It’s All Connected: Escapes (1986)

If you’ve been along for the journey that has been It’s All Connected so far, you’ve probably come to the correct conclusion that I like some pretty weird movies. How else would one get from a horror comic book book adaptation by Wes Craven to a true oddity of an anthology starring an icon? As such, I got very excited a few years back when I realized that the already niche horror home media distributor Severin Films had an imprint called InterVision that focuses on even more out-there obscurities that they only put out on DVD. I grab these up whenever I see them, but the first I ever purchased was Dark Harvest, which also came with a Vincent Price picture from 1986 called Escapes. How could I not?

Escapes is a cool little anthology picture that revolves around a guy named Matthew receiving a VHS tape in the mail…of the movie Escapes, starring Vincent Price! After failing to make plans with anyone, he pops the tape in, sits on the couch in front of his Uncle Sam poster and gives it a watch. We then see a very creepy hallway where it looks like statues are fused to the walls and then turn to find Price speaking directly to us, or rather Matthew.

From there, we’re treated to six stories of varying lengths and even styles. “Hobgoblin Bridge” features a little brother doing his best to keep up with his older brother and his friends as they ride their bikes all over creation. Upon arriving at a covered bridge, the older boys tell the younger that it’s got a hobgoblin inside and he has to ride just the right way to survive. After that, they bolt, leaving this small child to struggle with fear and potential ‘goblin death all by himself as the sun goes down. That’s followed by “A Little Fishy” which plays out like a quick, but nicely done EC Comics story.

Then you get “Coffee Break,” which is about a small scenic town that you can either nicely drive through or never leave if you’re in a a hurry. This one frustrated me the most because I actually felt bad for the 20-something delivery driver who got stuck in the locals’ weirdness. After that there’s “Who’s There?” which finds a man having an unexpected run-in with monsters in the woods. “Jonah’s Dream” finds a widow sticking to the mountain her dead husband said would eventually fuel their futures with all the gold therein. An unexpected crash shows whether he was ultimately right or wrong.

The final segment, “Think Twice,” shows what happens when a hoodlum steals a homeless guy’s wishing stone. It’s the weirdest of the bunch, but I also liked it thee second most (“Hobgoblin Bridge” was easily my favorite). At that point we go back to Matthew watching the movie and, let’s just say, Price makes it so he becomes a part of the finale!

I’m not always the biggest fan of anthologies, but I found myself really enjoying Escapes. It has a cool wraparound — the kind of idea I could easily see being used by a modern day retro anthology — that actually incorporates elements from the segments in a way I’d never seen before. I also liked the variety of tales you get. Not only are some longer and others are shorter, but they cover almost every age group from kids, to 20-somethings, to middle aged guys to old women. You rarely see that, but I found it refreshing. Plus, while they’re all interesting, they’re also fairly tame.

I was surprised that David Steensland never worked in film again (though these segments were apparently originally created to run as shorts on various cable channels). The picture quality doesn’t necessarily look great, but you can tell that Steensland had a solid eye for film and could handle a variety of tones. “Hobgoblin” was nice and tense while “Fish” was pretty funny. I’m not sure what the intent was when making these originally, but they feel of-a-whole, in a way I was definitely not expecting. Put this one up there with Johhn Carpenter and Tobe Hooper’s Body Bags with TV-related horror anthologies I’d never heard of that became some of my all-time faves!

After writing all this, I realized there was a special feature on the DVD about Steensland with the film’s distributor Tom Naygrow talking about how unlucky he was. David had been doing a series of Wobbles and Woody clown videos, but one died and the other refused to work after that. From there, he went to Hollywood and got job offers, but did not want to do hard horror because of his religious background. It also sounds like Steensland made “Hobgoblin Bridge” first. Also, according to Naygrow, Price made $10,000 for a one-day shoot. Before long Steensland just lost the desire to keep going in Hollywood and bailed. It’s a shame because his work on Escapes feels like it could have at least gotten him work on seminal kids shows of the day like Are You Afraid Of The Dark? 

Up next? More Price as we get back to him starring in a real wild one!

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