The follow-up to Freddie Francis’ stylish and enjoyable “Tales From the Crypt” finds five more characters recounting troubling dreams that turn out to be…well, you know the drill. Nastier and more vicious than its predecessor, it is also less polished and a great deal less fun.
It is evident right from the start that director Roy Ward Baker was absent of the peculiar disciplines necessary to successfully convey such materials. A director of high craftsmanship and a genuine feel for intelligently balancing complex narrative lines (his uncluttered yet energetic direction of such disparate films as the classic “A Night to Remember” and the superior Hammer SF production “Quatermass and the Pit” attests to his skill at maintaining disciplined reins with projects demanding multiple, active story lines), he seems at a complete loss here to conjure the most rudimentary elements of suspense or atmosphere. Where the Francis film (and Baker is a far more distinguished director) embraced the comic book form- not only in its virtual storyboard three color visualization, but in delivering sustained energy throughout all five brief tales, each building to jolting crescendos of violent retribution, whereas the Baker film feels flat and inert, never once evincing the sense of a heightened story arc in any of the episodes, and thus diluting the shock value of any would be-delicious twists. Instead of investing the film with vitality, Baker shockingly seems content in allowing the (to be generous) distinctly overactive scoring by Douglas Gamley to insert movement where none exists, and there are far too many instances of a laxadaisical rhythm to the between segment expository scenes (A good example of this would be the very opening sequence of each film, with the gathering of the protagonists: in “Tales”, this is accomplished with an atmospheric tour through ancient burial catacombs revealing small but important details about several of the players, in “Vault” there is merely a laboriously extended shot [from behind, no less] in an elevator in which each of the key characters enters and waits…and waits.) which tend to grind the entire film to a slow crawl.
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