Thursday, November 7, 2013

ESCAPES (1986)

David Steensland, 1986
Starring: Vincent Price, Todd Fulton, John Mitchum, Jerry Grisham

I really wasn’t sure what to expect from Escapes, a made for TV horror anthology presented by Vincent Price, but unsurprisingly, it’s kind of terrible. Part of the problem is that the five stories were originally used as shorts on HBO and the Sci-Fi Channel in the early ‘80s and were later combined with an introductory and concluding segment featuring Vincent Price. All written and directed by David Steensland, I don’t think any of these could really be called horror.

In the opening segment, a teenager (played by Todd Fulton, who hasn’t been in anything else, as far as I can tell), receives a strange tape and decides to watch it. Vincent Price appears and announces that we are going to see six horror stories. The first, “Something’s Fishy,” involves a man out fishing on a lake. He sees an apple on the shore and decides to eat it, but it turns out the mysterious fruit is not quite what it seems and the man winds up floating in the lake as bait. "Coffee Break" involves a young, impatient delivery driver who gets lost in an isolated, idyllic rural town. He asks an old man (John Mitchum from Dirty Harry, Magnum Force, etc.) for directions and is told to relax and get a cup of coffee, but he refuses and is stuck driving around the town of Harmony. 

The third story, “Who’s There,” is the closest to horror. A jogger running through the woods is followed by a Bigfoot looking monster. In “Jonah’s Dream,” a poor, older woman stubbornly carrying on her husband’s dream of finding gold in the mountains is surprised when she discovered a spaceship that leaves her a surprising gift. In the final story, “Think Twice,” a bum is mugged, but finds a strange, glowing crystal that grants his wishes and allows him to get the lamest revenge I’ve ever seen on the mugger. 

Afterwards we return to the teen watching the video. When Vincent Price addresses him by name, he get spooked and turns off the tape, to no avail. It’s a fun twist, but simply comes as too little too late with such appalling production values that it’s clear they paid price the bulk of their budget. 

Apparently there is a director’s cut that makes this fifteen or so minutes longer, but I can’t see why anyone would want to waste the additional time. I can’t fault Vincent Price for anything, as he’s on screen for a grand total of maybe four minutes, but if he hadn’t been it at all, I would definitely not have suffered through till the end. There is no violence or gore, no outright scares, weak scripts, a pitiful budget, etc. 

Escapes (I don’t know why it’s called that) is streaming online, but there is no DVD release available as far as I can tell. Not at all recommended. Ignore the above VHS cover, which dubs it "the great lost horror film of Vincent Price."

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