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Scary Tales: The Return of Longfellow
Reviewed by Jason Myers, © 2003

Format: Movie
By:   Michael Hoffman and Jason Daly
Genre:   Horror/Comedy
Released:   May 1, 2003
Review Date:   May 28, 2003
RevSF Rating:   5/10 (What Is This?)

A while back I reviewed a very independent movie called Scary Tales and even harassed . . . I mean 'interviewed' it's creator, Michael Hoffman. In Scary Tales, likable schlub Dennis Frye went to Mr. Longfellow's employment agency, and found that it was 'a little bit different' than the rest, in that while most employment agencies just try to find you a job, Mr. Longfellow told Dennis three stories about how his life would turn out if he took each possible job, and, well, it's not spoiling things to say that in each situation, things don't turn out so good for Dennis. Longfellow's definition of different puts Arby's to shame.

Now comes Scary Tales: The Return of Longfellow. After watching it, I have to say that SCARY TALES: THE RETURN OF LONGFELLOW IS THE SECOND BEST MOVIE EVER MADE with the word 'scary' in the title. The Return put up a good fight against Scary Movie, but ultimately lost by several laughs. However, The Return kicked Scary Movie 2 squarely in the shins, and sent the original Scary Tales running away with its scary tales between its legs.

Of course, the other thing that The Return did was make me look back with increasing fondness on the original Scary Tales. As much as I hate to admit it, I actually missed Mr. Longfellow and Dennis Frye. Perhaps because, back in ye olde college days, Scary Tales' combination of silliness and total obscurity would have virtually guaranteed that it became an inside joke.

This time around, Mr. Longfellow is running a used car dealership, and he can't just let somebody buy a car. Oh no. He's got to tell them about what happened to the vehicle's previous owner.

The first story is notable because it bears a . . . um . . . scary resemblance to April's John Cusack movie Identity. The knee-jerk reaction would be to call the low-budget version a rip-off, but given that Hoffman was filming The Return in June of 2002, and has been talking about his script even before that, I'm sure that the truth is much more interesting. The Return, by the way, credits a psychiatrist named Dr. Jason Finder for the idea. Whether the separated at birth nature of the two movies is coincidence or not is, frankly, a far more compelling mystery than the one set forth in either Identity or The Return.

The second segment in The Return is the story of how some dumb toughs with their gang name spray-painted on their T-shirts vandalized a convenience store, ate some magical PowerBars (which they didn't pay for) and became mixed up zombies. Of course, Dennis Frye opens a can of Bruce Campbell's soup on their Romero-fied buttocks. There's also a perfectly silly falling-in-love sequence that's followed by Dennis Frye looking dreamily into his sweetheart's eyes and saying, 'Too bad you're not single.'

The final segment mixes deadpan humor with a few moments of actual creepiness, and it features Martin Sheen's doppelganger/brother, Joe Estevez.

While I found the first Scary Tales's wraparound to be kinda flat, the used car lot sequences are the highlight of The Return. There's this odd character named Wesley, who, with his giant white smile, plaid outfit and rouged cheeks, looks like a breathing ventriloquist's dummy. Mr. Longfellow has a lot more fun this time around, and so did I. Jason Daly (who also co-wrote and directed) plays Longfellow's potential customer Don Leifert, and the two of them spar hilariously over Longfellow's stories:

Leifert: 'You can't just introduce a character in the middle of a story.'

Longfellow: 'Oh yes I can.'

Overall, The Return is snappier, funnier, and much better filmed than the first movie. But it's far from perfect. While Joel Winkoop (Longfellow), Jason Daly (Leifert), Bill Cassinelli (Frye), Joe Estevez (the desk clerk), and George Randol (Wesley) are all marvelous, most of the other actors are just bad, bad, bad. And I mean that in the 'opposite of good' sense of the word. Also, the film-makers are still trying to scare us with their scary tales, and without better locations, better effects, and better actors, that just ain't going to happen. Still, I'm honestly looking forward to Scary Tales: The Revenge of Dennis Frye, which was teased in the closing credits. Long live Dennis Frye . . . even though he's dead.

DVDetails

Not much here. Three versions of the trailer, production notes, and cast filmographies. Not that I was expecting any extras at all, but I'd love to see how Hoffman and his cohorts would do a 'making of' or 'director's commentary.' In fact, I hereby beg for a 'director's commentary', if not for The Return than at least for Scary Tales: The Revenge of Dennis Frye.

One other thing: Stick around through the end credits.

Revolution Ratings:

  • The Movie Itself:

    On an Absolute Scale: 5/10

    On a Cheesy Movie Scale: 8/10

  • The DVD Extras: 2/10


How can RevSF Film/DVD Editor Jason Myers help you . . . if he is dead?

 
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