Indie Cinema Review : Video Shop Tales Of Terror (2023)

Video Shop Tales Of Terror (2023) is a revelation in quirky and horrifically whimsical low-budget indie film making. A horror anthology movie in the vein of George A. Romero’s Creepshow (1982) or John Carpenter’s Body Bags (1993), but with a wicked dollop of creepy British humour which will unquestionably appeal to those who appreciate the likes of TV’s The League Of Gentlemen (1999) and Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace (2004). And in it’s intriguingly delivered parody of classic Horror and Genre films of the past, there are certainly elements of Edgar Wright’s work on his Cornetto Trilogy of movies, specifically on Shaun Of The Dead (2004).

The project put together by producer Singh Lall has collated a handful of the finest indie Horror directors the UK has to offer, to create a collection of somewhat ludicrously over the top short movies. All of which are tied together by the story of the Video Dungeon, its ghastly Proprietor and the bizarre ensemble of colourful and often somewhat grotesque customers that flow through its doors. In addition there are also a handful of Grindhouse style grainy video trailers and oddball advertisements scattered throughout, with titles such as the darkly farcical Don’t Sit On His Face, which features a hilariously trashy X-Rated concept that really needs to be seen to be believed!

The film is introduced by the voluptuous Dani Teeze, played by cult indie Horror actress Dani Thompson (Demons At Dawn / My Bloody Banjo), a true scream queen of the underground UK horror scene. She is both alluring and playful in her delivery, setting up the premise of the film and introducing the themes of each short, before we dive into the depths of the Video Dungeon itself and the spooky Eighties-style synth score of the opening credits.

Dani Thompson appears throughout the film in various different roles including recurring character Paula Valentine, and is the stand out performer, most notably when leather clad in the stylistic Nazioploitation tribute flick Vergessen. The short film which takes influence from the black and white Second World War espionage movies of yesteryear, and is possibly the finest example of what Video Shop Tales Of Terror is all about, paying often farcical tongue in cheek homage to classic genre flicks in really quite an impressively knowledgable fashion.

Sure there some times where the films reported overall budget of around just £7,000 shows, but the stand out moments more than make the viewing experience a highly intriguing watch for fans of Horror and Comedy. There are many Easter eggs scattered throughout, including an almost like for like kill scene lifted from Halloween II (1981) in Egghead, the story of plastic surgery gone terribly wrong. And in a perfectly executed tribute to Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead (1981) in the hilariously titled Mary Whitehouse You’re A C*nt! Which is a wonderfully satirical look at censorship and is especially impressive in the make-up and F/X department, where the film really capture’s the feel of Raimi’s legendary Horror in all its schlocky B-Movie glory.

Elsewhere Video Shop Tales Of Terror provides other highlights with an avant-garde Film-Noir flavour in The Red Lipped Moon, a vampiric tale of mystery with a distinct influence of master auteur David Lynch (Eraserhead / The Lost Highway) shining through in a number of abstract fantasy sequences. And in the tale of demented retribution by a failed film director in These Burnt Children, featuring a deeply disturbed individual who is tortured by the spirits of his failed movie ideas, into taking murderous revenge against those who have wronged him.

There are moments of pure unadulterated comic revulsion throughout the movie, most notably in scenes played out within the Video Dungeon itself. Gluing the ensemble pieces together with an ongoing story involving its sadistic Proprietor (Martin W. Payne), who has distinctly morbid ways of dealing with his customers for crimes such as failing to rewind a returned video tape. And with the often repugnant stream of peculiar visitors he has to his store. And when all is said and done, Video Shop Tales Of Terror is really quite remarkable in the way it executes and achieves it objective, transporting you back to an era of VHS tapes and trashy Grindhouse exploitation flicks. You will laugh out loud, you will recoil into the back of your seat at times, and you will almost certainly enjoy the experience! KZ

Words by Mark Bates


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