The Greatest Horror Anthology Film Segments of All Time

Popular in the 1960s and early 1970s with more rare appearances in the 1980s, 1990s and the 2000s, the anthology-style horror film has made a solid resurgence in recent years with such portmanteau releases as The ABCs of Death films and the V/H/S series.

With Mexico Barbaro, Fear Paris and other projects in various stages of completion, the anthology horror film looks to continue to be an important part of the horror cinema landscape.

Some anthology films employ a framing or wraparound sequence in an attempt to connect the segments that make up the film while others dispense with this classic Amicus-style approach entirely and simply present a collection of short films connected by genre.

Either way, a horror anthology film is ultimately about the quality of its individual segments and this article will take you on a tour of the greatest horror anthology segments of all time.

Any readers dismayed by the exclusion of any segments from Dead of Night (1945), Creepshow (1982) or Trick ‘r Treat (2007) or the exclusion of Fellini’s segment from Spirits of the Dead (1968) are advised to keep in mind that the world of film writing is driven by individual taste.

It should be noted that I excluded The Mo Brothers’ great Dara despite it being part of the Brian Yuzna-produced Indonesian horror anthology film Takut: Faces of Fear (2008) as Dara had received play as a stand-alone short film prior to its inclusion in that anthology release.

You can watch Dara here as part of my series of articles for this site that collects great horror short films.

The segments listed below are in chronological order by release year.

****

bestsegments valdemar

The Case of M. Valdemar from Tales of Terror

Written by Richard Matheson

Directed by Roger Corman

1962, USA

Director Corman continued his artistically and financially successful AIP film series based on the literary works of Edgar Allan Poe with this excellent anthology film.

In the superb final segment The Case of M. Valdemar, Vincent Price plays the title role as a terminally ill man who employs a hypnotist played by Basil Rathbone.

The duplicitous hypnotist ends up holding Valdemar in a state of limbo between life and death with unexpected results.

Interestingly, Corman shot a sequence of Price’s character in the afterlife that was never included in the film.

Poe’s story The Facts in Case of M. Valdemar has been adapted to film a number of times including the far less effective George Romero version in 1990’s Two Evil Eyes.

bestsegments wurdulak

The Wurdulak from Black Sabbath

Written by Mario Bava, Alberto Bevilacqua & Marcello Fondato

Directed by Mario Bava

1963, Italy/UK/France

While it seems another of this anthology’s segments A Drop of Water gets the lion’s share of critical acclaim in discussions about Black Sabbath, The Wurdulak is a classic of the short form.

Based on a story by Aleksey Konstantinovich Tolstoy, this segment stars Boris Karloff as a family patriarch who returns home and exhibits strange behavior after claiming to have hunted and killed a vampire-like creature.

Among other changes to Bava’s film from which the legendary rock band took its name, this segment had some violence trimmed out of by American distributor AIP in an effort to appeal to what the company believed was its core audience of teenagers.

Tolstoy’s story has been adapted for the screen a number of times, most notably as Giorgio Ferroni’s 1972 Night of the Devils starring Gianni Garko of the Sartana Spaghetti Western series which, despite a number of excellent moments, isn’t as memorable as Bava’s The Wurdulak.

bestsegments hoichi

Hoichi the Earless from Kwaidan

Written by Yoko Mizuki

Directed by Masaki Kobayashi

1964, Japan

The well-known Japanese horror anthology film Kwaidan is based on stories from writer Lafcadio Hearn and is highlighted by this outstanding segment.

Hoichi the Earless tells the tale of a blind musician called on to play for a royal family who he is warned might be very dangerous ghosts.

For protection from these otherworldly forces, the musician Hoichi has a holy manuscript written all over his body.

Suffice it to say that Sonny Chiba’s character Jubei had much more success with this particular defense during the climax of Kinji Fukasaku’s underrated Samurai Reincarnation (1981).

bestsegments poe

The Man Who Collected Poe from Torture Garden

Written by Robert Bloch

Directed by Freddie Francis

1967, UK

Legendary writer Bloch, a master of the short story and best known for writing the novel Psycho on which the Hitchcock film is based, wrote the screenplays for three Amicus horror anthology films.

Torture Garden was the first, followed by Peter Duffell’s The House That Dripped Blood (1971) and Roy Ward Baker’s Asylum (1972).

Torture Garden’s finest moment is the segment The Man Who Collected Poe starring Jack Palance as a driven buyer intent on discovering the surprising secrets of a literary works collector played by Peter Cushing.

bestsegments all through the house

And All Through the House from Tales from the Crypt

Written by Milton Subotsky

Directed by Freddie Francis

1972, UK

A woman with a violent solution to getting out her marriage is stalked by a psychopath in this segment that is a precursor of the wave of killer Santa Claus films of the 1980s.

Based on a story from the controversial EC Comics’ Vault of Horror, And All Through the House was remade in a more polished but less memorable fashion as a first season episode of HBO’s long running EC Comics-based Tales from the Crypt series.

bestsegments blind alley

Blind Alleys from Tales from the Crypt

Written by Milton Subotsky

Directed by Freddie Francis

1972, UK

Another outstanding segment from director Francis’ Tales from the Crypt, this story hails from the EC Comics title of the same name and tells the story of the vengeful-and creative-residents of a home for the blind.

This segment was remade as the awkwardly titled episode Revenge is the Nuts in Season 6 of HBO’s Tales from the Crypt series.

bestsegments trilogy

Amelia from Trilogy of Terror

Written by William F. Nolan & Richard Matheson

Directed by Dan Curtis

1975, USA

As Vincent Price had done in Roger Corman’s Tales of Terror, actress Karen Black plays the lead role in all three segments of this fondly remembered TV horror anthology movie.

The primary reason Trilogy of Terror is fondly remembered is the excellent segment Amelia based on Richard Matheson’s story Prey about the battle between a lone woman in an apartment and a murderous Zuni fetish doll.

Legendary TV producer/director Dan Curtis made an unsatisfying attempt at a sequel to this famous segment in his 1996 Trilogy of Terror II after re-teaming with Richard Matheson for a lesser TV horror anthology film Dead of Night in 1977.

Matheson’s story Prey and its adaptation Amelia were the obvious inspirations for the Stephen King story Battleground and its TV adaptation as an episode of 2006’s Nightmares & Dreamscapes.  King’s Battleground features a lone man in an apartment fighting off deadly miniature military toys.

bestsegments offspring

The Civil War Segment from From a Whisper to a Scream (aka The Offspring)

Written by Jeff Burr, C. Courtney Joyner, Darin Scott & Mike Malone

Directed by Jeff Burr

1987, USA

This untitled piece starring veteran actor Cameron Mitchell is the final-and by far the best- segment in director Burr’s horror anthology.

Mitchell’s Union soldier character attempts to find sanctuary for himself and his fellow soldiers in an isolated farmhouse inhabited by a group of children.

The segment effectively filters elements from such “killer kids” films as Narciso Ibanez Serrador’s Who Can Kill a Child? (1976) and Fritz Kiersch’s Children of the Corn (1984) through the EC Comics feel that permeates the entirety of From a Whisper to a Scream.

Director Burr, best known for Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990), continued his fascination with deadly children in his underrated World War II film Straight into Darkness (2004).

bestsegments box

Box from Three Extremes

Written by Bun Saikou & Haruko Fukishima

Directed by Takashi Miike

2004, China/Japan/ South Korea

Best known for remarkable displays of cinematic excess-especially around the time when Three Extremes was made-director Miike shows considerable restraint in this visually stunning and dreamlike story of a pair of young sisters who perform in a traveling circus act with their father.

This segment features absolutely beautiful cinematography by Koichi Kawakami.

bestsegments cut

Cut from Three Extremes

Written & Directed by Park Chan-wook

2004, China/Japan/ South Korea

A man seeking a twisted form of revenge invades the home of a famous film director.

Park Chan-wook of The Vengeance Trilogy fame crafts another unique and memorable tale of revenge punctuated by a few unnecessary moments of black comedy-the same type of which provide minor disruptions to his finest film Oldboy.

Among other attributes, the production design on Cut is fabulous.

bestsegments a is for

A is for Apocalypse from The ABCs of Death

Written & Directed by Nacho Vigalondo

2012, Various countries

The maker of the dark time travel film Timecrimes (2007) and the suspense thriller Open Windows (2014) gives us a memorable glimpse into the more personal side of the end of the world with A is for Apocalypse.

The Spanish auteur most recently made Parallel Monsters –the best segment of the horror anthology film V/H/S: Viral.

bestsegments d is for

D is for Dogfight from The ABCs of Death

Written & Directed by Marcel Sarmiento

2012, Various countries

Having previously made the tremendously underrated and unnerving portrait of misogyny and small town desperation Deadgirl in 2008, Sarmiento gives us this superbly directed tale of a man involved in a fight to the death with a dog.

Sarmiento also made the hit-and-miss framing segment Vicious Circles of V/H/S: Viral.

bestsegments l is for

L is for Libido from The ABCs of Death

Written & Directed by Timo Tjahjanto

2012, Various countries

Tjahjanto hits it out of the park with his first solo effort outside of his successful Mo Brothers partnership with Kimo Stamboel.

In L is for Libido, two men are pitted against one another in one of the most bizarre and unique life-or-death contests ever put on screen.

Tjahjanto almost drives the film off the rails with the insertion of some Evil Dead 2-style black comedy near the segment’s end but ultimately keeps the twisted L is for Libido on track.

bestsegments r is for

R is for Removed from The ABCs of Death

Written & Directed by Srdjan Spasojevic

2012, Various countries

If you are looking for the most underrated and overlooked horror anthology segment in this article, you have found it in this short work that is infinitely better than director Spasojevic’s controversial but ultimately pointless shock value exercise A Serbian Film (2010).

If David Cronenberg had a nightmare it might very well resemble R is for Removed and its surreal portrayal of an enigmatic confined patient’s escape from a medical facility.

Anyone who very understandably has difficulty believing Spasojevic is a director to watch after seeing A Serbian Film needs to see R is for Removed.

bestsegments ambulance

Ambulance on the Death Zone from Horror Stories

Written & Directed by Kim Gok & Kim Sun

2012, South Korea

While its sequel Horror Stories 2 netted no truly memorable sequences, the intense zombie short film Ambulance on the Death Zone is the standout segment of Horror Stories.

Taking place almost entirely in a moving ambulance during the early stages of a zombie apocalypse,  Ambulance… survives a brief, cliché dream sequence and emerges as a tight, tense must-see for all undead fans.

bestsegments safe haven

Safe Haven from V/H/S 2

Written & Directed by Timo Tjahjanto & Gareth Evans

2013, Various countries

After failing to create any truly outstanding segments in its initial outing in 2012, the V/H/S series rebounded with the best segment off all three films Safe Haven.

Tjahjanto-one half of the Mo Brothers creative team with Kimo Stamboel-teamed up with The Raid and Raid 2 director Gareth Evans and once again shows his tremendous talent with short form horror in this story of a team of reporters that gains access to the inner workings of a doomsday cult at precisely the worst time imaginable.

bestsegments r is for roulette

R is for Roulette from The ABCs of Death 2

Written by Benjamin Hessler

Directed by Marvin Kren

2014, Various countries

Kren teams up with the screenwriter of his zombie film Rammbock and his creature feature Blood Glacier (aka The Station) for yet another take on the end of the world as the characters know it-this time in black & white.

In R is for Roulette, three people play the titular game wherein suicide might not be the worst fate available to them.

bestsegments s is for split

S is for Split from The ABCs of Death 2

Written & Directed by Juan Martinez Moreno

2014, Various countries

What starts off as a seemingly routine phone call between a woman and her husband takes a twisted turn in this instant classic of the short form.

Best known for the 2011 werewolf comedy Game of Werewolves, screenwriter/director Moreno surprises with this unforgettable short that makes masterful use of split-screen techniques.

bestsegments v is for 1

V is for Vacation from The ABCs of Death 2

Written by Jerome Sable & Nicholas Musurca

Directed by Jerome Sable

2014, Various countries

Like the aforementioned S is for Split, co-screenwriter/director Sable starts his short with a long-distance phone call between a couple then takes the viewers to Hell.

Best known for combining music and comedy with horror in his award-winning short film The Legend of Beaver Dam (2010) and his feature Stage Fright (2014), Sable shows a different and decidedly more sinister side of his talent with the disturbing V is for Vacation.

bestsegments parallel

Parallel Monsters from V/H/S: Viral

Written & Directed by Nacho Vigalondo

2014, Various countries

A perverse take on ideas found in the works of Rod Serling, Vigalondo revisits elements of his film Timecrimes with an audacious look at a scientist’s successful attempt to connect with a parallel universe and the life-changing results of switching places with his counterpart from the other side for 15 minutes.

****

bestsegments asylum

Special mention:  A doctor played by Robert Powell tries to prove his worth to a potential employer by interviewing several mentally disturbed patients in the wraparound sequence of Roy Ward Baker’s 1972 Asylum. This Robert Bloch narrative creation cleverly incorporates the film’s Manikins of Horror segment and is the best framing segment ever used in a horror anthology film.

However, as it is not a true stand-alone segment, I omitted it from the main list.

****

Other Notable Horror Anthology Segments

These are horror anthology segments that didn’t make the cut for the main body of the article for various reasons but are still well worth seeking out or revisiting.

Memories (Kim Jee-woon) from Three (aka Three Extremes II, 2002): Best known to horror fans as the director of A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) and the superb and brutal serial killer/revenge film I Saw the Devil (2010) takes a trip into David Lynch territory with this tale of a husband and wife both struggling to remember the critical events that resulted in the wife’s disappearance.

The Accident (Douglas Buck) from The Theatre Bizarre (2011):  A highly accomplished practitioner of what might be called “domestic horror” with his short films such as the disturbing slow-burn Prologue (2003), Buck’s haunting segment about the effect of a road accident on a mother and daughter is criticized by some for not matching the overall tone of the rest of the anthology which prevents this short work from getting the proper critical evaluation it deserves.

K is for Knell (Kristina Buozyte & Bruno Samper) from The ABCs of Death 2 (2014): The makers of Vanishing Waves (2012) create a dreamlike apocalyptic short film that starts with a girl witnessing multiple murders in a neighboring apartment building after the residents are exposed to some type of alien force.  The ending doesn’t live up to the stunning beginning of the short but K is for Knell is still a solid and unique entry in the world of the horror anthology segment.

****

-Terek Puckett

Scroll to Top