One of the scaries things I have ever seen in a movie is the opening to Twilight Zone: The Movie when Dan Aykroyd asks Albert Brooks “Do you want to see something really scary?” This left me with a childhood scar. I also have to give props to to Creepshow, because Tom Atkins’ line readings of “Horruh crap” and “That’s why G-D made fathers, babe” is almost too much to take.
Top 5 Horror Anthology Segments (not ranked):
“Amelia” from Trilogy of Terror (1975) This might be one of the more obvious picks I could make, as just about everyone lists this as one of their favorite anthology segments. It’s for good reason. The Zuni Fetish Doll is a great special effect (especially for a made-for-TV movie) and the manic energy in which the segment is shot, including the doll’s POV, give the segment an off-the-rails sense of fun. And then, just when you think it’s a goofy good time, the segment drops the bomb on you and closes on one of the most disturbing final shots you could ever imagine. It gives me the creeps just thinking about it.V/H/S/2 (2013) This segment is absolutely relentless. It is creepy from the outset, not just with frightening imagery but also really haunting dialogue. The special effects and makeup (of the possessed cult members) are very disturbing and the entire short has a nightmare quality, including many sequences of first person point of view where you’re trying to get out of a room or a hallway but have to go through hordes of possessed cult members. The segment gets crazier and crazier as it goes along building to a conclusion that is so out there you can help being stunned that the filmmakers pulled it off.
Patrick: Those are great picks! I was surprised to see Tales from the Hood on there, but not really because I know what a fan you are of that movie.
I like that you picked segments from a couple anthologies that are different than the ones I would have picked, because it once again highlights the advantage of the format -- there can be something for everyone in an anthology. My favorite segment from Black Sabbath is still "The Telephone"; from Tales from the Hood, it's "Rogue Cop Revelation," because it's so angry and nasty in the best E.C. Comics tradition. But I'm not arguing with any of your picks, because those are great segments, too.
I guess I won't be putting "Safe Haven" on my list (because I don't want to repeat), but MAN is that the best 30 minutes of horror of the last several years. I love that Gareth Evans brings the same breathless energy he brought to The Raid to the horror genre. That segment has a crazy ability to keep one-upping itself. And you're right about the ending -- it's the only logical place they could go considering what comes before it. People should watch V/H/S/2 just for that segment.
Nice to see "Lover's Vow" on there, too, though I'll admit that the "twist" in that one was spoiled a little for me by seeing "The Woman of the Snow" in Kwaidan first (what I was doing seeing Kwaidan at age 12, I can't say). "Lover's Vow" is maybe the only segment in Tales from the Darkside: The Movie that really works, and I say that as someone who kind of likes Tales from the Darkside: The Movie.
What say you, JB? Any of Adam's picks that could have made your list? I'm guessing maybe the Zuni doll...
JB: I will echo Patrick's sentiments that these are great picks, though I am ashamed that there is one anthology on Adam's list here that I have not seen. Tear.
The nurse segment from Black Sabbath is appropriately creepy, and I remember fondly that it was the ONE segment I did not sleep through when Rusty showed it at 3am at the Massacre one year.
"Lover's Vow" is indeed terrific, one of the only segments I actually enjoy from Tales From The Darkside.
I see echoes of this sequence in one of MY choices.
Although I am on record on the podcast as not liking V/H/S 2, I will admit that "Safe Haven" is the only sequences of value in that misbegotten smorgasbord. I think I need to give that one section a second chance. I do agree that the uncanny, dreamlike tone is something the sequence definitely achieves, which is no mean feat. I also love the little things the director places on the frame's periphery to creep us out.
Adam has stolen, I see, my number one pick: the scariest half hour ever broadcast on television, "Amelie" from Trilogy of Terror. I saw the original airing of this in grade school, and let me tell you, the playground was abuzz with conversation about that Zuni fetish doll the next day during recess. None of us kids could remember EVER being so scared. Screening this segment has become a tradition in most of my classes on Halloween.
