There have been enough horror anthology movies of varying quality recently that we’ve learned to approach the concept with caution, but we were very excited about the prospect of Tales Of Halloween, the brainchild of Soulmate writer-director Axelle Carolyn, which comes with an impressive roster of talent both in front and behind the camera. If any anthology is going to endear itself to us, it’s a celebration of the creepiest night of the year.
You know when a film is introduced by a DJ played by the great Adrienne Barbeau in full Stevie Wayne mode that you’re watching a film made by people who really bloody love horror movies, and that suspicion proves to be well-founded.
From Dave Parker’s fantastic Candyman-esque opener ‘Sweet Tooth,’ in which a young trick or treater is told the legend of the boy who went to incredible lengths to get back the candy his parents ate, through to Dog Soldiers and The Descent filmmaker’s Neil Marshall’s hilarious closer ‘Bad Seed,’ in which a pumpkin terrorises the small town, there’s just a real sense of joy and excitement to the proceedings. It’s not only obvious that everyone involved had a brilliant time, but that they wanted their audience to as well.
Things do get dark at times, particularly in Adam Gierasch’s ‘Trick’ with its gruesomely effective twist, but it’s really a celebration of the season and of the genre. Inevitably, some are better than others, but it is very consistent, not just in terms of quality but also in tone.
Stand-outs include Carolyn’s wonderfully creepy ‘Grim Grinning Ghost’, with a jump scare that prompted a great reaction from the FrightFest crowd, Ryan Schifrin’s hilarious ‘The Ransom Of Rusty Rex’ (two knuckleheads kidnap the son of John Landis’ millionaire with terrible results) and Paul Solet’s (Grace) Western-infused revenge tale ‘The Weak And The Wicked.’
Best in show, however, goes to Lucky McKee’s (May) hysterical and gloriously batshit ‘Ding Dong’, which features the ingenious pairing of The Woman’s Pollyanna McIntosh and Red White And Blue’s Marc Senter as some kind of demon desperate for a child and her abused other half respectively.
Some viewers may find that it leans too far towards fun more than it does to horror as it’s mostly more concerned with dark comedy than scares, but this is a hugely entertaining anthology that will sit nicely alongside Trick R Treat for a Halloween night double bill. Fast, funny and fiendish, we had a big grin on our face for the whole 90 minutes.
Tales Of Halloween is released on 16 October in the US and soon after in the UK. This review is an extension of our Film4 FrightFest coverage. Keep up with the latest genre news with the new issue of SciFiNow.