Twisted Tales: Domestic Disturbances is director Tom Holland’s follow up to the recent film of the same name. It’s a collection of four novella-length stories that also function as a pastiche of Tales from the Crypt, EC Comics, and the other anthology series which Holland has been previously associated with. For the purposes of this review, we’ll be discussing the audio format of the book, which released on January 6th on Audible through Encyclopocalypse Publications. The only connective thread between these stories is the emphasis on spousal relationships (with the exception of The Boy, which is kind of tenuous), and they vary in quality, so we’ll discuss each one as a short entry:
Glitter: The first story of the collection and arguably the strongest thanks to its brevity and simplicity. There’s nothing supernatural to this story, but it strongly harkens strongly back to early Tales from the Crypt episodes in that it features a loathsome gold digger, an ironically dark ending, and a typically large helping of moral consideration in between. It doesn’t take any real risks, but it does what it sets out to very well and is a joy to read (hear?) because of it. 8/10
The Boy: In my opinion, this is the furthest from the other stories thematically, but it’s no worse for it. A gang of down on their luck thugs seeks to use a potential miracle worker to settle their debts with a small-time crime boss. The main character is convinced to develop a conscience by his paramour, which leads him and his band of crooks to the brink. The story itself was fine if a bit predictable, the big sticking point for me was the narration on the audiobook. Rarely is Christian Francis a detriment to the book, but in this case, his voice for Tio Dom is a bit much. I couldn’t shake the mental image of Watto from The Phantom Menace whenever the character spoke, and that’s not a good thing. It’s especially bad when you consider that the character was supposed to be a stereotypical Mexican crime lord. Kind of a shame, as other than that I think this story has the best characters by far. 7/10
Shrunk: This story is about a vindictive failure of a husband who uses a voodoo doll to curse his discontent wife. It’s conceptually a bit like Thinner (also part of Tom Holland’s directorial catalog) except the shrinking is vertical rather than horizontal. The rest of the story is an action-horror romp through the couple’s home as the husband tries to track down his wife and squish her like a bug. It’s a fun premise, but it’s a little long in the tooth as the story loses tension over the course of its cat and mouse antics. There’s also a lot of emphasis on the wife’s nudity as she shrinks out of clothes and has to find new doll outfits to accommodate her size– that’s not off-brand for something inspired by media like Tales, but it comes off as a bit too fetish-y for a modern release. 7.5/10
Suzie 69: This is the one that really didn’t work for me. It’s all about future AI technology and its implementation as, essentially, slaves. In the year 2058 women have become the breadwinners in the business world, and Ally’s husband Oliver has purchased a sexbot to deal with the lack of intimacy in their marriage. Over the course of the story, Oliver’s drive to make the bot more sexually thrilling results in the installation of emotions and something approaching free will, and things go as you would expect from there.
The problem is that this story takes the most risks by far but a lot of them don’t pay off. The worldbuilding is loose– there’s no satisfying reason given for why the wife keeps her husband around, especially given the later reveal that she might be a lesbian? Ostensibly the well-kept man is meant to be a status symbol, but it’s tough to buy into this premise given that this is happening three decades in the future and in a world where sexbots exist in the first place. Maybe there was a work related reason for maintaining a spouse given at some point, but even that would feel flimsy without further consideration of the surrounding world. There are a lot of little nit-picks I have with character motivations and relationships throughout, and a lot of them stem from the half-baked world we barely get a glimpse at.
The themes here are also jumbled. Part of this story is about the loss of innocence and the morality of keeping advanced AI as slaves, but in the end, one of the liberated bots throws away all sympathy when he rapes the wife to death via penile electricity. This is an unwarrantedly cruel death given how easily Oliver dies in comparison– given that he was the one who was having sex with a bot, it seemed like he should be the one to die that way, and that would have been a decent inversion. After all, the rape is carried out by a character that wasn’t party to Oliver’s perversions and on a character who was revolted by them, even if her solution was to destroy the bots wholesale. This almost felt like a spiritual tribute to Black Mirror, but there are just a lot of elements of Suzie 69 that don’t function as intended. 4/10
Overall Rating:6.5 out of 10