Just as there are rules for making a good mixtape, so too are there rules when it comes to making a good dark fantasy/horror movie. Granted, I’m a bit of a Bilbo when it comes to this genre in that I’m stepping out of my comfort zone, but I’ve learned a few things thus far.
Save for “Pan’s Labyrinth,” which gave an excellent visual of what was going on, I’ve felt like I opened a book at someone else’s dog-eared page and just started reading, spending the first 30 minutes trying to figure out what the heck is going on.
But I digress – like most of these movies – so back to the rules.
The First Rule of Fantasy/Horror Movies: Don’t waste your best scene at the beginning, otherwise everything pales in comparison.
To me, this was the cardinal sin of “Tale of Tales,” a gruesome, occasionally goofy and disjointed film based on Giambattista Basile’s collected fairy tales.
The whole reason I wanted to watch this movie was because of the poster of Selma Hayek as The Queen, scarfing down on what turned out to be the bloody heart of a sea monster. It was a heart prepared by a young virgin in the queen’s kitchen, which she ate at the behest of a “seer” who told the desperate queen that such a meal was the only way she would become pregnant.
The King, played ever-so-briefly by John C. Reilly, slays the beast and The Queen is soon with child.
Cool … only that all happens in like the first 10 minutes of the movie. It’s like eating your dessert first. The rest of the movie is just liver and onions with nothing else to look forward to.
Basile’s book, “The Tale of Tales,” contained some of the earliest – and most grotesque – versions of classic fairy tales like “Cinderella” and “Sleeping Beauty.” The movie version of his work tries to blend all of these characters, as well as others, into a cohesive story – with mixed results.
In my best seasoned reviewer’s jargon, I’d say that “Tale of Tales” isn’t real good or real bad. It just kind of lays there, throbbing. Visually appealing but otherwise … well … blah.
That’s not to say that “Tale of Tales” is without its moments. But for every ogre-killing-princess, there’s a king with a pet flea. “Tale of Tales” was like Grimm’s Grimmest meets “Robin Hood Men in Tights.”
And such comparisons assure that no one – including the audience – is apt to live happily ever after.