I have never seen Tales From The Hood. My bad.
Trying to come up with my favorites for this list once again plunged me to the depths, and I emerged thinking, much like during our recent conversation about vampire films, there are NOT a whole helluva lot of these horror anthologies that are good FROM START TO FINISH.
Top 5 Horror Anthology Segments (ranked):
V/H/S (2012) This one has grown on me over the months. There is something so sweet and yet so twisted in this segment that I do not think I will ever forget little Hannah Fierman's plaintive, "I like you." The heart wants what it wants.
Well, gentlemen, what do you think? Have at me!
Patrick: Well, here's the problem with going last -- a lot of my thunder is getting stolen as you guys pick the stuff I was going to go with (cough "Amateur Night" cough). That's ok. I'm tough.
JBones, I feel like your picks are more in line with my own tastes -- even if they're not my favorite segments in those movies, we seem to love several of the same anthologies. I don't share your enthusiasm for "The Hitchhiker" -- or any of Creepshow 2, really -- but I completely understand why you find it funny. In theory, I should think it's the most hilarious thing ever, as I am a fan of running a single joke into the ground until it becomes funny again. It's like Stockholm Syndrome for comedy.
In digging around a little and trying to remind myself of the dozens of horror anthologies that have been released over the years, I am amazed by how many outlets name "Amateur Night" as the WORST segment in V/H/S. It's so clearly the best for exactly the reason you mention -- it has a great monster, one who manages to be scary (even when they're still at the bar, her unintelligible whispering is the creepiest stuff in the movie) even before things go crazy. Everything in that movie is downhill after that.
Here's a question for either of you: almost every one of the segments we're talking about (with a few exceptions) are stringent morality tales. Is that because they're all aping the conventions of the original EC comics? Or because the "short story" format lends itself to one single, obvious lesson with a "twist" punchline? And does the fact that there are four or five of these segments inside each anthology dull the impact of those lessons? It's essentially one message, repeated five times per movie.
Maybe this is the reason, as you point out JBones, there is no anthology that's good all the way through. Even Creepshow, maybe my favorite anthology movie of all time, has "The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill."
Adam: JB, I have good news for you. Tales from the Hood is on Netflix Instant. It’s uneven, but worth a watch and I’d say it has one of the more successful wraparound segments in any horror anthology. Clarence Williams III really throws himself into the master of ceremonies role.
I never thought about the similarities of “Lover’s Vow” and “Amateur Night” until you hinted at it. Good call! I have much nostalgic affection for Tales from the Darkside: The Movie from when I was a kid. I used to rent that movie from the library constantly. It might be the first horror anthology I ever saw and it was right around the time I was obsessed with HBO’s Tales from the Crypt television series. It was a perfect storm that solidified my love of the horror anthology format.
I really like your picks, JB! “Amateur Night” is definitely the best of the bunch from V/H/S. I’ve met girls like Hannah Fierman before. They are out there if you are looking for them.
I share your fondness for “The Hitchhiker.” I watched Creepshow 2 again this month and I was surprised to realize it is my new favorite segment from the movie. It used to be “The Raft.” The dark comedy in “The Hitchhiker” is phenomenal, and I really like how Lois Chiles is an irredeemable witch who gets worse and worse as the segment goes on. Her rationalizing is hilarious. Did you know that Tom Wright (aka “The Hitchhiker”) is also the zombie in “Rogue Cop Revelation” from Tales from the Hood? It’s his wheelhouse!
Glad to see Trick 'r Treat made it on one of our lists. I think story for story that might be the most successful of all the horror anthologies. It helps that they are all very short so none wear out their welcome.
I think your point, Patrick, about too many segments with the same message dulling the overall impact is a solid one, but it’s never really bothered me personally. I would prefer to have more and shorter segments than fewer and longer segments. Although, I realize that would mean I should love The ABCs of Death,which is a movie I wish I could un-see and might be my least favorite movie of 2013 so far.
Patrick – what are your picks?
Patrick: It's not so much the length of the segments I was calling into question, but the sameness of them. I guess it hasn't really bothered me, either, because I still like horror anthologies even though there are few good ones.
And, like you, I was interested in The ABCs of Death because of the way it promised to mess with the established format of the anthology. The experiment did not work.
You have both convinced me that I should revisit "The Hitchhiker," so I guess I'll have to spin my Creepshow 2 DVD during Scary Movie Month.
Ok, here are some of my picks. Be gentle.
Top 5 Horror Anthology Segments (not ranked):
Chillerama (2011) It was a close race between this and Adam Green's "Diary of Anne Frankenstein," but the sheer energy and invention of Joe Lynch's wraparound-segment-turned-finale of this uneven anthology puts it over the top. That's a great way to describe this one, actually: over the top. So many horror movies are rooted in the instincts of a 13-year old boy, and Lynch gleefully celebrates that tradition in his segment in which humans ingest some blue goo and turn into zombies who won't stop eating and humping everything they can. Filled with quotes and references to other horror movies, "Zom-B Movie" is crass and goopy and lots of fun. It would be hard not to name a segment in which Joe Lynch's real-life wife rips off A.J. Bowen's dick and eats it in front of Lynch's actual two-year old son as one of my favorites. Talk about commitment to the bit.
Adam: “The Crate” would have been in my runners-up list. It’s a segment that took me some time to warm up to because of the length, but I really appreciate the dark comedy as I get older and I agree with you that the creature design is really striking (no pun intended – watch out for that claw!).
I’m so happy you pointed out the Vincent Price wine-tasting face from “The Black Cat.” It’s sublime. I watched Tales of Terror for the first time during last year’s Scary Movie Month and really dug it.
I like “And All Through the House,” but my favorite segment from Tales from the Crypt, and one that nearly made my list, is “Blind Alleys.” It’s really suspenseful and Patrick Magee is creepy as hell per usual.
I’m surprised that none of us had Dead of Night represented somewhere on this list.
JB: Interesting picks, Mr. Bromley, very interesting indeed.
Although I share your enthusiasm for Creepshow and think Holbrook and Barbeau act the hell out of (and Romero directs the hell out of) "The Crate," one thing has always bothered me about that segment: the physical reality of the creature. Because we never see the whole thing, I have always been left thinking it has an enormous head and an enormous claw... and very little else. Or was that the point? I imagine the creature without the titular crate, and it looks like a bobble head or something. Maybe it is just me, but that has always prevented me from fully enjoying the sequence.
I agree with Patrick 100% that Trick 'r Treat is so consistently good that it is hard to pick one favorite sequence. I even like the Anna Paquin part!
Yes, three cheers for Tales of Terror! Anything with Vincent Price merits inclusion on one list or another. This segment makes me wish that both stars had not been so damn typecast in their lifetimes and could have appeared in more straight comedies. Oh, if wishes were fishes... Also, I will make our opinion unanimous about the wine-tasting face; it is one for the ages...
Perhaps I am just basing this on some bad Santa experiences as a child, but "All Through The House" is really, really good-- particularly when you compare it to how many other damn times this trope has been trotted out in movies and television to lesser effect. (Ahem-- I'm looking at you, Silent Night, Deadly Night). Killer Saint Nick is just an impossibly good IDEA.
Unfortunately gentlemen, I have never seen Chillerama -- because a year ago or so a certain P. Bromley gave me his opinion of it, which convinced me not to see it. Is it still on Netflix? Between that and Tales From The Hood, I have some catching up to do...
Oh, and Adam -- "The Ventriloquist" from Dead of Night just barely missed my top five. I love the whole film, but beware! Apparently, there are two different versions floating around-- the original "American" version cut two sequences for being too British -- insist on the full-length version; the conclusion makes more sense.
Closing Wraparound Segment: Adam, JB and Patrick all realize we were in Hell the whole time.