Anthology films have been around since the early thirties. The anthology film has always been something that has peaked my interest, especially in the horror genre. Blame it on a short attention span, but I love the idea of a director telling a complete story in short form. I always feel like you’re getting more bang for your buck when it comes to anthologies. There have been great anthologies (e.g. “Creepshow”) and not so fantastic anthologies (e.g. “The ABCs of Death”). That being said, even the “worst” of the bunch usually have a strong segment or two. In an anthology film you can always find something to enjoy. Now, being a fan of horror and anthology films, you can imagine my excitement when a new Halloween anthology was being put together 2 years ago. “Tales of Halloween” hit VOD last October and was released in an excellent bluray set by Epic Pictures a couple of weeks ago. Let’s take a look at that set and the film, going segment by segment.
Naturally, being a Halloween anthology film I believe there is a natural comparison to the mecca of Halloween anthology films, “Trick R Treat.” Few films have captured the essence and feeling they were going for quite like “Trick R Treat.” The Michael Dougherty film truly brought the Halloween spirit to life and introduced a new horror icon in Sam the trick or treater. I will honestly tell you that while “Tales of Halloween” may not become the classic that Trick R Treat has become there is an immense amount of fun to be had. The spirit is alive in “Tales” and it kicks in right at the opening credits.
When the credits kick in we get a familiar voice over a radio station. Oh Adrienne Barbeau, you are mah woman……sorry….where were we? So there’s a very neat opening credits sequence runs through the creators of each segment and then we’re pushed right into the first story, “Sweet Tooth,” directed by Dave Parker.
“Sweet Tooth” is a tale of Halloween legend. A young boy was forbidden to eat his candy after trick or treating. Once he discovered his parents sat up all night eating his candy he introduced them to a grisly demise. Now, every Halloween Sweet Tooth comes back to get the candy that is owed to him. This was a fun story and a great way to introduce the town of the film we were about to watch. We also got our first taste of the fun eclectic cast we were going to have moving forward as we see appearances by Caroline Williams, Robert Rusler, and Greg Grunberg. Not much more to say about this segment other than it set up the tone for the rest of the flick.
Our next segment is titled “The Night Billy Raised Hell” and it’s directed by “Saw 2” writer and director, Darren Lynn Bousman. I’m a huge fan of “Repo! The Genetic Opera” so I was curious as to what Bousman had instore for his segment. The short begins with a little boy, played by Marcus Eckert, being pressured into egging his next store neighbor’s house. Well the door opens up and it just so happens that Barry Bostwick is his next store neighbor. Bostwick plays the Satan-like character Mr. Abbadon. What follows is a night of fun and entertainment for the young boy and his new “mentor”. This segment, like the first, was a lot of fun. Of course there were a few unusual cameos by Adam Pascal and Adrianne Curry but that was a reoccurring theme throughout the movie. The team of Bostwick and Bousman did not disappoint.
So far, two for two, how much longer could this 10 segment anthology hold up? Well I’m happy to say that they kept the weird but fun trend going in segment three “Trick”, directed by Adam Gierasch. We begin with a group of immature adults sitting around a tv watching “Night of a Living Dead” and chatting it up. When the doorbell rings we are expecting normal trick or treaters but what follows is anything but. I immediately smiled as it was the first time I had seen Trent Haaga on screen without Killjoy makeup in a long time. Don’t get me wrong, it was also nice to see Miss Tiffany Shepis and a cameo by Killer POV’s own Rebekah McKendry. While I enjoyed the segment as a whole, I felt like the twist at the end could’ve held a bit more weight with even the slightest of explanation. Don’t get me wrong, it was neat, but I was left with wanting more…….which, in turn, could always be a good thing.
Next up we have “The Weak and the Wicked” directed by Paul Solet. Honestly, I found this segment to be the weakest of the bunch, no pun intended. The whole scenario of a young man coming back to town to take revenge on a trio who killed his parents when they were children sounds like a recipe for awesome action and satisfaction. Sadly, this story did not fit well in the anthology timeframe it was given. It seemed like it was all set up just to show a cool bike chase. I’d honestly like to see what Solet could do with this story in a full length setting. The “evil” trio just seemed like assholes who did bad things for the sake of being shitty people. I’d love to see where Solet could go with this in full length form but, for me, it didn’t work here.
“Grim Grinning Ghost” is our next segment and it sadly doesn’t pick up after the last weak segment. There are a couple of notable faces here in Lin Shaye, Barbara Crampton, and actually many others gathered around a living room telling ghost stories. Honestly, the rest of the segment is a set up for one predictable jump scare. There’s nothing else to say. Nothing else happened. It came across more as a Facebook video rather than an actual movie segment.
