Ever since 2007’s Trick R Treat, both Hollywood and indie filmmakers alike have re-embraced the horror anthology. Not since the ‘80s have we had so many options. Since 2007, we’ve gotten V/H/S (2012), V/H/S 2 (2013), V/H/S Viral (2014), Chillerama (2011), Monsterland (2016), Volumes of Blood (2015), Southbound (2015) and Christmas Horror Story (2015), just to name a few. Many of those movies came out just last year. Along with them, another goretastic addition was added to the mix. Tales of Halloween, a ten story horror anthology released October 16 of last year, is a gloriously bloody addendum to this fantastic sub-genre. What better time to talk about Tales of Halloween than during the actual Halloween season?
Each vignette was directed by some of the greatest up-and-coming directors that horror has to offer: Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw 2), Adam Gierasch (Night of the Demons), Andrew Kasch (Monsterland), husband and wife Neil Marshall (The Descent) and Axelle Carolyn (Soulmate), Lucky McKee (The Woman), Mike Mendez (Big Ass Spider!), Dave Parker (The Hills Run Red), Ryan Schifrin (Abominable), John Skipp (A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child) and Paul Solet (Grace) all added their own tales to the mix. Carolyn, Kasch, Marshall, McKee, Mendez, Parker, Schifrin and Skipp also wrote their own scripts for Tales of Halloween.
Each of these stories take place in Small Town, USA on the magical night of Halloween. Some players even appear in more than one story, much like the characters in Trick R Treat. Between Insidious’ Lin Shaye, The Fog’s Adrienne Barbeau, American Werewolf in London director John Landis, Re-Animator’s Barbara Crampton and Stuart Gordon, Sleepaway Camp’s Felissa Rose, The Stand director Mick Garris, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2’s Robert Russler, Halloween’s Kristina Klebe, The Woman’s Pollyanna McIntosh, Hatchet director Adam Green, Chainsaw Massacre 2’s Caroline Williams, Cabin Fever’s Cerina Vincent, American Horror Story’s Ben Woolf, Rocky Horror Picture Show’s Barry Bostwick and Gremlins director Joe Dante, this cast is cram packed with talent and awesomeness. Because I love this film so much, I’m going to review each story separately. If one tale doesn’t float your boat in Tales of Halloween, move on to the next one!
By the way, each story is interspersed with the sexy, throaty voice of Stevie Wayne (Barbeau) over the airwaves as she spins a few records and reports in on the night’s events. Are you excited yet?
Sweet Tooth by Dave Parker
As Night of the Living Dead ghouls stuff their gullets with human flesh on the TV behind him, young Mikey (Daniel DiMaggio) sits on the floor after a night of trick or treating, busily cramming himself with diabetes. Because her boyfriend (Austin Falk) is there, the babysitter (Madison Iseman) wants to get rid of Mikey so she scares him into putting down the candy and going to bed. According to her, if you eat all of your Halloween goodies and don’t leave any for Sweet Tooth, you’ll be dead meat. With malicious satisfaction, the teens tell Mikey that the mysterious local Timmy (Cameron Easton) was allowed to go trick or treating but forbidden by his parents (Russler, Williams) to eat any Halloween candy. When he stumbled across them eating his stash in unbridled sexual passion, he went crazy and slaughtered them where they sat. He finally got his candy, but he wanted more and could never be satisfied. Now his spirit roams the earth as Sweet Tooth, and anyone who doesn’t leave him a treat will suffer the same fate. A freaked out Mikey goes to bed. The teens, of course, eat the rest of his candy. But what about Sweet Tooth? This short is good, bloody fun and gets you in the Halloween mood right off the bat.
The Night Billy Raised Hell by Darren Lynn Bousman
When Billy (Marcus Eckert) foolishly attempts to egg the house of the Devil himself (Bostwick), he learns the hard way that giving in to peer pressure can get you into some serious trouble. Rather than directly retaliating for the almost egging of his house, the perverted Devil urges Billy to play more pranks, each more dangerous than the last. The short could do with a few less goofy sound effects, but overall, it’s a good tale with a surprising twist.
Trick by Adam Gierasch
Kids are not the only ones who screw around on Halloween. For friends James (John F. Beach), Maria (Tiffany Shepis), Catelyn (Casey Ruggieri) and Nelson (Trent Haaga), October 31st is a night to watch Night of the Living Dead and partake in a little illegal recreation, grudgingly answering the doorbell for the trick or treaters. Not all kids are created the same, however. After answering the door, Nelson gets stabbed in the gut by a little witch who runs off into the night. Their troubles don’t end there as more costumed children come out of the darkness and stoically claw their way into the house. The twist at the end of this one shocked even a horror veteran like me. Besides the obvious goofiness of the adults, this short was much serious and less tongue-in-cheek than the others. Why do these stone cold children dish nightmarish violence to the adults in this particular house?
