EXTRAORDINARY TALES (2015)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 13 minutes

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

ExTales poster

Directed by: Raul Garcia

Written by: Raul Garcia & Stephan Roelants

(based on short stories by Edgar Allan Poe)

Voices of: Roger Corman, Guillermo Del Toro, Cornelia Funke, Stephen Hughes, Christopher Lee, Bela Lugosi & Julian Sands

From live-action anthologies to feature-length thrillers, we’ve seen many interpretations of Edgar Allan Poe’s horror stories brought to the screen. However, I can’t recall many cartoon versions of his stories, let alone an anthology film containing various animated takes on his classic tales. EXTRAORDINARY TALES is an anthology that’s been in the works for a while now and collects five different short films that encapsulate some of Poe’s best known work. The animation styles range from segment to segment as do the quality of the interpretations themselves. As with all anthologies, I will analyze each story on its own merits before getting into the film as a whole…

ExTales 1

Tale #1: THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER: A man visits his old friend (Usher) and uncovers a dark secret lying beneath Usher’s crumbling estate. This first segment is the weakest of the bunch, but this story isn’t exactly one of Poe’s best tales either. Though it oozes with atmosphere, I’ve always found the story of USHER to be all style and no substance. The same can be said for this animated version of the tale, though it does have the late Christopher Lee providing voice work for it. The CG is not too impressive. This looks like a kid’s computer game by the way of Edgar Allan Poe. As childish as the animation may be and as dull as the source material may be, this segment is still watchable. Lee’s narration elevates it from being middle-of-the-road. C+

ExTales 2

Tale #2: THE TELL-TALE HEART: A paranoid man plots an act of murder…only to find out that covering up the evidence isn’t as easy as he expected. One of Poe’s best known stories (you were probably forced to read it in school) comes to life in a most unusual way. Using stark black-and-white computer animation, this segment comes off as the creepiest of the bunch. The narrator is most unusual, seeing that he’s been dead for decades. A recording of Bela Lugosi (Dracula himself) reading the story provides narration for this piece. The audio does have some hiccups seeing that it’s old, but this adds to the otherworldly vibe of this story. Though it’s very cool to watch while it lasts, I couldn’t help but feel that this segment was a tad too rushed by not fully taking advantage of some of the main character’s more insane delusions. B

ExTales 3

Tale #3: THE FACTS IN THE CASE OF M. VALDEMAR: A hypnotist attempts to conquer death by putting his terminally ill friend into a trance. However, this experiment has unexpectedly horrifying consequences. I really loved how this segment was animated. It has the appearance of a living comic book, complete with an opening title that served as a direct homage to the old E.C. horror comics. Julian Sands provides great narration/voice acting for this segment. It also gets surprisingly graphic during the final frames. The funny thing is that this is one of Poe’s lesser works (in my humble opinion) and it’s executed in a way that definitely makes the material into something memorable. A

ExTales 4

Tale #4: THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM: A prisoner, captured by the Spanish Inquisition, is subjected to various methods of torture (both real and imagined). Narrated by Guillermo Del Toro, this story is far bleaker than the other stories being told here. The computer animation essentially looks like one giant cut-scene from ASSASSIN’S CREED, but the attention to detail is admirable and a thick atmosphere breaks through every pixel on the screen. Though the rapid style slows down during the final minutes (when it arguably should have been at its peak), this is a very well-executed interpretation of Poe’s words. A-

ExTales 5

Tale #5: THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH: The best segment comes in this almost dialogue-free version of a Poe classic that lets the visuals speak for itself. A wealthy prince seals himself and his fellow aristocrats within the walls of a grand abbey, whilst a deadly plague wreaks havoc on the peasants stuck outside the walls. He intends to hold a long masquerade ball to wait out the death and suffering, but soon finds that karma has a way of catching up with cowardly nobles. This story has about three lines of dialogue that I can recall (voiced by Roger Corman!) and lets the tale play out in front of the viewers eyes. I loved this segment so much that I actually watched it twice and picked up on little details that I didn’t notice the first time around. Easily, the best short on display here! A+

ExTales 6

Linking these five tales is a sort of weak wraparound featuring Poe (in the form of a Raven) speaking with Death (in the form of various statues) in a cemetery. As a whole, this film is sort of a mixed bag with two weak moments (the wraparound and the first story) and the rest of the tales ranging from good to awesome. The different animation styles keep things interesting and the final segment is fantastic! If you’re a fan of Poe, then EXTRAORDINARY TALES is a great viewing experience! I hope that director Raul Garcia eventually constructs a sequel. After all, there are still many more Poe tales that can be told in this format…

Grade: B+

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