Whenever a review is required for an anthology movie, the phrase “mixed bag” is bound to turn up somewhere. From Dead of Night toCreepshow, all the way to modern horror anthologies like the V/H/S and The ABCs of Death films, there’s almost always a rotten apple that spoils the barrel. With the seasonal portmanteau piece Tales of Halloween comprising ten horror tales from eleven directors, the odds were that at least one of the entries would be the weak link. Shows how wrong you can be.
The brainchild of Soulmate director Axelle Carolyn, with the assistance of partner Neil Marshall (The Descent) and Epic Pictures producer Shaked Berenson, Tales of Halloween, as the title suggests, called for ten tales of terror linked to a Halloween theme (and by a clever choice of voiceover), and a roll call of familiar names and faces behind and in front of the camera (styling themselves ‘The October Society’) answered the call. Part of the film’s delight is not knowing who – or what – might turn up next, so I’ll avoid the customary synopsizing/rating game of individual episodes, limiting myself to the titles and credited talent to whet your appetites:
“Sweet Tooth” directed by Dave Parker
“The Night Billy Raised Hell” directed by Darren Lynn Bousman
“Trick” directed by Adam Gierasch
“The Weak and the Wicked” directed by Paul Solet
“Grim Grinning Ghost” directed by Axelle Carolyn
“Ding Dong” directed by Lucky McKee
“This Means War” directed by John Skipp and Andrew Kasch
“Friday the 31st” directed by Mike Mendez
“The Ransom of Rusty Rex” directed by Ryan Schifrin
“Bad Seed” directed by Neil Marshall
Yes, some of the short stories are stronger than others, but – crucially – they are all great, gory fun, and everything fits the brief: candy, kids in costumes, cries of “trick or treat” and pumpkins are aplenty, but Carolyn’s smart oversight (she gets a “created by” credit) means that there’s no redundancy, no repetition, and no crossover – except when the stories are deliberately interlinked, in the most deliciously fun way possible.
Carolyn and company have crafted exactly the film Halloween needs: a series of short, sharp shocks with plenty of gloopy gore, sly wit, intelligence and just the right amount of knowingness – but where the main ingredient is always, unfailingly, fun. In short – no pun intended – they’ve created the best Halloween movie since… well, since Halloween. And the title lends itself perfectly to the hoped-for sequel: More Tales of Halloween, of course.
Horror anthologies can be an excuse to weld together short films as a feature-length film to sell on DVD and VOD (I’m looking at you,Zombieworld). But Tales of Halloween is no trick. It’s an absolute treat.