December has arrived and it always brings my two favourite things together: Christmas and horror films. The holiday season inspires love, kindness, and generosity, but it also seems to inspire filmmakers to unleash some bloody vengeance. Perhaps it’s the long lines as you wait to buy gifts, or the endless stream of Christmas music that seems impossible to escape, but the holiday season has delivered some fantastic horror films that we’ll be looking at this month.
Actually, they’re not always fantastic, but that is what makes some of them so wonderful to enjoy, and Tales of the Third Dimension fits into that category quite well. B-movie producer Earl Owensby delivered a string of 3D films in the ’80s, all made for the bare minimum, and all somehow managing to return a profit. This film happens to be an anthology, featuring three stories with a wraparound segment hosted by a Rod Serling impersonating skeleton named Igor.
Sitting up out of his grave, the puppeted Igor is joined in the graveyard by a bunch of vultures who happened to be modelled after The 3 Stooges and Laurel and Hardy. After delivering their cheesy dialogue, viewers are sent off into adventures of bad acting, ridiculous situations, and one of the craziest Christmas films ever.
Young Blood kicks off the three segments, with the story featuring a vampire couple looking to adopt a child. If you asked a kid what a vampire would look and sound like, you would wind up with what’s presented here, and it’s hilarious. Surprisingly, the segment ends on a rather surprising note when the child they have adopted has his own secret from the world.
Next up is The Guardians. The weakest part of the film, the story follows some grave robbers who get more than they bargained for when they try to break into a sealed of series of catacombs. What they really wind up against is some booby traps, angry rats, and an encounter with one pissed off bat. It may feature some of the best acting of the film, but the story doesn’t deliver, and neither do the things they come up against.
It all leads up to the one reason you’ll sit down to Tales of the Third Dimension. The final segment, Visions of Sugar Plums, is the story of Susy (Kathy O’Toole) and Dennis (Neal Powell), two kids on their way to Grandma’s (Helene Tryon) house for the holidays while their parents go to Hawaii without them. Right away we’re into some strange territory. What family would leave their kids behind while they go to Hawaii? Dennis suggests to his dad that it’s because he’s cheap, which causes dear old dad to pull off his belt and start slapping the kid, demanding that he get into the Christmas spirit. Dad actually happens to be driving the car at that moment, so they almost wind up in the ditch before they can even get to Grandma’s house.
The family does arrive safely, but mom and dad don’t even get out of the car to say hello to Grandma. They can’t possibly get away fast enough, and Susy and Dennis are quickly left alone with Grandma. Things seem pretty normal at first. Grandma is delighted to have her grandkids around for the holidays, and they happily begin planning the days leading up to Christmas.
When we watch Grandma digging through her pills, desperately searching for some only to find that she’s almost out, we start to realize that Granny isn’t quite right without her medication, and it’s going to lead to the most insane Christmas ever. Grandma starts to slip away from sanity, attempting to poison Susy with some hot chocolate (which completely backfires on Grandma), and flipping out on the kids when they mention Santa Claus.
Helene Tryon is hilarious as the completely crazed Grandma. She switches from sweet old lady to insane psychopath and back in an instant, leaving the kids wondering what the hell is wrong with Grandma in the first place. It’s actually very reminiscent of The Visit from M. Night Shyamalan, except Visions of Sugar Plums is way over the top. The kids think Grandma is just getting older and is suffering from dementia, but it’s something far worse.
While Grandma slips further from reality, the kids just want to make it until Christmas Eve when their parents will return, and Santa will deliver all kinds of presents. Their parents plane is delayed though, which Grandma tries to say is because it crashed and killed everyone aboard, so it’s up to Grandma to tuck the kids into bed. She recites the most outrageous version of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” you’ve ever heard, leaving the children shaking in terror. Seriously, someone needs to put this version into book form because it’s the most inappropriate and hilarious reading of this classic tale you’ll ever hear.
It’s here that Grandma finally loses her grip on reality, taking up a shotgun and chasing the kids around the house in her motorized wheelchair. She blasts the place apart, barely missing the kids at every step. Finally their parents arrive home, but they’ve forgotten the presents at the airport. Susy and Dennis stand at the front window screaming and waving their arms, but mom and dad don’t even notice. Neither of them wants to wait behind for the other to go back, so they decide to both go back to the airport, leaving the kids to deal with Grandma.
It is Christmas Eve though, and Santa is scheduled to arrive. He shows up just at the right moment, saving the kids from Grandma in the most ridiculous and hilarious way possible. Leave it to Santa to make Christmas a joyous time again. If you’re tempted, you can watch Santa save the day in the video below, but I would recommend seeking Tales of the Third Dimension out and just watching the entire segment.
As far as strange Christmas movies go, this is easily one of the most outrageous and entertaining B-grade films I’ve had the pleasure to watch. It can be difficult to find, although videos of the film do show up across the internet, but I can’t recommend this one enough. Make yourself a warm fire and a very alcoholic egg nog and sit down to watch what is sure to become your new favourite Christmas film.