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John’s Horror Corner: Screamtime (1983), an understandably obscure British horror anthology.

January 7, 2023

MY CALL: There’s good reason that you likely haven’t heard of this movie and, if you have, you’ve had trouble finding it. It’s… not good. Like, on all levels it’s not good. Weak writing, acting, premises, directing, effects–everything. MORE MOVIES LIKE Screamtime: I’m inclined to suggest Dolls (1987) for anyone who wants to see doll horror done right.

MORE HORROR ANTHOLOGIES: Dead of Night (1945), Black Sabbath (1963), Tales from the Crypt (1972), The Vault of Horror (1973), The Uncanny (1977), Screams of a Winter Night (1979), Creepshow (1982), Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), Stephen King’s Cat’s Eye (1985), Deadtime Stories (1986), Creepshow 2 (1987), From a Whisper to a Scream (1987; aka The Offspring), After Midnight (1989), Tales from the Crypt Season 1 (1989), Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990), Grimm Prairie Tales (1990), The Willies (1990), Two Evil Eyes (1990), Necronomicon: Book of the Dead (1993), Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996), Campfire Tales (1997), Dark Tales of Japan (2004), 3 Extremes (2004), Creepshow 3 (2006), Trick ‘r Treat (2007), Chillerama (2011), Little Deaths (2011), V/H/S (2012), The Theater Bizarre (2012), The ABCs of Death (2013), V/H/S 2 (2013), All Hallows’ Eve (2013), The Profane Exhibit (2013), The ABCs of Death 2 (2014), V/H/S Viral (2014), Southbound (2015), Tales of Halloween (2015), A Christmas Horror Story (2015), The ABCs of Death 2.5 (2016), Holidays (2016), Terrified (2017; aka Aterrados, a pseudo-anthology), Oats Studios, Vol. 1 (2017), Ghost Stories (2017), XX (2017), All the Creatures Were Stirring (2018), The Field Guide to Evil (2018), Shudder’s series Creepshow (2019-2021), Scare Package (2019), The Mortuary Collection (2019), Xenophobia (2019), V/H/S/94 (2021), Netflix’s series Cabinet of Curiosities (2022) and V/H/S/99 (2022).

As an old school movie collector, I love that this anthology begins with two guys at a video store—even if the execution is weak. A simple wraparound story, they snatch some movies and their illegal rentals serve as the source of the anthology stories.

Awakening my nostalgia, the first story (That’s the Way We Do It) revolves around puppets called Punch and Judy—and Punch looks just like Mister Punch from Dolls (1987), who was gifted to a girl named Judy in that movie. As is so often the case with dolls in horror, the owner and crafter (Robin Bailey) is devoted to his creations, which are damaged and disrespected by his wife and snide stepson (Jonathon Morris; Vampire Journals, Subspecies 4). Unfortunately all occurring off-screen, the wife and stepson get their comeuppance when they are beaten to death by a two-by-four by Punch. You’ll probably figure out the ending—it’s very predictably cliché, though not completely unentertaining for it. Somewhat boring, somewhat cheeky.

The second story (Dreamhouse) is about a married couple in their new home. The wife constantly fears there is someone in the house at night, with no one to be found by her husband. She also has psychic visions of bloody murder and dead bodies. There are some graphic, though clumsy, scenes of murderous violence. Generally, another boring and weakly executed story that I could have done completely without.

The third story (Do You Believe in Fairies?) is about a young man who takes a job as a handyman and gardener for two elderly women who claim to have fairies tending the garden. When he decides to rob the old heiresses, their garden gnomes and fairies come to their aid. This was horrible. However, some may find a laugh when the inanimate garden gnomes converge on the thieves.

The wraparound story adds no substance whatsoever to the movie, which packs rather weak anthology entries. I guess this explains why this movie is so hard to find. This was boring. The stories were uncreative and/or uninteresting, and all levels of performance and filmmaking were poor in my opinion. Very poor. There are simply too many better anthologies to suggest one suffer through this lest (like me) they are anthology completists who simply want to see them all. If that’s your pleasure and you still want to see it, I found a rough transfer from VHS on YouTube.

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