As the title suggests, this portmanteau film tips a wink to the multi-stranded spookfest Tales from the Crypt (1972), but this time with even more winking and a fair few nudges thrown in for good measure. The umbrella narrative finds five university chums in their late 30s – two couples and another bloke, Paul (Dustin Demri-Burns) who’s brought along his trashy new girlfriend, Miki (Kelly Wenham) – assembling at a remote lakeside cabin to scatter the ashes of a sixth pal who drowned there a few years back, the result of a misadventure, suicide or maybe something more sinister.
There’s good-natured sniping over who forgot to bring food, moaning over the lack of phone signal and bitchier remarks from tart-tongued Martha (Laura Fraser) directed at Miki, who no one really likes. With well-timed rhythms and backchat, the ensemble is quite credible as a gaggle of slightly obnoxious, mildly likable millennials on the brink of middle age.
To pass the time, each of them contributes a scary story that’s acted out either by a whole new cast or by the characters we’ve already met playing themselves; and each of the six segments is directed by a member of the actual cast. For example, the tale by Johnny Vegas’ Russell is a slapstick gorefest with zombies, while Mackenzie Crook’s Joe recalls a lurid dream sequence in the style of David Lynch, but on laughing gas. Fraser’s mildly supernatural segment is perhaps the best written, a bawdy yet melancholy romp about marital disappointment. Wenham brings it all home with a goofy but satisfying revenge yarn.
There’s something primally satisfying about the episodic structure, a narrative pattern that after all goes back to Chaucer.
• Tales from the Lodge is released in the UK on 1 November.