I feel like I try to have a good handle on the animated films coming out but it seems like every month there is a new one I wasn’t aware of. In September it was Un Gallo con Muchos Huevos. This month it was Extraordinary Tales, an anthology film telling 5 of Edgar Allen Poe’s short stories. It is available on demand and that’s how I saw it.
Before the review I must own to not being a hard core Poe fan. I don’t mind his writing but am certainly not passionate about the stories. I guess that makes me both more and less critical of this offering than Poe purists might be.
Extraordinary Tales is directed by Raul Garcia, a point we see reminded 7 times with each short getting their own introduction and credit section. We get it Raul directed the movie! We don’t need to see a full credits for each short!
In truth Extraordinary Tales isn’t really a movie in the modern sense. It is 72 minutes but there are 6 minutes of just closing credits and the transition segments with Poe as a Raven feel like they are on slow motion with voices not matching to the mouth movements of characters. It all feels very slow. I would honestly think when you get to just the 5 shorts it is around 45 minutes of actual story.
But as with this years The Prophet the key to a film like this lies with the quality of the shorts. I’d say only 1 I liked, 2 are artistically interesting but flawed and 2 were amateurish and cheap with one being kind of disgusting. 1. The Fall of the House of Usher-
This is a Poe story I was unfamiliar with and it is about a man who visits a friend of his in a grand house who has an illness that causes them to have visions including a sister of his who died and that the house may be haunted.
The highlight of this short is the narrator is voiced by the late Christopher Lee. I believe this is his last performance and it is very immersive.
Unfortunately I felt the story wasn’t that engaging and the animation was amateurish and cheap. It looked like a video game from the 90s.
2. The Tell-Tale Heart-
By far my favorite of the shorts and my favorite Poe short story. It is done in black and white shadows and isn’t a style I’ve seen done very often so I enjoyed it. The story is about murder and guilt and how it will eat you up inside.
Another neat touch in this short is the use of a 1940s recording of The Tell-Tale Heart by horror great Bela Lugosi. The scratchiness and sound of his voice add to the crime noir feel.
3. The Facts in the Case of M Valdemar-
This is another short worthy of praise for its artistry. It is done using a comic book feel and it reminded me of old illustrations in Dickens or Alice in Wonderland from the turn of the century.
The story is fine about a man who see’s a hypnotist and goes into a kind of midway point between life and death. It’s definitely confusing but I liked looking at it enough to recommend it. Julian Sands narration is also very good in the segment.
4. Pit and the Pendulum-
This short I did not care for. It tells the story of a man incarcerated who is tortured with various devices including a pit and a pendulum.
I know this is the Poe story but I found it unpleasant to watch and kind of gross. It’s one thing for something to be gross or shocking but in this short they keep repeating the same disgusting imagery again and again until I was tempted to fast forward.
For example, there are probably 6 or 7 scenes with rats crawling all over the man, eating food off the man, eating from his bowl of porridge, crawling on his leg etc. It was gross! I also thought the CG in this short looked pretty amateurish.
5. Masque of the Red Death-
Basically this story is about a house where they are hiding from a plague symbolized by a grim reaper type with a red cape. They have a masquerade party where there is sex (strong nudity shown) and all kinds of mayhem going on in different rooms of the house. Eventually Red Death makes his way through the house claiming his victims as he goes.
This is a story I wasn’t familiar with but I liked the artistry in the short. It looks like a gothic watercolor and it was effectively creepy yet beautiful.
However, the mature content I could have done without and with really no story but people being naughty and dying it didn’t hold my interest despite looking nice.
So overall it isn’t a total loss. If you are curious and it sounds like your cup of tea then I would go for it. However, for me The Tell-Tale Heart was really the only short I loved. The rest had major flaws that took me away from the film.
And like I said the transitions and all the credits made it a bit of a slog to get through.
But that’s just me. If you see it let me know what you think! It’s certainly a unique project and I’m glad I gave it a shot.
Overall Grade- C- and that is probably being generous.