaningful with your life. In that case, you may think Deadtime Stories is totally hilarious and you might even quote lines from it as you annoy people who pretend to enjoy your company.
So creepy Uncle Mike is babysitting his nephew Brian who demands to be told a series of stories. The first story takes place back in the 1800s. Peter is sold into slavery and taken in by two witches who subsequently cast a spell to bring their dead sister back to life.
Peter is played by Scott Valentine, who had a recurring role on Family Ties as Mallory’s boyfriend Nick which may have helped speed this movie onto videocassette . You only care about this if you are really into Family Ties trivia, which you are not. So after 20 minutes of annoying witch talk, they finally capture a virginal maiden to sacrifice in order to bring the dead sister back to life.
This includes an absurdly long corpse-reanimating special effects sequence. You see, one of the keys to a successful anthology horror film is to have a good effects artist on board. For Deadtime Stories, Ed French (Star Trek VI, Terminator 2) did his best to spruce up the rather drab narrative.
Peter decides to kill the witches and rescue the virginal maiden. They run away, but the reanimated witch corpse hunts them down and tries to kill them. During the showdown, Peter rips out the witch’s heart, which then attaches itself to his face, only to be ripped off and thrown against a wall by the virginal maiden.
And that’s the end of the story. In a pointless attempt at humor, Uncle Mike gives a quick alternate ending. Brian, still unable to sleep, demands another story. Both Brian and Uncle Mike seem to be oblivious to the fact that it is fucking daylight out. At this point things start to get a little better for Deadtime Stories, except for the fact that Uncle Mike opens the story by talking about big-breasted teenage girls to his still prepubescent nephew.
The second story is a take on Red Riding Hood. Rachel, aforementioned big-breasted teen, gets home from school and checks herself out in front of the mirror before heading out to pick up her Grandmother’s medicine at the drug store.
Once there, she meets Willie, a closet junkie who is picking up his hard drugs from the corrupt pharmacist. After mixing up the packages, Willie gets home and realizes he doesn’t have his juice. He rushes back to the pharmacist, insisting he get it before moonrise. As you may know, the only people that use the term, “moonrise,” are werewolves.
So Willie goes to the grandmother’s house, only to find out Rachel still hasn’t arrived. Why, you ask? Because she is having sex in a candlelit shed with her boyfriend. First off, a shed is no place for candles. They often have low roof lines, and more often than not are filled with toxic and flammable chemicals.
While Rachel is busy having shed-sex, Willie turns into the wolf and attacks the grandmother. When Rachel and her boyfriend finally get done in the shed and arrive at grandmother’s, the boyfriend is quickly killed. Rachel is much smarter and is able to kill the wolf with a flower pot and cake knife. After looking at the now dead corpse of Willie, Rachel hears her grandmother breathing, only to realize grandma is now a werewolf.
This segment is the high watermark for Deadtime Stories, and that’s not saying a lot. It’s an interesting enough modern take on the fairy tale, and the overall cheesiness doesn’t overtake the story …
… unlike the final segment, which is a fucking orgy of annoying Troma-isms. This segment is a take on Goldilocks and the three bears. Papa Baer and Baby Baer (two grown men) get busted out of the looney bin by Mama Baer (Melissa Leo). They rob a bank and then decide to hide from the police in their old rundown house. All of this action is filled with Benny Hill-style sped-up footage and terrible jokey music.
The Baers get to the house and discover the serial killer Goldi Lox has taken up residence, using the house to store corpses of her dead lovers. The Baers agree to let Goldi help out around the house.
When Goldi makes porridge that is too cold and the Baers hear about her crimes on television, the whole group decides to go to a restaurant . While dining, they see on television that police are storming the house, so they decide to drive off into the sunset in their car. The end. There’s really not a lot to talk about here.
In the closing scene, Uncle Mike finally gets Brian to sleep, but then a monster drops down on the kid and kills him. Great. This month of anthology horror is off to a terrible start.
Poster and Box Art: The homevideo cover for Deadtime Stories is top notch. The video releasing company must have known they needed to have a great cover in order to get this video rented.
The airbrushing is awesome, and they even took the time to have a custom logotype created. Very well executed.
This alternate poster, on the other hand, is terrible. It looks like a heavy metal album that you used to think was really good, but when you listen to it years later you realize it’s fucking garbage.
Upon further inspection, I just realized this alternate cover is also awesome. Look how much detail is vomiting out of that corpses mouth! You can use this as your next album cover for your shitty metal band. Seriously, there’s already room for your illegible logo in the upper right.
Availability: Available in one of those 50-movie packs, or as a standalone DVD. You can also watch the movie on YouTube since it’s in the public domain.
It was also marketed as Freaky Fairytales in Europe, so try that as well. For the record, the Betamax review refers to the R-rated version. There are a few other cuts that have slightly less or more violence and/or nudity.