Overview: A collection of vaguely tinted stories that aren't so much from beyond the grave as they are from the low-income housing block just down the street from the grave.

Directed By: Various New Zealanders, 2001.

The Case For: Each of these short films has some merit. A few of the directors actually show quite a bit of promise.

The Case Against: Each of these short films has some massive, glaring flaw. None of them actually justify the title of the whole movie.

This week we're going to take a look at the last three short films in the confusingly titled "Dark Stories: Tales from Beyond the Grave." Just like last time, I am going to rate each of the shorts individually. Also, since the director of each short is also the writer, the directing score will reflect the level of failure in both of these departments. Additionally, this means that the directors are to blame for the terrible source material, as well as their failure in bringing that source material to life. Grab some popcorn and tell that hooker to get out, because it's movie review time!

I have a headache.

Headlong - written and directed by Simon Raby

This is just a retelling of one of the most classic stories known to man. Unfortunately, it is a story which man has always found irritating, cliched, and thoroughly useless. It's the tale of an uptight man who meets free-spirited female who teaches him how to cut loose, despite being an intolerable bitch. Simon Raby reinvents this timeless story by giving it a fresh, exciting new angle - he puts it inside a car! How does he come up with this stuff?

"Headlong" starts off with Jude, the free-spirited skank, getting tossed out of a car full of rowdy guys. From all of their hooting and hollering, it seems like the guys are thrilled to be rid of her. I can't say I blame them. Jude's bad girl, rebellious, punk attitude wears thin after about twenty seconds. Coincidentally, that is precisely how long Jude screams after the guys in the car as they speed off and precisely how long it is before she manages to get a word out through her thick New Zealand accent and the layer of nicotine coating her throat that sounds even remotely like English. We then cut to the other main character in this speeding disaster, Arthur, who is played by "Dead Alive" star Timothy Balme presumably because there are only four actors to choose from in New Zealand. He's basically reprising his role from "Dead Alive" as the uptight, quiet, play-it-safe type. Somehow, without a horde of flesh-eating zombies to play off of, the character just doesn't have the same charm. Arthur is on a long late night drive and is doing everything in his power to stay awake. When he sees Jude with her thumb out along the side of the road, he picks her up, grateful for the company, bitchy though it may be. In fact, he's so thankful for someone to talk to that as soon as she gets in the car, he promptly doesn't say another word until he finally works up the courage to ask her to put on her seatbelt. She refuses. What a free spirit, folks! Truly, Jude must be the angel sent to set Arthur free from the drudgery of his stuffy existence!

"Feel my bitchy power!"

After Jude lights up a cigarette and Arthur shames her for not asking him if it was okay first, Jude explodes into a raging fit of man-hating claptrap and insists that she didn't do a damn thing wrong, but that he's an asshole for wanting to be asked. Arthur pulls over and kicks her out of the car, and rightly so. Any normal person would be able to stay awake for hours just stewing over what a colossal pain in the ass that girl was. Arthur is a little sissy, though, so he doesn't get very far down the road before he turns around and goes back for her. Naturally, as soon as he pulls up again, Jude puts up a tough front and acts like she doesn't want a ride. How could anyone not love this girl? Eventually Arthur gets her to come back to the car, on the grounds that she can smoke. That's right, he manages to convince a person he doesn't actually want in his car in the first place to come with him by letting her do something he doesn't want her to do. Oh yeah, this is really a big victory for Arthur. They put on some music, and Jude takes it upon herself to show Arthur how to have a good time by unbuckling his seatbelt. He flips out, and she goes off on him again for having a stick up his ass. Once again, Arthur tells her to get out of the car. This time, she refuses and questions his masculinity. Arthur gets out of the car and tries to physically drag her out the passenger side, which, if you've ever tried, is actually quite difficult to do. Now, the entire movie is shot in the middle of the night, so it's hard to tell, but it looks to me like the place that they've stopped is exactly the same spot where he stopped to kick her out the last time. No wonder his trip is taking so damn long.

Uh, Arthur? You got a little... oh, forget it.

When he finally gets back in the car, Arthur decides to show Jude just how wild and crazy he can be by driving really fast. In doing so, he manages to find and nearly hit the only other two vehicles on the road for probably fifty miles in either direction. The excitement catches up to him and he vomits. Repeatedly. Jude offers him a flask of some sort of alcohol to get rid of the taste of the truly monumental amount of partially digested food that just came out of him. Naturally, that gets him drunk, so Jude has to drive. Well, now that he's drunk, no one could say that Arthur hasn't loosened up. He's definitely a lot more free now. Of course, because of his freedom, he has nearly died twice, vomited more than anyone has a right to vomit without a permit, and has just turned control of his car over to a total stranger. Yep, things are going just dandy for Arthur ever since he let Jude into his life. He soon passes out as Jude drives, and shortly thereafter, she falls asleep at the wheel and crashes into a tree. As the blood runs down their faces, Arthur and Jude laugh and laugh, possibly due to sudden and severe head trauma, possibly because they just realized that the ultimate moral of this short is that women can't drive. The end. Everyone loses.

"Headlong" isn't particularly terrible for any one reason. It's just unnecessary. I can't figure out why anyone would bother making this short. It had already been done to death when the barbarians invaded Rome. Simon Raby certainly doesn't show off any particularly impressive directing or writing chops. It's average or below in every single way. Luckily, watching "Headlong" only wastes about eight or nine minutes of your life. As far as the anthology is concerned, this is only a dark story in the most literal sense, and it doesn't come anywhere close to being a tale from beyond the grave, despite the presence of one of the greatest zombie-killers of all time.

Plot:- 8
Acting:- 5
Special Effects:- 3
Directing:- 7
Music / Sound:- 4
Overall:- 27
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