Through the transformation of the glorious WTF-Films into the even more glorious Exploder Button and the ensuing server changes, some of my old columns for the site have gone the way of all things internet. I’m going to repost them here in irregular intervals in addition to my usual ramblings.
Please keep in mind these are the old posts without any re-writes or
improvements. Furthermore, many of these pieces were written years ago, so if
you feel offended or need to violently disagree with me in the comments, you can
be pretty sure I won’t know why I wrote what I wrote anymore anyhow.
A woman (Shirley L. Jones) has a nice chat with an invisible presence that
manifests itself as a floating coffee cup, moving handles, a slight indenture in
an armchair and long lingering shots of nothing. It seems to be the ghost of the
woman's son Bobby. Bobby, who makes a little wind and a "shashashahsha" noise
when he talks to his mother, would very much like to hear a story, so a book
with a obviously hand-crafted cover titled "Tales From The Quadead Zone" appears
and the woman reads him two dead person appropriate tales.
The first one, called "Food For ?", concerns a poor family that can't bring
enough food for everyone on the table. To decide who is allowed to eat on a
given day, they play a strange game of wait and grab. Until one shirtless male
loses one time too often and uses a shotgun to solve their mathematical problem
The second story, "The Brothers", tells of a man who hires two other guys to
steal the body of his brother from the mortuary. He had hated his brother so
much that he had planned to poison him, but couldn't realize his plan before the
brother died of natural causes. Therefore it is absolutely necessary for his
future psychic wellbeing to shout and exposit at his brother's corpse, dress him
up in a clown costume and threaten to bury him in the cellar instead of the
shrine he had built for himself.
When the greenish ghost of the dead brother returns into his body, he's kinda
After she has read these charming tales to her invisible dead child, the
husband of the framing story's woman comes home. He is not very happy about this
habit of her of acting as if their child were still alive and present. The
couple's discussion turns violent and soon the woman knifes her husband while
shouting "Dance with me!".
Tales from the Quadead Zone is one of those films some people have
heard the most unbelievable things about, yet most haven't actually seen. Let me
make one thing clear right at the beginning: everything you might have heard
about this film is true.
The movie was directed by Chester Novell Turner, the same man who was
responsible (that's the correct word for sure) for the original Black Devil
Doll. It was filmed with Turner's trusty camcorder and has the sort of look
that makes today's shot on digital backyard films look like high budget
The colours of the few (only?) available prints are muted and faded, the
sound seems to consist more of noise than of the things the viewer is supposed
to hear. Parts of the dialogue are completely unparseable - sometimes people
must have been too far away from the microphone, at other times what they say is
being drowned out by the soundtrack. Post-dubbing of dialog must have been out
of the question for Turner, I'd say on principle. But oh, what music the film
makes! A handful of dilettante Casio keyboard tunes play, letting me think of
music played by Suicide's Alan Vega's idiot brother. These tunes are insistent
in their repetition and always seem to run into exactly the opposite direction
of the emotions which would be appropriate to the scene you are just witnessing.
Although, to be honest, it is quite difficult to decide what Turner was
thinking or what he wanted a viewer to feel about any given scene or the film as
On paper, Tales From The Quadead Zone is just an especially bad
example of the late 80s shot on video boom, with even less coherence or
technical ability on display than usual in films of its type. But that is not at
all what the film feels like. I tend to use descriptions of strange
films like "as if it comes from another dimension" with wild abandon, and I'm
not saying I have been wrong when using phrases like this before, Tales From
The Quadead Zone however is like a film from another dimension but more
The combination of these weird, barely structured, obsessive stories that
barely are stories at all with the unpleasantly insistent soundtrack, the
obviously home-made overdubbed sound effects that still start to sound like the
voices in your head after a time, the lingering of the camera on nothing in
particular, the nearly-not special effects and the bad yet peculiarly intense
acting (especially as done by the living brother, who somehow even integrates
his own giggling fit into his performance, and by Shirley Jones) pushes the
viewer into a feeling of total wrongness.
At first, I thought the best description for the feeling I got while watching
the movie would be to compare it to witnessing someone having a psychotic
breakdown, but that still wouldn't be strong enough to truly give an impression
of the film's emotional effect on me. In fact, watching Tales From The
Quadead Zone is much more like meeting someone who is trying to talk you
into sharing his own psychosis - and succeeding. If that sounds like an
exaggeration to you, then, well, it should be one, but I found the experience of
watching as intensely disturbing as anything I care to remember. In other words:
for once, a film really freaked me out.
Now, in case this sounds like the kind of experience you'd rather not have,
you can rest easy in the knowledge that this is not a film you'll be able to
find without actively looking for it. Tales From The Quadead Zone seems
to be much like its literary brother the Necronomicon, only to be found by those
people who are are ready for it (or have a connection to Miskatonic University).
Which I suppose is for the better, although the collector in me can't help but
crave a DVD edition full of extras of this one.