Sometimes, all it takes is a “star”.
Sometimes, all it takes is seeing the name of an actor/actress whose work I generally enjoy plastered on the cover of a DVD/Blu-ray to get me to, if not purchase, at least watch a new release or a re-issue of a film that I’m not particularly familiar with. Such is the case with director David Steensland’s 1986 release, Escapes. That star? None other than horror legend Vincent Price!
While the film did see VHS release back in the mid-1980s, it became fairly lost to obscurity until receiving a DVD-reissue courtesy of InterVision Picture Corp. in 2017. Released as a double feature disc, Escapes was paired with the 1992 SOV “killer scarecrow” flick, Dark Harvest, which I gave a mediocre rating to when I reviewed it back in 2019. To be honest, while I did find Dark Harvest intriguing before viewing it, I probably would not have purchased it had Escapes not been included.
The film opens to find an elderly mailman (Price) on his route. He delivers a plain-wrapped package to the home of one Matthew Wilson. Matthew arrives at his home just mere moments after the mailman has departed. Dressed as if he has just finished a long day at an office job, Matthew grabs the mail and heads inside.
Inside the package is a VHS cassette. As shown on its cover, the program is a collection of short stories entitled “Escapes”, hosted by Price himself. After a quick shower and a change of clothes, Matthew is finally prepared to watch this mysterious tape.
A very brief introduction from Price informs the viewers (both Matthew and the “real” viewers at home) that what follows is a succession of 6 short tales. The 1st of these tales, “Hobgoblin Bridge”, starts afterwards. In this entry, a mother orders her oldest son to allow the boy’s younger brother to accompany he and his friends as they ride their bikes while she runs a few errands. Naturally, the older boy doesn’t really want his “baby” brother, also named “Matt”, tagging along.
In an effort to have some fun at Matt’s expense, the older brother and his friends lead the boy to an abandoned covered bridge. They “warn” Matt that the bridge is guarded by an evil hobgoblin that will “jump out and attack” anyone unaware of the “correct” way to cross the bridge, before riding off and leaving the younger boy to fend for himself.
As one might expect, the legend proves to be true and the bridge is indeed guarded by a diminutive creature. What may not be expected is where the story leads from here… which is pretty much nowhere! While it doesn’t factor into the overall plot of this tale, it is worth noting that these are some ugly kids. “Matt” kind of looks like former child actor Courtland Mead (Hellraiser: Bloodline, “Danny” in 1997’s The Shining mini-series), which instinctively makes me hate him and wish bad things upon him.
The film’s 2nd story is entitled “A Little Fishy”, and features a fisherman who has met his match. The story here is insanely thin, even for the few minutes that the segment takes up. This one left little to no impression on me and ultimately felt like a waste of time.
The segment may seem familiar to some viewers as it actually was played to waste airtime on various cable networks during the early/mid-1980s. While I’m not certain, I want to say that this segment was frequently played as part of USA’s “Saturday Nightmares” programming, usually after a film had ended. That said, the nostalgia only goes so far.
This is followed by “Coffee Break”, in which an old man urges travelers to “slow down” and “enjoy the sights” in his idyllic part of the countryside. One young, impatient delivery boy pays the price for not heeding the old man’s advice.
In “Who’s There?”, a creature escapes from an experimental research lab and finds its way to a city park, where it has an encounter with a jogger. This one ends in rather goofy fashion, but most assuredly not in the manner that most might expect. Considering the low budget, the creature effects in this tale are quite nicely handled.
An elderly prospector continues her late husband’s dream of striking gold on their mountainside property in “Jonah’s Dream”. Her luck takes a turn after an alien spacecraft crashes into her barn. This story, while featuring a strong sci-fi element, really plays out as more of a drama and may be a touch too sappy for some. Despite this, it may be the most fully realized of the tales.
In “Think Twice”, a petty thief steals a magical crystal from a homeless man after watching him use it to perform a ritual that creates food out of thin air. The thief plans on using the crystal to make himself rich, but (again, as expected) things do not go as he had planned. The segment is very short, not particularly cohesive, and serves as a rather weak finish to this collection of tales. That’s a shame as it starts quite strong, but quickly sputters out.
Price resurfaces in the final moments to inform Matthew (remember him?) that he is the main character in Escapes‘ 6th tale to be told. We’ll just ignore the fact that it would actually be the film’s 7th tale. I mean, it’s Vincent Fucking Price, for Christ’s sake! He’s an absolute horror icon! Are you really going to be the one that points out that he miscounted? You could, but what kind of dickhead would that make you? Besides, “Hobgoblin Bridge” was only tacked on for the DVD re-issue.
Overall, Escapes is mildly entertaining at best. Unfortunately, most of the stories just aren’t fleshed out enough to be overly compelling. While Escapes is far from what I’d call a “bad movie”, it’s not particularly “great” either. Like myself, most will presumably only give this film a chance based solely on the presence of Price.
However, despite the film’s minuscule budget, Escapes does a rather admirable job in terms of production value. While none of the performances are all that deep, the film still features some really nice camera work (at times), decent costuming and sets, and respectable special effects. These aspects do add some extra charm to the proceeds, but still aren’t quite enough to make the film all that memorable.
Recommended to devout Price fans and the genuinely curious, but casual fans will probably want to make their escapes before even pressing “Play”.
Amazon Link: https://amzn.to/2urObfn