Tales of Halloween
Written by Axelle Carolyn, Andrew Kasch, Neil Marshall, Lucky Mckee, Mike Mendez, Dave Parker, Ryan Schifrin, Clint Sears & John Skipp
Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, Axelle Carolyn, Adam Gierasch, Neil Marshall,Lucky Mckee, Mike Mendez, Dave Paerker, Ryan Schifrin, John Skipp & Paul Solet
A good comedy can make people laugh until it hurts and a great drama can reduce an audience to tears, but nothing affects movies goers as profoundly as a terrifying horror story. The experience of watching a horror movie taps into the viewer’s most primal instincts, causing physical reactions like trembling, screaming and leaping out of one’s seat. Everyone has experienced at least one film that left them leering at dark corners and afraid to go to sleep. Horror stories and the anthology format are the perfect match. Anthologies allow for several features over the course of a single film, and each one can frighten, disturb, and unsettle before passing the baton over to the next nerve-wracking segment.
In the tradition of Tales from the Crypt, Creepshow, and Cat’s Eye comes Tales of Halloween. Tales of Halloween a is horror anthology film that packs a prodigious 10 short films into its 92-minute running time. The film employs notable directors such as Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II) and Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers) and offers an assortment of macabre stories incorporating everything from devils to UFOs. Horror movie fans will find that the quality of Tales of Halloween’s 10 shorts is consistently high and that the overall film is a fun watch that breezes by.
Horror anthology film’s features are usually hit or miss, with a strong opener and closer book-ending a few subpar stories in between. Tales of Halloween doesn’t drop any stinkers on its audience, which is an impressive feat considering there is a whopping 10 shorts. All the stories take place in one unlucky suburban town, which may or may not be located on a hell-mouth (that’s an intentional Joss Whedon reference). While each story is wildly different, a consistent tone makes them all feel appropriate for the film’s world. The stories in Tales of Halloween all share a mischievousness that binds this devilishly entertaining world together.
Playful menace is an appropriate term to define Tales of Halloween because it eschews the misanthropy and nihilism of recent horror anthologies like V/H/S and Southbound — the film has more in common with the impish terror on display in Trick ‘r Treat. Tales of Halloween isn’t afraid to go for laughs or play it straight during its campier moments, in this sense the film contains many similarities to Joss Whedon’s work on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Much like the work of Whedon, Tales of Halloween mashes together disparate genres. In The Weak and the Wicked, director Paul Solet combines a spaghetti western, a group of L.A. thugs, and a vengeance demon for an outstanding short. In Friday The 31st, a Jason Voorhees style maniac has the tables turn on him when he encounters an entirely different type of victim. Tales of Halloween is the rare film that provides equal shares of laughter and frights.
The limited running time of anthology shorts makes it hard for them to tell a story that affects the viewer on anything other than a gut level, and Tales of Halloween compounds this issue by squeezing in 10 shorts. The stories don’t contain much of an arc, instead they compensate by delivering their message through anxiety inducing atmospheres that steadily march towards a payoff in the segments closing moments. Over the course of the film, rivers of blood are spilled and everyone that appears onscreen is at risk of a gruesome death (even the children). The segments are ultra-violent, but also cartoonishly over the top, which means those with an aversion to “torture-porn” level brutality don’t have to cover their eyes.
The film’s score plays a large role in why this movie works so well. Each segment (as well as the opening title card) features a different composer that creates a distinct sound that fits the vibe of the individual stories. The music seesaws between segments, going from eerie circus-clown music, razor sharp 80’s synths, screeching death metal and a lush orchestra. The music dances back and forth between playful and creepy and does an exceptional job of accentuating the blood-soaked visuals.
Tales of Halloween is flat out fun movie experience. It’s a film that viewers can cheer on in a room full of friends and re-watch year after year as an annual Halloween tradition. Stuffed with 10 shorts, Tales of Halloween would be forgiven for a few misfires, but even the film’s weakest stories are no worse than mediocre and they go by quickly. Fan’s of more grisly horror like V/H/S may want to pass this one by, but those in search of an enjoyable, well-made thrill-packed movie that’s brimming with fresh takes on the genre should look no further. Tales of Halloween is one burgeoning movie franchise that horror fans will want to revisit.