Rounding out our “why?” segments is Lucky McKee’s “Ding Dong”. This segment stars Pollyanna McIntosh as a woman who’s unable to reproduce and becomes overtaken by a witch when she becomes upset or angry. This segment, while overall goofy as hell, suffers from the same problem as “The Weak and the Wicked” there’s not enough time for proper exposition. To explain my full reasoning would give away a lot of the story but in my opinion it didn’t make much sense. McIntosh also made me cringe with some of her over the topness while Marc Senter, from “Starry Eyes” and “Cabin Fever 2”, was oddly charming. Hopefully, one day McKee can put out a director’s cut of this segment as I feel like we lost a lot on the cutting room floor.
The following segment is probably my favorite of the bunch. It truly encapsulates the Halloween spirit. “This Means War” directed by Andrew Kasch and John Skipp sets up a war between old school and new. This segment stars Dana Gould and James Duval as competing Halloween decorators. One is into the old school macabre while the other is into the blood and gore. Which one will come out on top? You need to watch and find out. Kasch and Skipp do a great job with their take on the argument of what type of horror is best. In the end, if we’re arguing about it then we both lose. The best way to go about it is to enjoy what you like and let others celebrate and love what they love. This segment was, no doubt, my favorite of the bunch.
Here we are, the final three segments of the bunch. This one is a unique take on the slasher genre. Mike Mendez’s “Friday the 31st” is a reverse take on the old summer camp killer tale. Our final girl is on the run from her hunter but things take an unexpected turn when an unidentified object comes into play. This segment was probably the most charming of the bunch and it includes one of the cutest little claymation creations I’ve ever seen. This is one that I don’t want to say much about as I want you guys to see this segment fresh. It’s definitely a good time.
The second to last segment is directed by Ryan Schifrin and is entitled “The Ransom of Rusty Rex”. Two criminals are hoping to make a big score when they kidnap the “son” of a rich family. When they call the father he seems strangely excited that he no longer has to be responsible for the “child”. We find out why shortly after. Jose Cantillo and Sam Witwer are great as the two idiots looking to make a quick buck, and we even get a cameo by director John Landis. Sadly this was Ben Woolf’s final performance before his death in February of 2015. He went out with a bang, I will tell you that much. This segment is fun, creepy, and goofy. What more could you want?!
And finally, we have reached the final segment of “Tales of Halloween”. “Bad Seed”, directed by Neil Marshall, is about man eating pumpkin causing chaos throughout the town. The detective on the case is played by the gorgeous Kristina Klebe and we get appearances by Pat Healy, Cerina Vincent, and Greg McLean. It’s the perfect segment for a bookend with “Sweet Tooth”. It carries the same holiday spirit and lore as the first segment, and ends on a high note.
Whew, that was a lot to get through. Like most anthologies, this movie has stronger segments and weaker ones. Thankfully, the strong outweigh the week and even the worst segments have quality to them. Will this become the classic that “Trick R Treat” has become? Not exactly, but you can tell that every person involved loves the genre and the holiday. It certainly has its charm and is non-stop fun. Now that we’ve discussed the film, let’s look at the Epic Pictures release itself.
With four discs this release includes the film on bluray and dvd, a bonus features disc, and the soundtrack on CD. There’s a feature length commentary by most of the creators and segment by segment commentaries for “Ding Dong,” “Sweet Tooth,” “This Means War” and “Trick”. The meat of the special features lies in the Bonus Short Films included. Almost each director has a bonus short film included on the disc. These short films range from early works to commercials. It’s almost as if it’s a bonus movie in itself. Stand out bonus short is definitely Kasch and Skipp’s “Thirsty” starring writer and director Joe Lynch. Also included are deleted scenes for “Grim Grinning Ghosts”, behind the scenes for “Friday the 31st”, a feature length “FUN FACTS” reel, a photo gallery, storyboards, and diaries from the sets. As you can see this set is jam packed with content! It honestly reminds me of Epic Pictures release of “Turbo Kid” from last year, a release that was also overflowing with special feature content. This is a great pick up for all fans of Halloween and horror. Although it’s a bit expensive at $40, you definitely are getting your money’s worth when you pick this up. If you enjoy fun Halloween flicks that are easily digestible, check this out whenever possible!
Visit the official website of the film at www.talesofhalloweenmovie.com.
Obsessed with all things horror, video games, comics and vinyl, Dylan has been surrounded by all things geek culture since birth. Along with writing for Icon Versus Icon he’s also the co-host for the year long Christmas podcast, “Christmas 365”.
“No wimps. No False Metal.”