[Review] Tales of the Uncanny (Popcorn Frights Wicked Weekend): Superb Documentary Looks at the History and Draw of Horror Anthologies

Severin Films’ documentary about horror anthology films Tales of the Uncanny started out as a bonus feature for the company’s upcoming release of The Theatre Bizarre. Then along came COVID-19, and the idea struck director and Severin Films chief David Gregory to use the Zoom platform to expand the film by reaching out to more filmmakers, critics, and others and turn it into a feature-length project. The result is an engaging look at fright-fare portmanteaus, their history, their rises and falls in popularity, and so on.

Although there are more than 60 talking heads from around the world interviewed by Gregory and House of Psychotic Women author Kier-La Janisse, Tales of the Uncanny also features a smorgasbord of mouth-watering clips. From the earliest European entries including the 1945 classic Dead of Night to recent entries such as the VHS and The ABCs of Death franchises and beyond, every decade and many countries are represented.

Though the video lag and up-and-down audio quality that come with using Zoom are naturally sometimes in play, they do little to distract from the wealth of information presented by such notables as Joe Dante, Mick Garris, Rebekah McKendry, Eli Roth, Joko Anwar, Kim Newman, Tom Savini, Jenn Wexler, Larry Fessenden, Richard Stanley, Brian Trenchard-Smith, and Brian Yuzna, to name but a few.  Interviewees discuss their experiences working on horror anthologies, why they love them as filmmakers and fans, the difficulties of getting projects greenlit, and so on. Though the running time of 104 minutes might sound a bit long, the time flies with intriguing discussions along with myriad sample clips from such classics as Amicus Productions’ Tales from the Crypt and From Beyond the Grave (with lots of fascinating information about that company) and Creepshow to little-known and even lost fare. Television anthologies also get their fair share of discussion.

Tales of the Uncanny is an absolute delight for seasoned horror fans, and it also serves as a terrific introduction for those less familiar with fear-fare anthologies. No matter which category you might fall into, have a pen and pad at the ready, because you are bound to come away with films you might not have heard of but that will shoot to the top of your must-see list.

Tales of theUncanny screened as part of Popcorn Frights Wicked Weekend, which ran from October 29–November 1. It

will also be available this November as a Severin Films Limited-Edition Blu-ray.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.