Friday, October 16, 2015

Review: Tales of Halloween

by Patrick Bromley
Trick or treat, motherf***ers.

As a devoted lover of the current indie horror scene, there is no horror movie I was anticipating more this year than Tales of Halloween, an anthology film with contributions from 11 of the strongest voices working in the genre today. This is my event film. This is my Avengers. And it does not disappoint.

Tales of Halloween isn’t just one of the best anthologies of the last 30 years, but also among the best Halloween-themed horror movies ever made. It’s funny and bloody and wicked and affectionate towards the genre in a way that few other films are. It’s the most fun I’ve had at a horror movie in a long, long time.
Taking place all on the same Halloween night, Tales offers up ten stories of slashers, aliens, killer kids, monsters, ghosts, witches, and the devil as played by Barry Bostwick. The list of talent involved reads like a “who’s who” of the modern independent horror scene: segments are contributed by Axelle Carolyn, Mike Mendez, Dave Parker, Darren Lynn Bousman, Adam Gierasch, Paul Solet, Lucky McKee, Neil Marshall, Ryan Schifrin, John Skipp and Andrew Kasch -- and that’s just behind the camera. Appearing in the film are genre stars past and present: Caroline Williams, Robert Rusler, Tiffany Shepis, Trent Haaga, Dana Gould, James Duval, Pollyanna McIntosh, Starry Eyes’ Alex Essoe, Barbara Crampton, Lin Shaye, Mick Garris, John Landis, Joe Dante, Stuart Gordon, John Savage, Cerina Vincent, Pat Healy, Kristina Klebe, Mark Senter, Graham Skipper, Adam Green, Grace Phipps (Some Kind of Hate), Keir Gilchrist (It Follows)… the list just keeps going. It’s an embarrassment of riches of genre talent, and the film requires multiple viewings just to catch all of the cameos and familiar faces popping up in the background (several of which I have chosen not to name here). It’s also what makes Tales of Halloween more than just another anthology film -- it’s a gleefully joyous celebration of the horror genre and so many of the people who have made an impact within it.
One of the pitfalls of anthology films is that they are rarely consistent -- there’s always one or two bum segments. For every “The Crate,” there’s a “Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill;” for every “Diary of Anne Frankenstein,” an “I Was a Teenage Were-Bear.” There are no duds in Tales of Halloween, and while I’m sure everyone will have his or her own personal favorite, it’s not because any of the other segments are bad, but merely a function of taste.

The shorts run the gamut, from the over-the-top splatstick of Mike Mendez’s “Friday the 31st” to Lucky McKee’s twisted fairy tale “Ding Dong” to Axelle Carolyn’s genuinely scary ghost story “Grimm Grinning Ghost” to the Sergio Leone-inspired horror western that is Paul Solet’s “The Weak and the Wicked.” There’s something for everyone, provided that the “everyone” in question is a lover of the genre. Casual fans can still enjoy Tales of Halloween because it’s fun, funny, and wildly entertaining, but it really is a horror movie made for horror nerds. This horror nerd appreciates that fact.

Unlike many horror anthologies, there’s no wraparound story here; after an opening credits sequence wonderfully scored by Lalo Schifrin, things get going right away. The segments do bleed into one another (pun intended), though, and exist in the same universe; trick-or-treaters from one story show up in others, events from the first short are referenced in the last. Whether intentionally or by accident, this group of filmmakers -- all real-life friends who set out to make this movie as a celebration of the community they’ve found together -- cover every possible aspect of the holiday they’re honoring.
Dave Parker’s “Sweet Tooth” nastily answers the question of what really happens to kids’ Halloween candy when they go to sleep. “This Means War,” from directors Andrew Kasch and John Skipp, addresses not just the extent to which some enthusiasts decorate their houses for Halloween, but also a very real schism that exists in the genre between old-school monster fans and modern day gorehounds. Darren Lynn Bousman’s hilarious “The Night Billy Raised Hell” (from a script by Clint Sears) looks at Halloween pranks gone wrong, while Neil Marshall’s “The Bad Seed” closes out Tales of Halloween with a monster short very specific to Halloween night and an affectionate tribute to ’80s cop movies. This anthology is drunk in love with movies, Halloween, and horror.

