Dir. by Raul Garcia - 1 hr. 13 min.
Official Trailer #1
by Clayton Hollifield
Every once in a blue moon, I'll get to go see a movie without knowing much about it going in. And that usually vastly improves the viewing experience. This time, it was Raul Garcia's "Extraordinary Tales," a film that adapts five different Edgar Allan Poe stories into animation, each with a different visual approach. Honestly, animated Poe is enough to pique my interest; it's like hearing cover versions of well-loved songs - the chance to rediscover material through someone else's sensibilities.
"Extraordinary Tales" adapts five Poe short stories; "The Fall of the House of Usher," "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar," "The Pit and the Pendulum," and "The Masque of the Red Death." Even more fascinating is the use of found audio sources; "The Tell-Tale Heart" features a scratchy recording of Bela Lugosi (yes, that Bela Lugosi) as the narration. "Usher" is narrated by Christopher Lee (spectacularly so), and there's even a stray line of dialogue from Roger Corman!
Each of the shorts is visually interpreted in a vastly different style. "Usher" is a kind of clunky CGI style that you might see in dozen different kids movies, "Heart" gives a shout-out to Alberto Breccia (although it should also give credit to Frank Miller), "Valdemar" layers an illustrative, pen-and-ink style on CGI framework (and resembles golden age newspaper comic strips in the color approach), "Pendulum" is a moody CGI approach, and "Masque" uses an elongated, emaciated, elegant style reminiscent of Egon Schiele's work (Schiele also died young from a sort of plague, the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918, which added a bit of resonance to the choice to borrow from his work here). The interstitials, which feature Poe as a raven in a graveyard, marry computer animation and paper cutout style to elegant effect.
The segments are mostly successful to me, but frequently for different reasons. Christopher Lee's actorly, booming narration for "Usher" is compelling. The visual approaches for "Heart" and "Masque" are spell-binding, particularly "Masque." "Valdemar" is such a curious story that it carries itself (and making one of the characters look like Vincent Price was a bonus). And Guillermo del Toro's voice work on "Pendulum" is fantastic. In some regards, I guess you could say the film was uneven, in that I think only "Masque" clicked 100%, but all of the segments had something interesting to recommend them, so there weren't any lulls or dull parts.
So, "Extraordinary Tales" is good spooky fun for kids who may not have been exposed to Poe's work yet, and it's good for those of us who are a little more familiar with the material, too. You'll certainly have your favorite segment, as do I ("Masque"), and this is a worthy, fun animated project I'd love to see more in the vein of. I had a deja-vu moment with "The Tell-Tale Heart," and it turns out that it had been created nearly a decade ago, and I likely saw that segment at a Spike and Mike's Festival along the way. I'm glad that Raul Garcia and everyone else involved decided to round this out to a feature-length film.
4 / 5 - Theatre