On Shackle Island, there’s a somewhat dilapidated-looking mansion. And inside that mansion, there’s a friendly and talkative scientist by the name of Dr. Gangrene (played by Larry Underwood). If you need shelter from the rain, Dr. Gangrene will be more than happy to accommodate you. Of course, if you do accept Dr. Gangrene’s hospitality, you’ll have to visit the lab and take a look at the doctor’s truly impressive collection of brains. For every brain, there’s a different story. In the new horror anthology film, Tales From Parts Unknown, Dr. Gangrene introduces four of those stories.
The first brain, Tailypo, tells the story of a hunter and his dog and what happens when their prey escapes from them but loses its tail in the process. Let’s just say that some creatures don’t take well to losing their tails and that, if you ever do happen to come across a tail out in the middle of the wilderness, it’s probably best to just leave it where you found it. I originally reviewed Tailypo back in 2015 and it was interesting to get a chance to rewatch it. (From my review: Tailypo is the first in a series of short films that McCasland is planning to put together for an anthology film that I hope I will someday get a chance to review.) Tailypo holds up well to a second viewing. Not only does David Chattam give a good and sympathetic performance as the Hunter but Tailypo really does capture the feel of being the type of story that someone would tell while sitting in front of a campfire.
The second story was Retrieval Service, which told the tale of two gravediggers who eventually make the mistake of trying to rob the dead. Retrieval Service had a nice Southern gothic feel to it. It was set (and filmed) in Tennessee and it really captured the unique feel of the region. The two grave diggers (played by Kenneth Garner and J.D. Hart) got some good lines and had some enjoyably surreal nightmares on their way to digging up graves in search of treasure. Don’t disturb the dead, the story tells us, no matter how much jewelry they’re wearing.
For The Prisoner of Perdition, we take a trip back to the old west. In the small town of Perdition, an outlaw named Thorne (John Wells) waits in jail. An angry mob wants to play jury and executioner but Marshal Tom Clanton (Rusty James) is determined to keep him safe. However, Thorne has plans of his own and, as becomes apparent throughout the night, he’s also very good at manipulating people. In fact, he’s a little too good at it. It’s almost as if he’s not quite human….
The Prisoner of Perdition may not be the most historically accurate western ever made but that’s actually accounts for a good deal of the segment’s charm. It’s not taking place in the real old west as much as it’s take place in the public’s popular imagination of what the old west was like. As a result, you’ve got panicky townspeople, women posing on the saloon’s balcony, a tough-talking marshal, and a coldly manipulative prisoner. The Prisoner of Perdition looks like it was an enjoyable segment to film, which makes it an enjoyable segment to watch. John Wells does a good job as the charming but evil Thorne.
The Prisoner of Perdition is followed by my favorite story, The Rider. The Rider is about a greedy writer (Wendy Keeling), her henpecked husband (Wynn Reichert), and the Biker (Lee Vervoort) that the writer accidentally runs over while she’s trying to drive and yell at her husband at the same time. In its way, The Rider provides a nice tail-end to Tailypo, though the greedy writer is a far less sympathetic character than the unfortunate hunter. Like Tailypo, The Rider has a lot of atmosphere and an appropriately dark conclusion.
Tales From Parts Unknown is a horror anthology that has an enjoyably retro feel to it. Larry Underwood (a.k.a. Dr Gangrene) is a veteran horror host and he’s a lot of fun to watch as he holds up each brain to the camera and as he explains why the viewer can’t leave the laboratory just yet. Tales From Parts Unknown is an entertaining film, perfect for the Halloween season.