Film Still from Tale of Tales. Pictured: Salma Hayek. See PA Feature FILM Hayek. Picture: PA Photo/

Film Still from Tale of Tales. Pictured: Salma Hayek. See PA Feature FILM Hayek. Picture: PA Photo/Curzon Artificial Eye. - Credit: PA

Inspired by the works of Basile, Matteo Garrone's latest film is filled with fantastic tales of deceit and revenge.

The approach is just as merciless.

Drawn from the works of Basile, who inspired the brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen to pen their fairy tales, this fantasy horror entwines three blood-soaked stories of deceit and revenge.

The film is full of kings and princesses, sea monsters and mutated insects, witches and ogres, striking castle and beautiful landscapes; and it is violent, brutal, creepy, disturbing and melancholic. These Italian fairy tales; they are no fairy tale.

The King and Queen of Longtrellis (John C Reilly, Salma Hayek) yearn for a child and heir, but their efforts to start a family prove unsuccessful.

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A sorcerer (Franco Pistoni) provides the King with a solution: if the Queen eats the heart of an aquatic dragon cooked by a virgin, she will fall pregnant. Heeding this advice, the King sets out to slay the dragon in order to provide his wife with her heart's desire.

Next, the King of Highhills (Toby Jones) takes a flea as a pet, hiding the creature in the royal chamber where it grows to a grotesque size.

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When the flea eventually dies, the monarch is distraught and retains the insects' oversized skin as a memento. In the flea's honour, the king promises the hand of his daughter Violet (Bebe Cave) to any man or beast that can get guess where the giant skin came from and a hideous ogre (Guillaume Delaunay) steps forth with the answer. The King of Strongcliff (Vincent Cassel) is intoxicated by the singing voice of a mysterious woman and he vows to seduce the songbird.

The chanteuse, Dora (Hayley Carmichael), is an old woman and she eventually agrees to the King's request to sleep with her on the proviso that it must take place in complete darkness so he cannot see her wrinkled appearance and know her true age. Alas, curiosity gets the better of the lusty monarch and he dares to light a candle during their assignation.

It looks marvellous; shot in remarkable locations and done with the minimum of computer assistance.

An early scene where Reilly goes off to fight a sea monster is eerily effective, both charmingly primitive in the way it seems to recall monster movie from half a century ago, but as beautiful rendered and evocative as any CGI wonder.

Stacy Martin's introduction to the film is comparable to Uma Thurman Venus De Milo entrance in Baron Munchausen.

As an Italian film maker Garrone can be seen to be following in his country's film making traditions – Fellini, Pasolini's Trilogy of Life films (Decameron, Canterbury Tales, 1001 Arabian nights) - but Garrone's vision is quite different from theirs.

It isn't exuberant and wild but very controlled and rather distant: for most of the film we are kept at arm's length from proceedings. As we move through these stone castles you can almost feel the draft.

**** (4 Stars)

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