Monday, October 30, 2017

ESCAPES (1986) DVD review



Escapes (1986) d. Steensland, David (USA) (1st viewing) 87 min

You gotta meta-love it when a character in the movie you’re watching mirrors your own experience by describing the movie he’s about to watch onscreen to a friend on the phone as, “I don’t know where this movie came from. It’s got Vincent Price in it. It’s called Escapes.” Appearing as a bonus feature on Intervision’s recent release of the 90s SOV killer scarecrow flick Dark Harvest, chances are that most viewers will have the exact same assessment and will probably watch it with the same “Oh, what the hell, why not” attitude that both the aforementioned onscreen character Matthew Wilson (Todd Fulton) and your humble reviewer did.


Price, who worked for a single day’s shooting, plays himself (serving as the host for the eponymous anthology of short films) as well as a shabby U.S. mail carrier who drops off the mysterious VHS tape for our less-than-discriminating protagonist. The shorts, written and directed by Steensland, seem to have been produced individually and then collected into a portmanteau format using the Fulton/Price wraparound conceit. Not the most unique or innovative approach, but it serves the turn, and the same could be said about the stories themselves which all borrow from Twilight Zone premises with less punchy punchlines.


Aside from Price, the only other “name” on hand is John Mitchum (best known as Robert’s younger brother and Clint Eastwood’s partner in the Dirty Harry movies) who appears as the coffee-pushing diner proprietor diner in the third of the six episodes.


“Hobgoblin Bridge” is a spin on the classic Billy Goats Gruff fairy tale, with a young lad, bullied by an older brother and his friends, having to cross a strange covered bridge that is supposedly the lair of a sinister creature. The notably brief “A Little Fishy” gives a worm-skewering fisherman a taste of the hook himself, while the prolonged “Coffee Break” trots out the “you can check out any time you like but you can never leave” trope. “Who’s There?” is a mostly comedic vignette featuring a Twinkie-gobbling jogger on the run from an escaped tribe of biological throwbacks hiding out in a forest preserve.


The most emotionally resonant of the bunch, “Jonah’s Dream,” centers around a reclusive backwoods widow who spends her days panning for gold in the streams and her nights pining for her long-lost husband until her routine is shattered courtesy of a UFO landing. The sextet wraps up with “Think Twice,” a so-so morality tale about a two-bit thief attempting to steal a wish-granting gem from a mysterious, magnanimous homeless gent.


Being that it is a special feature itself, it’s pleasantly surprising that Intervision has included a supplement for the film, that being a five-minute conversation with distributor Tom Naygrow who has nothing but kind words for Steensland, a man he cites as the “unluckiest guy you ever met.” Seems that the deeply religious filmmaker was pursued by the studios based on his short-form efforts, but wasn’t interested in doling out the kind of exploitation material that Hollywood was demanding from late ’80s horrormeisters, preferring to deliver the gentle fables seen here (i.e. no sex, gore, or harsh language). Being that you’ve likely never heard of him before now, you can guess how that worked out.


Escapes is available now (along with Dark Harvest) on DVD from Severin Films and can be ordered HERE:

https://severin-films.com/dark-harvest-escapes-films/


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