Featuring 11 directors tackling 10 short stories, Tales of Halloween is an early October holiday treat with more than a few tricks up its sleeve. The film is fun, raucous and a bit gnarly but always with its tongue planted firmly in its cheek hell-bent on having a great time. It succeeds so marvelously. The film is likely to win its audience over immediately with fan-favorite actress Adrienne Barbeau providing voice over narration and sounding very much like her Stevie Wayne character from John Carpenter’s The Fog. The slides from story to story each set in the fictional town, the stories sharing characters and settings. The vibe is similar to Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat but the structure is more traditional for horror anthologies. Tales of Halloween should not be missed, watch it, enjoy it, celebrate it. Have even more fun this Halloween!
Dave Parker’s “Sweet Tooth” (4 / 5)
Tales of Halloween starts out with one of its strongest segments, introducing a new slasher to the mix, Sweet Tooth. The story also serves to set the tone of the film as two of the characters, a pair of babysitters, share Sweet Tooth’s legend to a young trick-or-treater gnawing at this candy horde. It establishes the sense of humor weaved throughout the movie and the pacing of its tales. It also sets up a sense of dastardly irony that defined EC comics. The cast is fabulous, the gore is gruesome and the creature design sweet. It is a good start to the flick.
Darren Lynn Bousman’s “The Night Billy Raised Hell” (3.5 / 5)
Barry Bostwick steals this segment as a curmudgeon neighbor who plays his own devilishly evil pranks on a kids peer-pressured into egging his house. Over-the-top, outrageous and zany, this one is a blast for the sheer pleasure it takes in making life hell for the town and for the poor little brat. Too bad the sound effects push the tone just a hair too far over the edge. Bostwick for the win.
Adam Gierasch’s “Trick” (3 / 5)
In the next segment, a pair of 30-somethings watch TV on Halloween night, drunkenly handing out candy to trick-or-treaters. That is until a group of blood-thirsty little monsters show up to rip them to shreds one-by-one. A little thin on plot, Trick is all set up to the “big reveal” twist exposing why the costumed kids are maiming and murdering. Fast paced and gory, it feels like a tease to a bigger picture.
Paul Solet’s “The Weak and the Wicked” (2 / 5)
A story of bullies and revenge, The Weak and the Wicked ends just as it gets to the good part. Saved, in part, by a delicious and determined performance by Grace Phipps – even if she falls into that 20 somethings playing teens problem, which is likely intended, here, to be played for laughs. Sadly, this segment feels like a “just getting there” entry.
Axelle Carolyn’s “Grimm Grinning Ghost” (2.5 / 5)
Chock full of guest appearances and cameos, Axelle’s segment follows the tales of a young woman facing her Halloween curse. Lin Shaye steals this segment in its opening scene sharing a camp-fire story, setting up the story’s end twist. The segment starts out strong and continues to build its atmosphere as the lead makes her way home realizing something…something evil…is following her home. Ironically, it is one of the better crafted but more disappointing tales as it ends on a shock note that promises more.
Lucky McKee’s “Ding Dong” (2.5 / 5)
This segment has some flash and style and means to say something about loss and madness. The more “Ding Dong” dives into the visual presentation of its monster, the better it looks and the more lost it becomes both visually and narratively. At tilmes hilarious with visual flourish, the sum of its parts fail to add up. Even still, well worth the watch.
Andrew Kasch and John Skipp’s “This Means War” (2.5 / 5)
Think a horror driven version of Mad Magazine’s Spy vs Spy where Halloween loving neighbors fight over who has the best decorations, who has the best “haunted house.” When they – violently – disagree, it most certainly means “War!” and they go at it. The segment is a little on the simple side, story wise. No real irony, just a violent, bloody version of road-rage as two nut-job beat the crap out of each other with Halloween decorations.
Mike Mendez’s “Friday the 31st” (5 / 5)
This segment, for me, makes the entire movie. Mike Mendez infuses the slasher genre with a smashing and fun twist that has its axe-wielding antagonist suddenly meeting his match when a UFO gets involved with the slaying of his “final girl.” Shades of Evil Dead, tons of humor and an ample amount of blood and gore make “Friday the 31st” a huge joy to watch.
Ryan Schifrin’s “The Ransom of Rusty Rex” (3.5 / 5)
If for no other reason than Sam Witwer’s sensational man-scream, Schifrin’s entry is another successful entry. It also has a brilliant cameo from John Landis playing the “father” of Rusty Rex, the trouble-making little tyke kidnampped by Witwer and his criminal partner Jose Pablo Cantillo. This one feels like it would be very comfortable in a Creepshow segment.
Neil Marshall’s “Bad Seed” (4.5 / 5)
The film ends on a high note with the final segment inspired – at least just a little – by Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. Playing like an episode of a TV Vice show, a rugged cop faces off against a supernatural killer pumpkin. Yup, a supernatural killer pumpkin and it is every bit as awesome as that sounds. Full of nods and recurring characters to other shorts, this one feels more tied into the whole then many of the others. Best thing, leave you smiling at the end, wanting more.
Tales of Halloween is a must see October holiday treat. It is perfect for a late October viewing and would pair nicely with Trick r Treat, but it is very much a different kind of film. Like most anthology films, each segment is hit and miss, but it has so many cameos, great directors, fun featured actors and visceral special effects that it should win over the cold black hearts of most horror fans. It should become a perennial favorite. Tales of Halloween, as created by Axelle Carolyn, is one of the best horror films of 2015. Just, please, please, bring back more Adrienne Barbeau!
Tales of Halloween (4.5 / 5) An Annual Halloween Must-Watch