When it comes to picking your Halloween viewing an anthology film is by far one of the best options out there in the vast and often bewildering world of horror. Not only harking back to the traditions of telling creepy camp fire stories and ghostly tales at teenage sleepovers the various mini masterpieces make for a pick and mix of horrifying entertainment packed with plenty of tricks and treats within the tight running time.
With a recent resurgence leading to some lesser quality anthologies (yes V/H/S I am talking about you!) few have rivaled the classics such as Dead of Night, Creepshow and Tales from the Crypt however 2008’s Trick r Treat showed that Halloween was the perfect setting for portmanteau tales of terror that can still shock and scare us.
Brining a new take to what has come before Tales of Halloween described by its driving force Axelle Carolyn as “spooky fun” has ten standalone stories by some of horror’s brightest and best directors with Carolyn herself and partner Neil Marshall taking on two segments and their frightening fraternity of horror friends (aptly named The October Society) all writing and directing their own sensational and scary stories.
After a brilliant animated map opening accompanied by a Lalo Schifrin theme that sites the locations of all the sections the first film Sweet Tooth is a classic urban legend about a boy who was banned from eating candy by his parents and reaped a deadly and disgusting revenge on them and anyone else who doesn’t offer up some of their Halloween haul to him come the frightful night.
Brilliantly directed by Dave Parker it’s the perfect opener to Tales of Halloween getting you in the mood for the excitement to come. Next The Night Billy Raised Hell by Saw II to IV director Darren Lynn Bousman is far from torture porn territory detailing the highly amusing and crazy antics of a young boy who hooks up with a demon to trick the neighborhood in increasingly more insane and hilarious ways.
The third story is one of the best. Entitled Trick it shows what happens when two couples are besieged by psychotic kids in their home on Halloween. Night of the Demons remaker Adam Gierasch pulls together a truly disturbing short that is best seen without knowing too much at all as it will stay with you even after all the other episodes have ended.
Dark Summer’s Paul Solet takes a stylistic departure from the other sections in The Weak and the Wicked creating a horror that feels like an urban western where a teen takes on a gang of bullies who terrorized him when he was younger. Excellently realized and shot it manages to be totally different from the other Tales of Halloween yet fit in perfectly with the themes and spooky fun feel.
Harking back to something far more haunting Axelle Carolyn’s Grim Grinning Ghost is a chilling little piece that starts with a ghost story and proceeds to evoke a deeply unnerving atmosphere building brilliantly to the final frame. Definitely one to chill your bones it’s a great addition to the petrifying pack balancing out the more comedic films.
Taking the prize for best performance the amazing Pollyanna McIntosh plays a modern day witch in Lucky McKee’s Ding Dong where her and her husband seek out the perfect trick or treater to become their new child …. or her dinner who knows.
Back together after working on The Woman Ding Dong is simultaneously funny, disturbing and deeply tragic and the marvelous McIntosh added with the off kilter freaky fairy tale look makes it another of the standout stories in the film.
Based more in reality John Skipp’s This Means War shows the battle between neighbors trying to have the best decorated house of the street that escalates into all out carnage. This is followed by the weirdest chapter of the bunch Friday the 31st featuring claymation this short by Big Ass Spider! director Mike Mendez about a deformed killer who meets his match when he confronts an alien on all hallows eve.
Although this animated horror might not be to everyone’s taste it is refreshing to have something totally different within Tales of Halloween and like Paul Solet’s section it stills works well with the rest of the film.
Keeping up the comedy The Ransom of Rusty Rex reveals itself in its title as two hapless criminals take a rich man’s son and get far more than they bargained for. Perhaps the weakest part, helmed by Ryan Schifrin (Lalo Schifrin’s son) it’s still great fun and the performances are excellent especially from the late Ben Woolf as the anarchic yet lovable beast that is Rusty.
Saving on of the best till last horror maestro Neil Marshall’s Bad Seed is a barmy and brilliant Carpenter-esque comedy horror where the town all the Tales of Halloween have occurred in gets besieged by a genetically engineered people eating killer pumpkin.
Referencing The Thing as well as Halloween III: Season of the Witch it’s the perfect climax to what is a wonderful anthology going out on a massive horror high with spectacular splatter filed practical effects.
Packed full of legendary horror actors and guest cameo’s including Lin Shaye, Adrienne Barbeau, Joe Dante and Adam Green to name only a few there are also well placed and subtle links between all the stories showing that there is tons more to Tales of Halloween than it first appears and making it ideal for multiple viewings (and even a drinking game as Carolyn and Marshall suggested when I interviewed them!)
Coming straight in as one of the best Halloween set horrors out there is only one film you must watch come October 31st this year and it is Tales of Halloween.