Tales of Halloween (2015)
When it comes to making horror movies about the holidays, I think the anthology format is the way to go. This way there can be multiple views and multiple takes on the same holiday. TALES OF HALLOWEEN does this exact approach and for the most part is wildly successful with it. TALES OF HALLOWEEN is a welcomed addition to the Halloween movie canon.
TALES OF HALLOWEEN was created by filmmaker-actress, Axelle Carolyn and in total has eleven talented directors making ten fun short films about All Hallow’s Eve (John Skipp and Andrew Kasch co-directed their short film together). This anthology has been hailed as the best anthology since 2007s TRICK R’ TREAT. Whereas I wouldn’t go so far to say TALES OF HALLOWEEN is as good as its 2007 counterpart, there is a lot to like in this anthology, and I overall had a lot of fun with it.
The first bit of fun comes almost immediately as we hear the sultry, sexy voice of Adrienne Barbeau, who plays a DJ on the nightshift who introduces each short story. What is especially juicy here is that Barbeau is paying homage to her role from John Carpenter’s 1980 film, THE FOG–where she also played a DJ. Her role is limited to mostly voiceover work, but it was enough to set off my horror geekgasm. The stories she introduces run the gamut of horror. We get everything from devils and demons to aliens, masked killers, ghosts, ghouls, and psychotic children. The best thing, though, is that the short films here are all directed by some of the genre’s most talented filmmakers. Neil Marshall, LuckyMcKee, and Darren Lynn Bousman headline a very talented bringing together of filmmakers. Adam Gierasch’s “Trick,” written by Greg Commons, is easily the best story in the anthology. In it, two couples are sitting around the house on Halloween night drinking some wine, smoking a little weed, and just relaxing. The doorbell rings and one of the husbands answers the door only to be greet by a psychotic little kid who … well, you’re just going to have to see for yourself. What makes “Trick” so damn good is that what starts off as a group of crazy kids tormenting four adults becomes something completely different about three-quarters of the way through. It is gory, disturbing, creepy, and very effective.
Unfortunately the tone of “Trick” was rare in this anthology. Many of the other stories went for a more lighthearted approach and avoided any real scares. That’s why “Trick” stands out. This isn’t to say the other stories aren’t well done. Just the opposite. All the stories in TALES OF HALLOWEEN are very well made and well-acted, but they unfortunately opt for a more horror-comedy approach (the first story, “Sweet Tooth”–written and directed by Dave Parker–also takes a more serious approach and is another of the anthology’s standouts). But some of the more comical stories like “The Night Billy Raised Hell” (directed by Darren Lynn Bousman and written by Clint Sears), “This Means War” (directed and written by John Skipp & Andrew Kasch), “Friday the 31st” (directed by Mike Mendez and written by Mendez and Dave Parker), and “The Ransom of Rusty Rex” (directed and written by Ryan Schifrin) all go for a more humorous and campy approach and don’t have many scares to them.
The most intense of the bunch was Lucky McKee’s “Ding Dong”–which he directed and wrote. If you are familiar with McKee’s other films, then this comes as no surprise. In this story a woman is an emotional wreck about not being able to have kids. One Halloween night she lashes out at her husband in a most disturbing way. Next Halloween, the wife decides she is going to be more involved with the neighborhood children, and she ends up coming off a little strong (to put in mildly). I really enjoyed this story for the psychological elements in it. The thought and idea of children can bring out the best, and worst, in a woman, and this short explores that.
Of course not all the stories are home runs. I mentioned the story, “Sweet Tooth” above. Whereas this one was visually stunning and fun, it was extremely predictable and offered nothing different. “The Weak and the Wicked” (directed by Paul Solet and written by Molly Millions) just didn’t do it for me. Even though the story fell flat, the lead actress, Grace Phipps, did a fantastic job as a sociopath who loves to torment those around her. Her performance was chilling, calculating, and down-right creepy. She had the standout performance in the entire anthology.
Like with any anthology, you’re not going to love or even like every story in it. But TALES OF HALLOWEEN offers one of the strongest anthology films I’ve seen in a long time. Yes, the comedic elements outshine the horror elements in a lot of the stories, but there’s so much fun here that this will sure to become a yearly, Halloween viewing ritual. Definitely check out TALES OF HALLOWEEN.
Directors: Darren Lynn Bousman, Adam Gierasch, Andrew Kasch, Neil Marshall, Lucky McKee, Mike Mendez, Dave Parker, Ryan Schifrin, John Skipp, and Paul Solet
Plot: 4 out of 5 for the entire anthology
Gore: 6.5 out of 10 for the entire anthology
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains for the entire anthology
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer