Tales of Poe (2014)

Tales of Poe posterGood things come to those who wait. Correction: Very good things come to those who wait. I’ve been reporting on and following the making of the anthology film, TALES OF POE, since 2011. Why so eager for this film, you might ask? Well mainly because of the minds behind it. TALES OF POE is directed by Bart Mastronardi and Alan Rowe Kelly (who also wrote Poe’s tales for the screen along with Michael Varrati), two of the most talented people working in the horror field today. I was first introduced to Mastronardi from his 2006 film, VINDICATION, which also caught the eye of Clive Barker. Since then I’ve been a huge fan and supporter of Bart Mastronardi. I was introduced to the films and mind of Alan Rowe Kelly through Mastronardi. Kelly, besides being a talented filmmaker, is also a terrific actor. Need proof? Look no further that Rowe’s “A Far Cry from Home” in the anthology GALLERY OF FEAR. Kelly writes, directs, and stars in this segment and it is harrowing!! It was one of the best performances I saw that year. So when I read that Mastronardi and Kelly were combining their talents to give us an anthology on the Master of Horror, Edgar Allan Poe, I was ecstatic. And as you might guess from my opening sentences it was well worth the wait.

Debbie Rochon in Tell Tale Heart just KILLING it!!

Debbie Rochon in Tell Tale Heart just KILLING it!!

TALES OF POE consists of two of Poe’s classic stories and one of his famous and most often quoted poems. There’s no cheesy attempt at a wrap-around story here. The shorts are presented individually and can be watched and enjoyed as such. Mastronardi wrote and directed the first story, “The Tell Tale Heart;” Kelly wrote, directed, and starred in the second story, “The Cask,” which is an updated version of “The Cask of Amontillado;” and Mastronardi directed the last segment, “Dreams,” written by Michael Varrati, and is based on Poe’s poem of the same name. Usually in an anthology you get some strong and some weak entries and it all balances out. In TALES OF POE, though, we start off strong and it only gets better!!

Mastronari & Kelly behind the scenes on Tell Tale Heart.

Mastronari & Kelly behind the scenes on Tell Tale Heart.

I was lucky enough to watch and review Mastronardi’s “The Tell Tale Heart” back in October 2011. Mastronardi had recently finished it and was eager to get some feedback. My opinion on “The Tell Tale Heart” hasn’t changed a bit over the last four years. What really impressed me is how Mastronardi updated this classic of horror literature while at the same time keeping all those elements that made Poe’s story so disturbing, creepy, and scary. The story is told in a blending of flashbacks and present-time storytelling. The Narrator (Debbie Rochon, the infamous Scream Queen who’s appeared in almost 200 films) is telling her story of how she ended up in an institution to patients Evelyn (Lesleh Donaldson) and Fritz (David Marancik). She was a home nurse to an aging silent-era actress Peggy Lamarr (Alan Rowe Kelly) and just like in the source story, she couldn’t handle Lamarr’s gamy, dripping eye. This is all I’m gonna say about the story. This is one you’ll want to see unfold and experience yourselves. And this is where Mastronardi’s craftiness comes in. We’ve all read Poe’s story and we all know what happens. But Mastronardi gives us what feels like a fresh take on the material. We see that Rochon’s character isn’t all that mentally stable to begin with and her fixation/obsession with Lamarr’s eye just sends her over the edge. The story ends with quite a bit of gore, which is expected since this is a Mastronardi film. You can read the entire review (the link is above).

Tales of Poe2Besides this being incredibly fun, this is also one of the best performances I’ve seen from actress Rochon. She absolutely kills it in her portrayal of The Narrator who explains her descent into madness. I’ve always been a fan of Rochon’s but her performance in “The Tell Tale Heart” proves how much she’s matured in her acting. The other standout performance here was Kelly’s portrayal of Peggy Lamarr. Kelly’s Lamarr walked that fine line between insanity and melodrama and if not for Kelly’s disciplined performance the role could’ve easily ended up being a caricature of a silent era actresses. Instead his performance was controlled and focused. It was brilliant.

