Growing up, I cut my Lon Chaney Jr.-like canines on a bevy of horror and science fiction anthologies in a variety of mediums, starting with Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone before I moved on to such cult faves as One Step Beyond, Thriller, The Outer Limits, Monsters and Tales from the Darkside. In comics and in books, too, my attention was held by a bloody cacophony of E.C., Charlton, and Gold Key titles as well as bloody fun horror anthologies such as the Charles L. Grant curated Shadows series of books. And it truly felt like a coming of age for Yours Truly when, at the tender and impressionable age of nine back in 1982, my stepmother took me to the movie theater to see my first honest-to-Pete adult horror flick (as in Rated R, ladies and ghouls), the horror vignette film Creepshow. Walking out of that early evening showing of the George Romero-Stephen King mashup, I felt transformed and redefined, certain that all I wanted to do with the remainder of my existence was to write and talk about my oddball friend the horror film.
Director Dustin Ferguson’s Tales for the Campfire 3 captures a lot of the magic and fun of some of the best anthology flicks with this horror and blood drenched five-story magnum opus and, for over an hour and some change, this pop culture looky loo was transported back to that glorious 1982 night when our local military movie theater kissed my cheek gently with an early Ed Harris performance, runaway cockroaches and creatures in wooden crates.
The five vignettes in Tales for the Campfire 3 come across as the very sort of late night ghost stories one would indeed tell a group of weary travelers around a raging campfire: Wee One plies its scares from the same fertile ground that has produced classics like the Living Doll episode of Serling’s Twilight Zone, and it does so with first-rate acting from Sheri Davis and Mike Ferguson as a couple who wind up with a doll that is not what it appears to be; Cole Canyon Creeps trades on our instinctual fear of hitchhikers; The Prisoner is a tour de force scare-fest from actor par excellence Dawna Lee Heisling and plays up a creeping dread of isolation and paranoia; The Bitter Half is a bloody love poem to iconic actor Mel Novak who is given the room he needs to flex his considerable acting chops in a story about a doctor who tends to a patient who may or may not have a twin. Noel Jason Scott is wicked fun playing opposite of Novak, too; finally, The Gateway which, naturally, takes place in a very creepy and out of the way graveyard and features thespians Tino Zamora and Geovonna Casanova in a decidedly fun and ultimately spine-tingling jaunt through the Unknown. All five spots are winners by the very virtue of the fact that Ferguson and Co. know the horror genre well and their good-natured love of the genre is in full bloom. A clever hook in the film is that the real life locations of many classic films from the world of chills and spills are used in Tales for the Campfire 3: A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, Halloween 3, House, Child’s Play 2 and Tales From the Crypt: Demon Knight are all used here to good effect and it’s fun during subsequent viewings of the movie to attempt to pick out which location is which.
Have fun with this fun and scary flick; each of the five stories in Tales for the Campfire 3 could easily support their own film, a true testament to the writing talent behind it all. Tales is available for purchase on DVD now, courtesy of SCS Entertainment.