The atmosphere is tense and foreboding; the patients’ volatile tendencies and the chilling Nurse Malliard (Desiree Gould) wrench us to the edge of our seats, and we’re left in suspense as the narrator slowly recounts the story of her fall, her ‘disease’ to her deranged peers.
She recalls her position as a maid working in the overly indulgent home of Peggy Lamarr (Alan Rowe Kelly), a retired musical sensation, now bed-ridden from the ravages of time and a life spent in the fast lane. The narrator notes her disgust at the former idol’s grotesque visage, her inhibitions slowly fading in light of murderous rage.
The portrayal of the narrator’s sharp decline into madness is deliciously tense; her spontaneously violent thoughts and actions reflect her deteriorating, dishevelled appearance, and even amongst her disturbed associates she shines as one truly possessed by delusion.
The skilful use of jittery extreme close-ups and an intentional lack of light leave the audience uneasy, building suspense gradually. The inclusion of several eerie violin pieces round off the tension nicely, with a few juicy jump-scares thrown in to keep us on edge.
Fading in to the second story, The Cask begins with a lavish wedding scene; affluent and frivolous folk engaging in small talk regarding the marriage between Fortunato Montresor (Randy Jones) and his new wife Gogo (Alan Rowe Kelly). Spotting a mysterious robed figure amidst the celebrations, Gogo is distracted when Fortunato brings up a surprise wedding gift. Inviting the guests into his wine cellar, Fortunato tells them of a legendary cask of wine said to rest within the grounds, yet to be found.
After leading them through a vast, dank tunnel, a supernatural turn of events disturbs the cast, instilling dread in those exposed and causing voices to invade the minds of the attendees. As panic ensues, Fortunato’s health takes a suspiciously hasty turn for the worse; as he begins to lose consciousness amongst cries of terror, we’re left with uncertainty while the screen fades to black. What follows is a macabre tragedy of betrayal, greed and despair in gruelling detail, with a sharp twist to keep us on our toes.
The lack of music throughout and utilisation of low rumbling bass and high pitched chimes unnerve the senses and create a unique air of anxiety. Scenes of violence are repulsively visceral and convincing, causing even the most stalwart of viewers to wince or worse. It’s a shocking representation of betrayal that ends horribly for all involved.
Lastly, Dreams is portrayed through a myriad of bizarre dream sequences that transition from the grotesque to the extravagant and back again.
The tale begins with a young woman (Bette Cassatt) lying in a hospital bed while her concerned mother (Amy Steel) watches over her. Oblivious, she experiences vivid and twisted nightmares while a shadowy entity attempts to breach the confines of her spiritual prison.
A largely symphonic soundtrack facilitates the echoing, distorted howls and wails that permeate the scenes; at every turn the “Dreamer” is faced with a new, ominous opponent.
There’s a strange, symbolic surrealism that’s difficult to follow throughout; every scene is more demanding than the last, challenging our imagination through the absence of dialogue. It’s a risky, though clever, method of interpretation for a variation on an abstract classic.
Along her path to ‘enlightenment’ she encounters the Queen of Dreams (Adrienne King) and Angel of Dreams (Caroline Williams), equally wary of both as she ponders what may be conceived as real, and what should be considered false for certain. Fragments of memories are mixed in with the chaos, blended with disorientating reds and jarring motion blur for a cryptic, befuddling approach.
All in all, the acting is convincing and raw, and the camera techniques used are simple yet effective. Tom Burns has done a splendid job with the musical score, inciting trepidation effortlessly. The three brief episodes blend back to back fluidly, and the film certainly doesn’t disappoint in the gross factor; give this a go, but brace yourself for a gory ride.
Review: Tales of Poe
By Adam Kaplan - 6th July 2015
Tales of Poe is a surreal and creative take on the works of Edgar Allan Poe, featuring adaptations of ‘The Tell Tale Heart’, ‘The Cask’, and the popular poem ‘Dreams’.
Directors Bart Mastronardi and Alan Rowe Kelly bring these snippets to life in gruesome detail, presenting each narrative separately while keeping the tension amped up.
The Tell Tale Heart opens with a blood-soaked episode filled with graphic insight into an insane mind. An unnamed female (Debbie Rochon) narrates her abysmal situation through the haze of an apparent mental breakdown, stained with blood on the bathroom floor.
Flashing forward to her admittance to the asylum, the narrator and audience alike are exposed to the abysmal mental state of its residents while she remains a silent witness.