The second story, Alan Rowe Kelly’s “The Cask,” is another update of a Poe classic that retains all the elements that made the original so inspiring. In it Kelly, who wrote, directed, and stars, plays Gogo Montresor and we meet her on her wedding day as she marries Fortunato Montresor (Randy Jones). Fortunato is a wealthy wine connoisseur and winemaker and many of the wedding guests don’t approve of the nuptials. If you’re at all familiar with the original story then you know it involves deception, greed, and revenge. Once more what really stands out in “The Cask” are the performances. Randy Jones, who you’re probably more familiar with as The Cowboy from the famous group the Village People, is fantastic as Fortunato. His love for Gogo has blinded him to the truth. There’s a slight air of campiness in “The Cask” which will remind you of the great anthologies of yesteryear like TALES FROM THE CRYPT and Jones’ performance hits all the right notes. But again the standout is Kelly’s Gogo. His performance here will take you back to the classic Bette Davis/Joan Crawford film, WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? In fact, Kelly’s Gogo is a character I could’ve seen Peggy Lamarr (from the previous story) playing!!

Randy Jones in "The Cask"!!

Randy Jones in “The Cask”!!

“The Cask” boasts fantastic acting, great writing, and you’ll love the twisted love triangle and the revenge from the grave. Mastronardi served as the cinematographer on “The Cask” so you know the colours are vibrant and there’s many creative shots. Kelly also sets the story in a fantastic location giving the film all that much more authenticity. “The Cask” cements Kelly as a major talent and a triple threat when it comes to filmmaking. So with the first two stories being so solid, I guess this means that the last segment in the anthology, “Dreams,” is a disaster, right?


The Queen's party guests in "Dreams." (click the image for a larger pic).

The Queen’s party guests in “Dreams.” (click the image for a larger pic).

“Dreams” is unlike anything you’ve seen before and will most likely see in the future. Instead of being based on one of Poe’s short stories it’s based on one of his classic and best known poems of the same name. The poem, which is only twenty-four lines long, explores a woman experiencing the dream state between life and death. In the film, The Dreamer (Bette Cassatt) explores life, death, family, love, and the nature of dreams themselves and never utters a single line of dialogue. The entire film has a dream-like, etherial quality to at as The Dreamer wanders the dreamscape meeting odd, eccentric, and downright frightening characters. Cassatt puts in an impressive performance. The short also stars some familiar names. Caroline Williams, best known for 1986s THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2, plays the Angel of Dreams (who serves as The Dreamer’s guide); Adrienne King, the survivor in the original FRIDAY THE 13TH, plays Queen of Dreams (the dark personification of Death); and another FRIDAY THE 13TH alum (from part two), Amy Steel, plays the Mother of Dreams.

Adrienne King as the Queen of Dreams.

Adrienne King as the Queen of Dreams.

It’s a ballsy move choosing a poem for the third entry but Mastronardi’s gamble pays off. Varrati writes an edgy, pushing-the-envelop script that in the hands of Mastronardi comes to life. The cinematography is beautiful and horrifying at the same time and the soundtrack is haunting. “Dreams” is an abstract piece of art that someone without Mastronardi’s focus and talent could have easily ruined. Mastronardi has complete control over the material and he serves as our guide through the surreal and haunting dreamscape. “Dreams” comes off like a visual, dynamic poem. Interspersed throughout the film we hear The Dreamer reciting the original poem creating an even more haunting atmosphere. This piece won’t be for everyone but I think it’s possibly the best segment in the anthology. It’s experimental, ambitious, brazen, frightening, and beautiful all at the same time. Total respect for Mastronardi not just for attempting to make “Dreams” but for pulling it off flawlessly.

Tales of Poe4TALES OF POE will most likely be released sometime this year and I highly recommend it. It wouldn’t be fair to label this as just a great indie horror film. This goes so far beyond what most people expect and usually get from indie horror films. This is, simply put, a fantastic film period!! TALES OF POE also shows what happens when a lot of talented people, both in front of and behind the screen, come together to make a passion project come to life. Without the fantastic cast and crew TALES OF POE wouldn’t have worked as well as it did. Mastronardi and Kelly know that surrounding themselves with talented people will result in a brilliant film. I sure hope Bart Mastronardi and Alan Rowe Kelly continue working in the horror field because us fans need them.

My Summary:

Directors: Bart Mastronardi & Alan Rowe Kelly (also writers with Michael Varrati)

Plot: 5 out of 5 stars

Gore: 4.5 out of 10 skulls

Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains

Reviewed by Scott Shoyer

(l-r) Debbie Rochon, Alan Rowe Kelly, Bart Mastronardi

(l-r) Debbie Rochon, Alan Rowe Kelly, Bart Mastronardi

One Response to “Tales of Poe (2014)”
Check out what others are saying...

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: