Reviews: Tales Of Halloween

As The Movie Sleuth gears up for 31 Days of Hell, we get an early holiday start with Tales of Halloween, a new anthology of horror shorts by many today's best genre directors.

"Oh boy!!! I really hope I get a
razor blade in my apple this year!
That's my favorite part !!"
Ever since Kwaidan and Night Gallery were unleashed onto unsuspecting viewers in the 1960s, episodic horror anthologies have become a major staple in the genre and a platform for both new and veteran talents to show off their filmmaking skills in the pursuit of a good old fashioned scare.  The 1980s saw a resurgence of the genre with Creepshow, Cat’s Eye, Nightmares and Tales from the Darkside.  Despite being decades apart, the impetus behind all of these scare fests remains unchanged and up until recently the most prominently known anthological horror offerings have included Tales from the Crypt, Three Extremes, the V/H/S films and finally The ABCs of Death.  Generally the focus is on horror period, some aiming for real shock while others opt for a slip on slime and goo goofball effect.  In the case of, say, Trick ‘r Treat, the short stories are linked by taking place on October 31st Halloween Night, simultaneously celebrating the holiday and all its offerings while offering some charming and fun old fashioned spooks.  

The latest addition to the Halloween themed anthological horror film is Tales of Halloween, a series consisting of ten totally separate segments which happen to take place in a small American town on the same night.  Featuring eleven directors including Neil Marshall(The Descent), Darren Lynn Bousman(Alleluia! The Devil’s Carnival) and Lucky McKee(May), it’s a somewhat uneven but overall visually pleasing and charming horror show that’s largely pure fun with less emphasis on shock.

As the CG rendered opening title sequence unfolded, which looked very close to a low budget Asylum Entertainment rendering of a bird’s eye view of a cityscape, I couldn’t help but get cold feet at the quality of this production.  Thankfully, that changed quickly as the segments unfolded.  Unlike Trick ‘r Treat with a linear continuity between the segments, Tales of Halloween takes the Gaspar Noe approach of using hard cuts to a blank screen to transition the segments.  It’s a little disappointing more couldn’t be done to make it all flow smoother, but I digress.  The caliber of directors here is very strong and key segments prominently feature horror icons such as directors John Landis and Joe Dante as well as John Carpenter veteran Adrienne Barbeau from The Fog.  It’s an eclectic mixture of horror legends but those who like their blood and guts served up more with a more serious tone, Tales of Halloween opts for silly chuckles of appreciation instead.  In all honesty, my thoughts kept drifting back to something like The Nightmare Before Christmas while watching this, as many segments aim for comic irony over scares. 

"Beware the hounds of hell!!!
They're really hungry for treats!"
On the one hand it’s a disappointment but with a sack full of Halloween candy and a drink of choice, it’s a fun time at the multiplex with some multicolored cinematography reminiscent of Benoit Debie’s work on Enter the Void and Spring Breakers.  Those familiar with Darren Lynn Bousman’s Alleluia! The Devil’s Carnival are in for a treat as the demonic protagonist (or antagonist, depending on your point of you) seems to have walked off that set onto this one in a truly hilarious segment that truly embodies the very definition of Devil’s Night.  A standout segment is Lucky McKee’s aggressively weird reworking of Hansel and Gretel and oddly the silliest segment in the whole thing belongs to Neil Marshall when a Jack-O-Lantern transforms into a monster curiously resembling the Norris spider-head from John Carpenter’s The Thing.  Only the lesser known directors such as Dave Parker, Adam Gierasch and Axelle Carolyn seem to aim for real horror, touching on child abuse (don’t worry, nothing like Martyrs or A Serbian Film happens here) and a stalking segment featuring Starry Eyes star Alexandra Essoe. 

It goes without saying like most horror anthologies, particularly Halloween themed ones, Tales of Halloween is a bit of a mixed bag but still manages to have enough candy in it that’s worth eating.  Despite the lack of an overlapping linear thread linking the stories together like in Trick ‘r Treat, I can say without hesitation I enjoyed Tales of Halloween more.  I found myself getting into the spirit of Halloween with great ease and while I do admit to liking my horror a bit more on the extreme and disturbing side, this was a fun night out at the movies I can’t wait to see again and is perfectly suited for Halloween parties!  Despite my disappointment in Neil Marshall’s segment and the head scratching of Lucky McKee’s segment, overall this is a solid Halloween package and if you can get past the shoddy looking opening title sequence you’re in for a good time!


-Andrew Kotwicki

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