Ah, Chester Novell Turner. Not since John Wayne Gacy have three words instilled such terror in the heart of Man. Contrary to popular belief, the person who brought you Black Devil Doll From Hell was not immediately thrown into a padded cell with no ventilation. Instead, he remained free just long enough to unleash Tales From the Quadead Zone, a film whose title only hints at the nonsensical hatchet job contained therein. It’s a Tales From the Crypt-styled anthology containing stories that are not only derivative, but also half-baked — as if written by someone who was fully baked.
If there’s any doubt that Turner remains a hapless creative force, it’s put to rest during the opening credits when he performs perhaps the worst rap song in the history of time, sounding somewhere between “Rappin’ Rodney” and a strangled llama. It’s recorded over a tinny Casio keyboard beat and plays out like one of those corny Halloween CDs full of stock cackles and groans, except here we have a witch and what sounds like Fat Albert rapping lines like, “If you like your terror adult and strong / Well, come here; you can’t go wrong.” Oh, can’t I?
Those of you who couldn’t get enough Shirley Jones in BDDFH will be pleased to find her starring here as the requisite storyteller. Her hair is newly straightened, but she wears the same saucer-sized Elton John glasses and brings with her the same irresistible sex appeal (?). Shirley narrates the film, stiffly reading age-inappropriate “tales” to her invisible ghost son, Bobby (giving Turner the opportunity to experiment with cutting-edge special effects, like a cup on a string). We never hear the kid talk; instead, Turner chooses to indicate his speech by a gust of breeze that blows through Shirley’s bangs, providing her with an unexplained perverse pleasure. Shudder.
The first tale is “Food for ?”, which opens with a poor hillbilly family sitting at the dinner table. Father Gump says a prayer, lamenting that there are only four sandwiches but eight people. I guess cutting the sandwiches in half would tax their mathematical skills beyond their limits, because they end up fighting for them, with four family members eating and four going hungry. The next day, the scene repeats itself with five sandwiches and eight people — except that before the sandwich grubbers are about to pounce, one of the fellas who didn’t eat the previous day (wearing overalls with no shirt, natch) gets up, grabs a gun, and starts a-shootin’! Three go down, and now there’s enough food for everyone. Hooray for post-birth abortions! Rather than bothering with the rest of the story, Turner just slaps on a written epilogue saying that Mr. Overalls would go on to kill two more of his family before being sent to the gas chamber. A jaw-droppingly shallow and pointless story.
The second tale, “Brothers,” is about two — you guessed it — brothers, Ted and Fred Johnson. Fred is the older of the two and is a successful business man, while Ted is a dirty, stinkin’ janitor. When Fred dies, Ted sneaks into the funeral home, steals the body and takes it back to his place. Alone with his dead brother, Ted starts yelling at him, detailing in as lazily expository a manner as possible how Fred used to always show him up: getting better grades, winning his father’s favor, even stealing Ted’s wife (or, as he clarifies to no one in particular, “Sherry, my wife”) and then dumping her, driving her to commit suicide. Ted’s big plan for revenge is to…dress the body up as a clown and bury it beneath his house??? Before he can finish the job, though, Fred — stop me if you’ve heard this one before — comes to life! Of course, the scariest thing about clowns is their make-up, but Fred has none — just a red nose and rosy cheeks — so he ends up looking like a black version of the game Operation. He’s hardly intimidating, then, as he strangles Ted and stabs him to death. I know the moral compass of horror movies can be a bit off at times, but does dressing a dead body up as a clown justify a pitchfork to the stomach?
With a title like The Quadead Zone, you’d think there’d be four stories, but then you’d be underestimating the genius that is Chester Novell Turner. No, there are only two stories in this barely 60-minute opus, plus the wraparound tale of Shirley and her dead son. After she finishes the second story, Shirley’s husband Daryl comes home and yells at her for reading to what he believes to be her imaginary dead son. To emphasize his point, he pops her over the head with the book. Touche! They begin fighting, rolling around on the ground, getting up and then rolling around some more, until Shirley finally grabs a knife and stabs him. The cops show up (uniforms apparently not in the budget) to arrest her, but she manages to lock herself in the bathroom and slits her own throat with a razor blade. She returns to the house later as some sort of digital yellow Tron ghost and reunites with her corpse kid. The freakin’ end.
Although it lacks the perversion of Black Devil Doll From Hell, Tales from the Quadead Zone is every bit as bad as its more notorious predecessor. It’s camp in the truest sense of the word: the type of terrible that a person with a brain could never pull off. Bless you, Chester Novell Turner, you magnificent dullard.