Tales from Pandora's Box: Chapter One
22 Apr 2022
Raina Ariel, Analyn DeStefano, Jason DeStefano
Inheriting the chaotic nature of the mythological artefact its story is based on, Tales from Pandora’s Box: Chapter One is an anthological collection of occult tales relayed it’s the titular Greek legend. The result is an intriguing and artistic feature, but one that can feel repetitive and overlong.
The film is made up of a number of short stories told to the viewer by Pandora (Raina Ariel), who documents the chaos unleashed upon the world since her legendary box was opened. Included amongst these are tales of cults who have turned hostile, serial killers receiving mysterious new callings, and witchcraft in some notorious familiar locations. As her stories are told, similarities begin to emerge, and links between the grizzly tales become clear.
Billed as ‘chapter one’ of an unknown number of feature-length films, Tales from Pandora’s Box features a mixed bag of gruesome tales woven together to create the outline of an overarching story, which presumably will stretch across the remainder of its series. However much of the focus of the film is on the individual stories themselves. Director Jason DeStefano does a good job of adjusting pacing, themes and settings for the different segments. However repeated use of the same music and stock imagery of a red hallway, and certain camera effects, leave the film feeling repetitive.
The stories themselves are of the classic ‘ghost story’ styling and delve into all kinds of occult and arcane mythology that will interest horror fanatics. Some last only a matter of minutes, and end up feeling rushed, whereas others enjoy further focus. Those who stick with the film will be rewarded by the revelations which connect the different sections together – though the sheer number of these make this a difficult task, and audiences can’t be blamed if they struggle to remember the large number of plots and characters, who sometimes end up sharing similarities.
The film does feel overlong, particularly with the aforementioned hallway scenes which eat up several seconds using the same footage and music for the beginning of every story. Creating the idea of reaching into the box for each look at its power is an interesting idea, but the execution feels a little lazy. In contrast, some of the slower, more artistic stories themselves are among the film’s best. The narration’s tendency to over-explain detracts from some of the more complex of the tales – which never really have time to fully develop. The director’s ability to create unease, tension, confusion and awe through clever use of camerawork could have been better utilised here.
The film’s rotating cast never really get much of a chance to thrive given the scattergun approach to the storytelling. However, Lucille Summers’ turn as the physical interpretation of Pandora intrigues between the stories themselves – remaining true to the basics of the original myth whilst adding sexuality and lust which unnerves as much as it arouses. Raina Ariel’s voiceover feels a little generic however, and suffers from an overeager script.
Fans of mythological-based horror and witchcraft will find enough in Tales from Pandora’s Box to satisfy their cravings for the creepy. But the excessive length of this film means many will fail to reach the conclusion that ties its many tales together. Given that there will be at least another chapter, it’s a struggle to see how another offering will sustain itself.