Deadtime Stories: Volume 1 (2009), is a 76-minute anthology film consisting of three segments, each by a different director, but all of them written by Jeff Monahan. I only watched the vampire-related final segment, “House Call”, which is roughly 22 minutes long.
I have opted against posting a photo of my BluRay, as I believe that the cover art of that particular release contains spoilers.
In “House Call”, a doctor (Bingo O’Malley) gets a frantic phone call in the middle of the night. A mother (Maryann Nagel) is worried about her son (Jason Hoehnen), about his health, his behaviour, and about the claims he keeps making about himself.
“House Call” is one of the few directorial works by actor Tom Savini, who may be best known as “Sex Machine” from From Dusk Till Dawn, and who has also done a lot of work in make-up and special effects. According to imdb, “House Call” was first released by Monahan and Savini in 2004 (as the first part of Savini’s planned Chill Factor series), but the information is so scarce that I cannot absolutely be sure if this is the same version. In theory, it could have been re-made with a different cast five years later, though this seems unlikely.
This short story takes place in 1936, and the sets, props and costumes and other visual aspects have been chosen accordingly, and the same goes for the music. The style and tone of the film also have certain vibes of the era, ranging from noir to old-timey horror.
The film is shot in a very intimate way. It has an odd aspect ratio and rounded edges, and is probably meant to resemble old 8mm film. This fits in nicely with this short, as the 8mm format had been invented around that time, mainly as a reaction to the financial constraints of the Depression era, and “House Call” has Depression vibes to it as well. The colour scheme also fits the time and the medium, but there is no artificial “scratching” of the picture, as is sometimes done when emulating older media. My knowledge of these things is very limited, but while watching this segment I was under the impression that Savini may have used less than the usual 24 or 25 frames per second, which again would fit the 8mm-imitation agenda.
Other aspects that contribute to the intimate (or at times claustrophobic) feel of the film are the limited cast (only three actors), the use of primarily one location only, and the many close-up shots.
The acting by the three cast-members is good, but often close to over-acting. The writing and the directing are partially be to blame for this, as I believe that the main reason for this lies in the particular style and tone of the piece which make the acting a balancing act.
There are a couple of other, minor downsides. The score music, while mostly fitting, does on one or two occasions become distracting. And the story itself is at certain points more longwinded than necessary.
A lot of thought and effort went into the creation of “House Call”, and it clearly shows. The visual aspects and the choice of aspect ratio, etc., are very interesting. The story itself, however, is too banal, too common. This is a solid piece of horror, but not a must-see. I guess 6.5 to 7.0 out of 10 would be a fair rating, with most of those points earned by style, production values, and acting.
Trivia: Each segment of this anthology film (and presumably also each segment of its 2011 sequel) is introduced by George A. Romero. Surely just a marketing ploy; but after seeing the film I think it is fair to say that Romero seems an ill-fit for the presenter role.