Overview: An anthology of loosely connected horror shorts all set in suburbia. Epic Pictures; 2015; Rated R; 92 minutes.
Trick ‘r Treat: There’s no point in trying to avoid the connection: Tales of Halloween will forever be compared and contrasted to Michael Dougherty’s 2007 modern cult classic, Trick ‘r Treat. They’re very much cut from the same cloth in their efforts to capture both the humor and darkness that define Halloween. With ten shorts, narrated by scream queen Adrienne Barbeau, Tales of Halloween gives you more tricks for your treat, but it lacks the polish of Dougherty’s film with each segment being written and directed by a different filmmaker. While the tone of wicked playfulness is maintained throughout each segment, some of the shorts are more effective than others. Tales of Halloween does have a few apples mixed in its bag of goodies, but most of it is the sweet stuff.
Season of the Witch: The film offers a mix of contemporary horror directors, ranging from major names to lesser known ones, but this is not always the determining factor in the quality of each segment. The Descent director Neil Marshall’s “Bad Seed,” an absurdist cop show satire with a killer pumpkin, is naturally one of the strongest and strangest of the bunch. Whereas May and The Woman director Lucky McKee’s “Ding Dong” delivers a muddled message about a woman’s transformation into a witch because of her infertility issues and her abuse of her husband, which doesn’t work as a metaphor or in context with the fun everyone else is having.
This sense of fun is best captured by Dave Parker’s opener, “Sweet Tooth,” about a restless demon who eats half-digested candy out of the intestines of his victims, and John Skipp and Andrew Kasch’s “This Means War,” about two neighbors battling over their right to have the best themed yard. A few of the films, “The Night Billy Raised Hell,” “Friday the 31st,” and “The Ransom of Rusty Rex” stray a little too far into black humor gags, but most often they fall between classic horror shorts with a strong build-up and twist like “Trick” and “Grim Grinning Ghost.” Best of the entire mix is Grace director Paul Solet’s “The Weak and the Wicked,” a punk metal western set in the ruins of suburbia.
Short and Sweet: None of these segments would offer much as features, which is what makes anthology films in general so compelling. There’s an admirable quality to all the films featured here, even the ones that don’t completely work, because they’re so unrestrained from modern feature film rules that this format allows us to see a side of certain filmmakers that we’d never gain access to otherwise. Tales of Halloween may not display the same level of scares or experimentation as the V/H/S films, but it’s a convincing successor to Tales of the Darkside and the other slightly cheesy anthology films and shows of the ’80s and ’90s. There’s no reason why Tales of Halloween shouldn’t become an annual offering, with new a new collection of filmmakers offering their take on Halloween each time.
Overall: While there’s no piece of truly great horror in the bunch, Tales of Halloween is a spirited film that captures the lasting appeal of the holiday.
Featured Image: Epic Pictures