Tales from the Other Side is a 2022 horror anthology that pulls together six separate ‘scary’ stories as well as providing a substantial wraparound tale too. That’s good news as at least it gives this portmanteau a little consistency which it’d otherwise lack as this does have the feel of just being six shorts that they’ve shoved together (very much the curse of the modern horror anthology).
The film revolves around three kids on Halloween who decide to risk it all and knock on that one house in the neighbourhood that no other children would go near. The house is supposedly owned by ‘Scary Mary,’ a suspected witch who, local legend suggests, has a thing from killing and eating trick or treaters. Kids are pretty stupid though and so they decide to go to door and that’s when they meet Mary, a not-so-scary lady with a penchant for baking but also a lady who has a few frightening fables to tell.
After getting the kids set up with plates of pastries, Mary tells her stories. This wraparound tale is revisited between segments with a growing feeling of unease each time. Of course, if you’re in any doubt of the outcome you probably haven’t looked at the film’s front cover as that gives it away.
This tale involves a family who are having a yard sale but along the way we realise the owner of the stuff being sold was the ringleader of a travelling circus. Uh oh. Never a good thing in a portmanteau story. The circus’ star attraction was the ‘Petrified Boy,’ a desiccated corpse of a small boy that supposedly comes to life if sunlight ever touches him. And if that happens, the little fucker goes on a murder spree.
However, this section never gets that far. The grandchild of the circus owner finds the boy, gets sunlight on him and then the boy wakes up. Well, actually what happens is that the boy gets fake CGI eyes plastered on his face, suggesting that he’s woken up. And then the story is over because it is really quite shit. Oh and a lot of the story is slow motion footage of the owner looking at the camera and looking entirely like a millennial and nothing like someone from the past. Whatever.
This story sees a young man getting a job editing videos at a funeral home. For reasons unknown this can’t be done at home and instead has to be done there. At night. Fucking hell. Anyway, when he starts seeing a connection between the dead people in the videos and soon realises that he might next. And how does he die? A corpse (well, an actor in a poor mask) gets him. This segment is at least notable for having Vernon Wells from Commando in it. Unfortunately no longer looking like Freddie Mercury on steroids.
Another segment, another carnival. This time we’re at a modern one. A couple go to get their fortune told but when the woman becomes beguiled by the crystal ball, she rather unwisely decides to steal it. Of course, these leads to her becoming cursed. The ball starts showing her visions of a brutal future and so her husband decides to throw it away. Unfortunately, it doesn’t want to be thrown away and keeps reappearing. Anyway, in a fit of massive overacting, the woman accidentally kills him.
It’s not a great look when you’re reviewing a film and fall asleep but the soft, classical music and dreary white clinical setting of this segment made it a little too relaxing. So we’ve rewatched it again. This story revolves around a man in an asylum who believes that God is talking to him. He’s calm enough but when the psychologist explains that him killing his wife was a bit much (in a surprisingly shitty way) it turns out that the voices in his head have been making him kill people.
Most of this story is just those two talking. He’s clearly mad but she’s so sarcastic and unlikeable that it makes the whole thing a bit too unrealistic (even for a portmanteau segment). That’s just bad acting. But anyway, after their conversation he hears the voice of God again (and, of course, is entirely unrestrained at the time) but also so do the other patients and even two nurses and that psychologist. But then it all cuts away to him being in a straightjacket. It turns out that the psychologist is talking to him over the PA speakers using a voice modifier. There’s some sort of revelation in that but it’s just a rubbish payoff to a tedious story.
This story focuses on a struggling artist who is propositioned by the wife of his biggest inspiration. She wants him to kill her husband in order to inflate the price of his art. However, she then knocks him out. When he comes too, the husband is there. It turns out that the plan still stands but that the struggling artist is the one who is to be sacrificed. They’re going to make it look like a suicide except that he’s on a crucifix. So quite how he’s supposed to have cut his own throat is beyond us.
But then the wife kills him. It turns out that the blatantly evil woman had a plan to make it look like they killed each other and so she stabs him with the same knife (again, the other guy is TIED TO A FUCKING CROSS). The story ends with her about to inherit a lot of their artwork. Presumably because basic police detective work doesn’t exist in this world. And again, the acting isn’t very strong but this section is at least suitably bloody and ends with her speaking the only semi-decent line of the whole film.
Krampus Vs. Elf
The film’s final segment sees two young brothers asking their mum to read them a Christmas story. She decides to read them ‘the true story of how Christmas came to be’ at which point it all changes. What we get is a sort of fake stop motion tale of two brothers. One is the elf (a shit puppet of an elf) and the other is Krampus (a shit puppet of Krampus). Essentially all that happens is that they fight and the elf stabs Krampus with an oven thermometer.
There’s a problem here. It’s not stop motion at all. Instead it’s basically like security cameras from the ’90s. All you see is one frame out of ten or twenty or whatever. It’s like watching a photo reel. Because it’s basically a regular frame rate, the big moments don’t necessarily get seen. The elf stabs Krampus but you don’t feel like you see it. It’s like watching Karate Kid but pressing a button where you’re just jumping forwards at ten seconds each time.
Anyway, this story ends by returning to the brothers who are putting on a poorly-acted open mouthed look of shock at what they just heard. Lucky for them they didn’t have to fucking watch it. Shite. Actually the worst portmanteau segment we’ve ever seen.
Between each story, we kept returning to Scary Mary. The lady initially seemed very sweet and so the children were happy to spend time with her as she went through each story. But with all of her tales told and one of the kids having disappeared, the two remaining children (by now suffering from the effects of poisoning) realise they’re properly fucked. They try to escape but she cooks them and is about to have them for dinner when her door gets another knock for a bunch more stupid kids looking to get chomped.
This is definitely one for the lowest tier of our Ultimate Guide to Portmanteaus. None of the stories are particularly good and are all let down further by poor acting, weak writing and utterly dismals attempts at horror and suspense. But when you compound that by adding Krampus Vs. Elf, this becomes an unredeemable disaster. We’ve still got ‘Horror and Hamsters’ to watch, so this could be beaten to last place (and to be fair Deadtime Stories, Grim Prairie Tales and The Horror Network are all in with a shout for that particular title) but for now it’s as poor a portmanteau as we’ve ever seen. And we’ve seen loads of them.