The 13th Floor

The 1980s Horror Anthology You Likely Missed: Exploring DEADTIME STORIES

The 1986 film DEADTIME STORIES is a horror anthology with a twisted take on the fairytales we remember from our childhood. All three stories, told by an annoyed babysitting uncle at his nephew’s bedtime, are on the surface tongue-in-cheek parodies, but they have a lot to offer. Each story is a unique interpretation of these old fairy tales, loaded with violence, gore, and sex…which gets a little awkward when you realize that these stories are being told by an uncle to his young nephew. Yeah…it’s a bit weird, but moving on.

DEADTIME STORIES is the work of writer/ director Jeffrey Delman whose first screenplay, STUCK ON YOU! (1982), was an over-the-top sex comedy co-directed by Lloyd Kaufman and is widely considered the film that helped establish TROMA ENTERTAINMENT.  DEADTIME STORIES is also the work of executive producer Steven Mackler, who horror fans will remember from the 1986 horror film NEON MANIACS. The first thing that hits you right from the top of the film is the sheer brilliance of DEADTIME STORIES titular song. The tune, entitled “Bedtime Tales” which plays over an oddly edited opening sequence, is a hard rock ballad that screams mid-1980s.

Divided into three segments, DEADTIME STORIES offers its fascinating take on fairytales beginning with an ambitious period piece called “Peter and the Witches”. Nick Valentine (who sitcom fans will remember as the artistic bad boy boyfriend from FAMILY TIES) stars in a strange tale of shapeshifting, orgies, and raising the dead. For a segment that on the surface feels extremely low budget, the effects are pretty amazing, Up next is coming-of-age retelling of “Little Red Riding Hood”. Set in modern times, the segment establishes an interesting mystery, with just the right amount of gratuitously uncomfortable sex. By far my favorite segment, it could have worked  as its own separate feature. Finally the most ridiculous segment of them all, a Ma Barker meets CARRIE retelling of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”. This one is over the top silliness that never actually explains itself, but still somehow manages to be entertaining.

A 1986 theatrical release, DEADTIME STORIES was far more suited for a video rental shelf. First released to VHS in 1987, eight months after leaving theaters, the film was only available on VHS for over twenty years, not receiving a DVD release until 2007 when it found its way on to a 50 movie DVD Compilation. Thankfully that all changed recently when Scream Factory released DEADTIME STORIES on Blu-ray. Although a brilliant transfer from the original negative, at times it is a little “too good”, showing special effects seams that would have been easier to hide on a lesser quality media. In typical Scream Factory fashion, the Blu-ray release comes with a host of amazing special features. Along with deleted scenes, trailers, and production stills there is an interesting recut of the first story in the series as well as an interview with co-writer/ director Jeffrey Delman as well as a fresh audio commentary track from Delman.

Although DEADTIME STORIES is almost campy to the point of being a train wreck, it’s a “near” train wreck that turns out to be a fun ride, making this obscure 80s anthology is a must see flick for any 80s horror fans.