Ye olde anthology horror film is the equivalent of the short story and something that has never completely gone out of fashion. It’s not as easy to deliver a shock when you have to do it in such a short sharp fashion and it means throwing normal film conventions such as character development out the window. This is the reason that this type of omnibus style of filmmaking has always been somewhat hit and miss. Popular in the heyday of studios such as Hammer and Amicus with one of the best ever examples of the portmanteau being Mario Bava’s excellent 1963 movie Black Sabbath there’s been no shortage of treats to gorge on in more contemporary times. Master horror writer and director Stephen King and George Romero teamed up in 1982 with Creepshow spawning a sequel in the process. The Twilight Zone and Tales From The Crypt branched off into full length movie compendiums and bang up to date we have enjoyed the V/H/S and ABC’s Of Death series, the latter bringing things to a near logical conclusion allowing their directorial talents just 5 minutes to get their tales of terror across.
Tales Of Halloween is a seasonal shocker that is said to follow up foundations of a film I admit to not having seen Trick r Treat (2007) which I shall be viewing as soon as I get the chance. Here we have 10 stories made by a variety of ‘masters of horror’ some of which you will surely be familiar with, others less so. Heading up the former are Darren Lynn Bousman (various Saw’s and Repo The Genetic Opera), Lucky McKee (May, The Woman) Mike Mendez (The Convent, The Gravedancers) and Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, The Descent). Obviously it is impossible to review the segments in detail as there is no real time to develop a plot and all too easy to give things away. The film dispenses with the wraparound theme that normally comes with the territory on the whole but has cult icon Adrienne Barbeau recreating her radio voice of the night from John Carpenter’s The Fog and giving horror fans one of many treats to be found in the film.
The stories go from the shocking, to the fun, to the delirious, to the moralistic and right through to the plain daft. Set around the night where spirits are raised and people are chilling out in their homes and giving out candy to all comers whilst watching Night Of The Living Dead, as a Brit the first thing you will acknowledge is just how gung-ho the Americans get into the traditions of the night. It’s a far cry from Britain where by comparison things go largely ignored. We have stories where sickly candy is gorged on with disastrous results, a spot of devilish trick and treating, some bullying gang members who discover vengeance from beyond the grave and in one of the most enjoyable parts Mendez’s Friday the 31st a mash up between a malevolent stalk and slashing monster and alien possessed victim with gallons of blood thrown around. One of the most effective parts is undoubtedly McKee’s ‘Ding-Dong’ which beneath its thematic veneer leaves a particularly ghastly taste in the mouth on its handling of all too real subject matter. You are able to have a good old laugh to neighbouring battles of best haunted house display in Andrew Kasch and John Skipp’s ‘This Means War’ and will no doubt groan in more than just terror as Marshall delivers the ridiculous concluding part which can only be described as Attack Of The Killer Pumpkin. Obviously everyone had fun making this and that includes some surprise acting talent such as Joe Dante and John Landis, the American Werewolf director gleefully having a ball in Ryan Schifrin’s ‘The Ransom Of Rusty Rex’
Given around the ten minute mark each to deliver the goods I found all of these stories had merit in their own way and there was something good about each and every one, making this compilation a most enjoyable one. If you are looking for something to deaden up your Oct 31st evening you can’t really go wrong here. Another thing I noticed as the credits rolled was a suggestion that this could be an on-going idea with more body parts to come in the future.
There’s a pumpkin patch of extras to wade through including some of the segments getting a fuller look via deleted, behind the scenes and commentary tracks as well as an hour long video diary. The bonus part that is going to be the biggest draw no doubt are some exclusive shorts made by the directorial talents and ranging from 30 seconds to a full 21 minutes. Remember kids, for some of us every day is indeed Halloween, so there’s no reason you can’t enjoy this all year round.