The Weak and the Wicked by Paul Solet
Three sociopathic teenage bullies (Phipps, Booboo Stewart, Noah Segan) are in for a surprise when they decide to pick on the wrong kid (Gilchrist). It seems as though the masked young man has summoned a guardian angel. This angel, however, has already fallen from Heaven. Its only mission is to keep the tradition of Halloween alive and will slaughter anyone or anything that tries to destroy this sacred holiday. The demon in this short was enormous and fantastically repulsive – everything you want in your hell spawn. While the story itself is a simple revenge tale with a slight twist, the horned devil makes the short stand up strongly with the others in Tales of Halloween.
Grim Grinning Ghost by Axelle Carolyn
While driving home after a Halloween party with some of horror’s most famous faces (Garris, Crampton, Gordon and Lisa Marie), Lynn (Alex Essoe) can’t help but remember the story of the disfigured Mary Bailey that her mom (Shaye) told the group. Mary Bailey is a ghost that does not like to be seen, even on Halloween. So when Lynn’s car breaks down and she has to walk home, she immediately panics when she hears footsteps behind her in the foggy Halloween darkness. She wants to see who’s following her but is afraid she might lay eyes on the vengeful Mary Bailey. She walks faster, and behind her the footsteps get louder. Should she turn and look? Grim Grinning Ghost looks familiar in more ways than one, and even the jump scare at the end couldn’t save it for me.
Ding Dong by Lucky McKee
On Halloween night, Jack (Marc Sempter) tries to console his wife, Bobby (McIntosh), as she sits by the window and pines for a child. When he offers her their dog dressed as Gretel of Hansel & Gretel, Bobby transforms before his eyes into a blood red, multi-armed witch. Later and back in human form, she happily hands out candy while dressed in a store bought witch costume while Jack wears a silly Hansel outfit. He worries that she won’t be able to handle seeing the children come to the door, but she maniacally pooh-poohs him although it’s obvious that seeing the children is torture for her. But why does she want a child so badly? Since it was created by one of my favorite horror directors, I had high hopes for this one. Unfortunately, I found it subpar to his previous work. McKee should stay away from black comedy and concentrate on the gritty portrayal of human monsters that he’s already so good at.
This Means War by John Skipp and Andrew Kasch
Two neighbors – Boris (Dana Gould) and Dante (James Duvall) – prepare for Halloween by decorating their yards in what they consider to be the most appropriate fashion. Boris, an older gent, puts out the gravestones, skeletons and jack o’ lanterns from Hallows Eve of yore. Dante, on the other hand, goes full on Rob Zombie with dismembered body parts, fountains of blood and blaring death metal. Both feel justified in their choices and begin arguing over who should have to take their stuff down. This, of course, does not end well. Although not exactly scary, this short was my favorite of the bunch for its ultimate take on the spirit of Halloween and how differently we all can celebrate it. But, in the end, all that matters in the Tales of Halloween is that the celebrations happen.
Friday the 31st by Mike Mendez
A young woman (Amanda Moyer) is running from a hulking, masked mute (Nick Principe). He finally gets her with an awesome harpoon shot – but that’s not the end of the story. My second favorite skit from Tales of Halloween, Friday the 31st pay homage to the best slashers of the ‘80s – tipping its hat to everything from Friday the 13th to Child’s Play – while at the same time, adding a most unexpected genre to the mix.
The Ransom of Rusty Rex by Ryan Shifrin
Two veteran kidnappers (Sam Witwer, Jose Pablo Cantillo) have found their newest mark – Rusty Rex (the late Ben Woolf), heir to the fortune of multi-millionaire Jebediah Rex (Landis) – and plan to snatch him for a hefty ransom while the kid is out trick or treating. Little do they know that the little devil in the Halloween costume has a few tricks to play himself. Ending with another great twist, The Ransom of Rusty Rex is both hilarious and spooky with a satisfying ending that almost makes you feel bad for the bad guys. Almost.
Bad Seed by Neil Marshall
Pumpkins get the short end of the stick on Halloween. Like Thanksgiving turkeys, they’re grown, picked and sliced up for the enjoyment of the humans for one day per year. So what would happen if the pumpkins decided that they weren’t going to take it anymore and wanted to fight back? We’ve already carved them some nice, sharp teeth… The fun starts when Detective McNally (Klebe) and Forensic Bob (Pat Healy) try to figure out who – or what – exactly, is killing their townsfolk, all to a Halloween-esque score. It all leads back to the lab of Professor Milo Gottlieb (Dante), of course. As the last story in the anthology, Bad Seed makes a perfect bookend to Sweet Tooth and wraps Tales of Halloween up into a garroted, bloody bow.
Final Thoughts: Tales of Halloween is a grisly yet hilarious flick that all horror lovers should definitely check out, especially if they’re fans of Trick R Treat. Although some of the stories fell flat, most of them were sweet, bloody and downright hilarious. I love how the stories are all tied together – watch for actors showing up in more than one skit, repeated Halloween costumes, Night of the Living Dead on TV and the Carpenter candy bar, for starters. Don’t let another Halloween go by without checking this one out – you won’t regret it.