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 and Paul Solet.
An anthology of ten creepy tales set around Halloween night, featuring the likes of candy-munching demons, mischievous imps and a killer pumpkin.
Horror anthologies are back with a bang, led by the twin franchises of V/H/S and The ABCs of Death. The latest compendium of creeptastic shorts to hit the UK is Tales of Halloween, which features ten horror tales set on Halloween night, from a host of different directors, including Neil Marshall (The Descent) and Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II-IV). With dark comedy and gore by the bucketload, this is the sort of film that will immediately become a cult favourite in the world of Halloween movies.
The framing device is a suitably slimline one, taking the form of Adrienne Barbeau’s (Argo) radio presenter narrating a Halloween night broadcast. From there, the film launches straight into Dave Parker’s energetic ‘Sweet Tooth’, which sees a terrifying urban legend come to fruition in bloody fashion. Next up is Bousman’s ‘The Night Billy Raised Hell’, featuring a hammy, scenery-chewing Barry Bostwick (The Rocky Horror Picture Show) as an elderly prankster who is strongly implied to be the Devil himself. This is a deliciously comedic story, with a punchy twist ending that cements the tale as one of the best shorts of the entire film.
Two of the weaker segments in Tales of Halloween follow, in the shape of ‘Trick’ and ‘The Weak and the Wicked’. They both have strong ideas at their heart, but fail to capitalise on them completely in the short format. These segments, though, are far from major missteps and it says a lot about the consistency of Tales of Halloween that these solid stories are the worst. Momentum returns with ‘Grim Grinning Ghost’, directed by anthology creator Axelle Carolyn (Soulmate), starting with a creepy instance of storytelling by Insidious mainstay Lin Shaye and culminating in a tremendous pay-off jolt to escalating tension.
‘Ding Dong’, directed by Lucky McKee (All Cheerleaders Die), is the standout of the entire anthology, following a childless woman with a devilish side. The central performance from Pollyanna McIntosh (Filth) is tremendous and the storyline travels in wonderfully dark directions, taking in a deliriously warped twist on Hansel & Gretel and impressive creature effects. Next up is the rather disposable ‘This Means War’, which brings Christmas decoration rivalry to Halloween and compares the spooks and vampires of old (Nosferatu appears on a tombstone) to the dismembered limbs and gore of the modern Halloween. It’s essentially James Whale vs. Rob Zombie.
‘War’ is followed by blood-soaked slasher spoof ‘Friday the 31st’, which drops the audience right into the third act of a slasher tale, before pitting the Michael Myers-esque villain against a bizarre foe via spoofs to just about every classic of the sub-genre. The heightened tone continues with ‘The Ransom of Rusty Rex’, which subverts the child kidnap storyline in broadly comedic fashion and packs genuinely hilarious surprises. It’s Neil Marshall’s final short, ‘Bad Seed’, that combines Tales of Halloween‘s twin tones of comedy and horror to great effect. Ostensibly a police procedural, the film plays its bizarre concept of a killer pumpkin completely straight and aided by a synth score in the mould of John Carpenter. It builds to a great gory climax and packs a final shot that is the best visual gag of the entire film.
In the current resurgence of the horror anthology, Tales of Halloween is perhaps the strongest example of how to get the genre exactly right. The framing device is kept to a minimum, allowing the shorts to roll along one after the other. It helps that there isn’t a bad short in amongst them and those that stand out are utterly exceptional. Tales of Halloween is the kind of film that will become a real hit amongst groups of people on Halloween night.
Randy from Scream would’ve loved it.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Tom Beasley – Follow me on Twitter for movies, wrestling and jokes about David Cameron.