Suburban housewife Christine (Kristanna Loken) unexpectedly finds herself tied up in the basement of her house by a mannequin that can move and speak. The evil foe, who is brandishing a knife, threatens to kill Christine’s son unless she keeps him entertained with scary stories. Possessing an encyclopaedic knowledge of monsters and horror tropes, Christine tells a series of stories but all may not be what it seems.
Dark Stories was originally made as a TV series but it’s been compiled together as a feature film for the festival circuit. It works fairly well in this format with viewers hooked on what story Christine is going to deliver next, and you’ll question how this seemingly normal mother knows so much about the horror genre. The knife-wielding mannequin brings Chucky to mind but he’s not as animated as that horror icon.
The stories that Christine tells range from ghosts and zombies through to djinns and aliens. She leaves no stone unturned as she tries to keep her captor happy and away from her son. As is to be expected with any anthology series, not all of the shorts hit the mark. The story of a woman tormented at night by a djinn that seemingly wants to kill her is on the creepier end of the spectrum. The visuals in this one are pretty chilling and if you already suffer night terrors, good luck sleeping after you’ve seen this.
Elsewhere Dark Stories tackles aliens in a hit-and-miss affair starring former EastEnder Michelle Ryan, dips its toes into the murky waters of ghosts in an art gallery, let down by some ropey special effects, and tells the tale of a dead man who comes back to life much to the dismay of the criminals that thought him dead and buried. The stories are all entertaining enough but to be honest I’d rather have spent more time with Christine and her killer mannequin menace, especially given the unexpected twist that brings the film to a close.
Dark Stories is a fun enough watch but it’s not a feature you’ll be dying to see again. There’s a novelty factor with the format and the stories are engaging enough but there’s nothing particularly groundbreaking or memorable here. This is the kind of film you could watch with your kids while munching popcorn; it’ll scare them to death but it’ll keep the adults mildly entertained.
Cast: Kristanna Loken, Michelle Ryan, Dominique Pinon, Tiphaine Daviot Directors: François Descraques, Guillaume Lubrano Writers: Various Certificate: 18 Duration: 97 mins Released by: Kabotine