Tales of Halloween, 2015.
Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, Axelle Carolyn, Adam Gierasch, Andrew Kasch, Neil Marshall, Lucky McKee, Mike Mendez, Dave Parker, Ryan Schifrin, John Skipp, Paul Solet.
Starring Booboo Stewart, Ben Woolf, Barry Bostwick, Lin Shaye, Adriennne Barbeau, Lisa Marie, Barbara Crampton, Adam Green, John Landis, Robert Rusler, Caroline Williams, Noah Segan, Joe Dante, Stuart Gordon, Mick Garris, Pollyanna McIntosh.
A host of familiar genre faces and directors come together to tell ten tales of terror in this Halloween anthology.
You can forget Halloween being a time when a new Saw movie – or any random gore movie for that matter – would hit the cinema just to keep in the spirit of things for a day or two around All Hallows Eve, because ever since Trick ‘r Treat came along a few years back and defined what a festive Halloween movie should be by creating the macabre autumnal feel that Halloween evokes, horror fans have been crying out for more.
And we’re going to get it as Trick ‘r Treat 2 has been greenlit, but until that time we have Tales of Halloween, an anthology film containing ten short stories all centred around Halloween (of course) but unlike Trick ‘r Treat – which, like it or not, this film will get compared to – there is no wraparound story, no central character that links each segment and the stories rarely overlap (although they do seemingly take place in the same town). Like all anthologies there are some really strong segments and some that aren’t quite up to snuff, although you’d be hard pressed not to get some enjoyment out of all of them on some level.
Of the best, Darren Lynn Bousman’s The Night Billy Raised Hell is a standout tale about a boy who plays a Halloween prank on his neighbour and ends up paying the price, albeit not in the most obvious way. To be honest, if you look at the film carefully you’ll be able to suss out the twist ending but it’s still a tremendously fun ride getting there. Mike Mendez also makes the grade with Friday the 31st, a Friday the 13th/The Evil Dead mash-up with an extraterrestrial slant that knowing genre buffs will get instantly. Yes, it looks a bit naff (deliberately so) with the glowing eyes and rubber masks but that’s part of the fun of knowing the films that are being spoofed, although having to explain why it is so good to non-genre fans will be a thankless task.
There is also an old-school-versus-new-school romp with This Means War, in which a Halloween purist with gothic ornaments and Hammer-style props takes on his metal-loving gorehound neighbours in a battle to see who is the scariest, with amusingly gruesome results. Also worthy of a mention is Neil Marshall’s Bad Seed, a monster movie in the vein of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes with a knowing nod to John Carpenter’s The Thing. In fact, the influence of John Carpenter is all over Tales of Halloween, from the Thing-like creation of Bad Seed to the electronic pulse-like score and the inclusion of Adrienne Barbeau reprising her DJ role from The Fog to narrate over the top of it (and there’s even some candy named the Carpenter Bar, in case you weren’t quite getting it).
On the downside, Lucky McKee’s Ding Dong is a little too abstract to blend in with the other stories quite so well, although Pollyanna McIntosh does give one of the best performances of the whole film in this twisted tale that nods to Hansel & Gretel. Dave Parker’s Sweet Tooth and Paul Solet’s The Weak and the Wicked go for the urban legend style of horror and don’t quite hit the same level of quality as the majority of the other shorts.
But the hit ratio of Tales of Halloween is still pretty high considering there are ten shorts to get through. With the stories being so short and the overall film trying to establish a distinct atmosphere there isn’t much room for each of the directors to show off their style but the cracking pace of the film is so that it doesn’t really matter because just as you’re digesting one particular shock moment the film moves on to the next, keeping your attention level at maximum without any lag whatsoever. On the surface Tales of Halloween looks like a carbon copy of Trick ‘r Treat by creating a similar mood but beneath the surface Tales of Halloween is a slightly different beast, one with more than a passing fancy for ‘70s and ‘80s horror (just look at that cast list) and one that displays a slightly less serious tone, as is evident by the dumb (in a good way) effects and almost Creepshow-esque comic book vibe. If the plan to make one of these every year goes ahead – although somebody said the same thing about Trick ‘r Treat six years ago – then there’s more than enough room for both Halloween anthologies to exist together and provide some quality seasonal entertainment to look forward to every year; if not then this charming anthology will still provide the required entertainment every October for many years to come.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★/ Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★