Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Extraordinary Tales (2015)

Number Rolled: 14
Movie Name/Year: Extraordinary Tales (2015)
Tagline: None
Genre: Animation, Horror, Mystery
Length: 72 minutes
Rating: TV-14
Production Companies: Melusine Productions
Producer: Didier Brunner, Raul Garcia, Stephan Roelants, Serge Ume
Director: Raul Garcia
Writer: Edgar Allan Poe, Raul Garcia, Stephan Roelants
Actors: Christopher Lee, Bela Lugosi, Julian Sands, Guillermo del Toro, Roger Corman, Stephen Hughes, Cornelia Funke
Stunt Doubles: None

Blurb from Netflix: Edgar Allan Poe’s dark words come to life in this animated anthology including stories such as “The Pit and the Pendulum” and “The Tell-Tale Heart.”

Selina’s Point of View:
Edgar Allan Poe was always a favorite of mine. I fell in love with his work when I was very young… and he’s probably one of the reasons I have such a dark sense of humor. By 13-years-old, I was already half-way obsessed with his poetry. Especially Annabel Lee, which I can still recite from memory.

Needless-to-say, I was VERY interested in watching a film based off his work, especially one that prominently featured a dead man’s voice: Bela Lugosi (Scared to Death, Ghosts on the Loose, Night Monster).

The anthology aspect of the film was good, it got to cover several popular stories at once. Most of the animation was interesting to look at, and the narration was capturing... for the most part. I was less fond of the end stories than the beginning.

Usually, I love the story of the Pit and the Pendulum, but I wasn’t fond of a lot of what the director did with his segment for that story. The animation was fine, but there were choices with the actual layout that just distracted from the film. 

I didn’t like the way the Red Masque of Death was handled at all. It was about one step away from a silent film and that’s just not something I enjoy – though I wasn’t even fond of the animation there, either.

My favorite of the anthology was the House of Usher. It was exactly what I would think it should be, and the animation was engaging – without turning cartoony.

As harrowing as some Poe stories can get I wasn’t creeped out by any of them. Likely because I’ve read them all about a thousand times. The framing device used for the film, though, made me uneasy and nervous.

The conversation between Poe and Death – as it escalated between the stories – was terrifying to me. It was so simple… but so well done. It was absolutely perfect. I’m betting Poe, himself, would have approved.

I’d recommend this film to other lovers of horror prose out there.

Cat’s Point of View:
I was extremely excited to see Extraordinary Tales pop up on Netflix, and have been looking forward to when the dice would give us a chance to watch it. Edgar Allan Poe is likely one of my favorite poets, and I generally can’t resist the pull to partake of adaptations of his work. His macabre tales of terror and dark poetry have always fascinated me.

Stylistically this anthology project is quite interesting. It reminds me of The Animatrix (2003), at its core at least. This anthology of animation illustrating Poe’s work explores different styles with each story, which is where I draw my first parallel. My second is that, like the animated prequel anthology, this likely won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

Some segments appear to almost be animated origami, made of lovely computer-rendered papers. Other styles employ stark black and white, graphic-novel type formatting that seemingly brings the pages of a comic book to life, computer generated ‘realism’ in the animation, and also a dark watercolor tableau.

Another aspect I really enjoyed about this production was that all of the narrators and voice actors either have iconic ties to the dark and macabre, a significant connection to Poe’s work, or excel at storytelling.

The female lead that lends her voice to the framing device together is Cornelia Funke (The Thief Lord, When Santa Fell to Earth, Ghosthunters on Icy Trails). While this is her only acting credit listed on IMDb, she is an accomplished author. Many of her works have been adapted for the screen – my favorite is Inkheart (2008). I would love to just curl up in a blanket and listen to her read.

Other voices collaborating in this project include the late Sir Christopher Lee (Hugo, Dark Shadows, The Girl from Nagasaki), director-extraordinaire Guillermo del Toro (Diary of the Dead, Quantum of Solace, The Book of Life), and Julian Sands (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Banshee, Crooked House).

Then you have Roger Corman (Rachel Getting Married, Dinoshark, Attack of the 50ft Cheerleader), whose name is synonymous with titles such as Death Race (2008). He directed a number of films based on Poe’s work in the 60s, such as The House of Usher (1960) and The Pit and the Pendulum (1961). Ironically, while both of those stories appear in this anthology, neither are the segment he lends his voice to.

I think what blew my mind the most was that the legendary Bela Lugosi (Son of Frankenstein, Vampire Over London, Bride of the Monster) narrates one of the segments through the employ of archive footage. Lugosi, of course, passed away in 1956. The grainy quality of the old recording only lends more depth to the part.

This is one of those animated features that isn’t necessarily for children. While most of the anthology is generally benign for anyone age-appropriate for Poe’s work; one segment includes some adult content as it illustrates the hedonist abandon and class-bred arrogance of the characters. There isn’t anything really graphically explicit, but there’s some cartoon nudity here and there and background sounds illustrating the activities in the scene. The scene is short, and is contained in the final story segment, so it should be easy to get past.

While I don’t feel that everyone will be head over heels for the various animation styles, Poe’s work is timeless and speaks to the fears in all of us. This collection of stories is well executed and remains true to the heart of the works. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys the less gory side of horror and anyone that enjoys Poe.  For anyone that doesn’t like the particular stylings, simply think on it nevermore.

Speech Available: English
Subtitles Available: English, Spanish

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 61%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 51%
Metascore - 59/100
Metacritic User Score – 5.4/10
IMDB Score – 6.4/10

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating3.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating 4.5/5

Movie Trailer:

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