If it’s not yet clear (and if it’s not, you clearly haven’t been paying attention), I’m a big, big fan of Tales of Halloween. The passion and joy of everyone involved shoots like a laser out of the screen, beaming directly into the parts of my brain that make me grin like a blissfully happy dork for 90 minutes. I would say it’s a movie that’s soon to become an annual tradition for me, but that would mean I’m only watching it in October and there’s little chance I can limit myself to just one viewing a year. I can’t wait to revisit it again and again, celebrating the best night of the year and my favorite genre with a group of filmmakers clearly having the time of their lives. I love this movie.



Tales of Halloween is in limited release and on VOD and iTunes beginning today, October 16th.

This review was originally published on DailyDead.com.

21 comments:

  1. This is great news, Patrick. Been anticipating this for a while so glad to hear you dug it. On tap for tonight!

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  2. Woo-hoo - sounds great! And for a change it's releasing in Canada today too. I've wasted three Scary Movie Nights now falling asleep to that godawful Exorcist sequel that even Linda Blair's cuteness can't save, so I need this bad.

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  3. This sounds amazing. Can't wait to see it!

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  4. Oh man, this sounds incredible! I can't wait!

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  5. This Means War was the only real dud in the bunch I thought. I liked the idea of dueling house decorators but it didn't really go anywhere. Sweet Tooth and Bad Seed were my 2 favorites. Ding Dong was just weird I need to watch that one again haha. I'm glad I bought it on itunes for ten bucks its really fun movie. Let's just say it had me right from the start when Adrienne Barbeau started narrating like she does in The Fog. Brillaint.

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  6. Barbara Crampton AND Stuart Gordon had a part: I'm in!

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    1. They're nothing more than cameos, but it's all part of the fun.

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  7. Been counting down the days since you mentioned it earlier in the summer.

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  8. Im so happy you liked it, ive been hearing about this for a while, I can't wait to see it

    I remember last year your Smm 7 word review

    "Someone please give Mike Mendez a Budget!"

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  9. Wow. I'm excited and not really worried about tempering my expectations.

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  10. Psyched to see Alex Essoe in more indie horror! Definitely one of the most talented actors in today's genre scene.

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  11. I could talk about this film all night. Ultimately, I don't think it works but the references, appearances and overall quality make it decent. There were two aspects that I really found lacking with this film - atmosphere (including capturing the autumn, Halloween vibe. This felt like Halloween in LA) and 9 of the 10 are jokey in varying degrees. The best jokey one, "The Night Billy Raised Hell", I fucking loved until the last minute where it adds an element that didn't need to exist at all. It cheapened a 10 minute short and that's pathetic. My favorite was "Trick" which started as what I thought would be my least favorite but turned the tables and ended up being pretty great. "Ding Dong" was my second favorite which I thought was pretty intense and dealt with some real shit but still came across a tiny bit corny at times. The intersecting characters and the fact that it takes place all in the same neighborhood on the same night was great. Also, it was really well shot and there was no found footage - a definite plus. These filmmakers love the genre, I definitely know this so I guess I expected more. Not a ton more, just a little more atmosphere, a little more Autumn, a little more heavy and a little less tongue in cheek.

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    1. I'm with you, Chaybee - I did like it overall but I definitely found myself wanting it to be a little less jokey - the second half in particular has a few segments I thought were just way too slapsticky and not in a very innovative or funny way. I'd still recommend it as an SMM watch though, especially if you've been dwelling in the darker stuff for awhile.

      I thought maybe I was just in a funk after the Jays game but I guess it wasn't just me!

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    2. Totally agree on "The Night Billy Raised Hell." That segment was really fun and transgressive throughout, even though you felt a little ashamed for enjoying it so much, but then at the end it suddenly dropped a huge buzzkill on the affair. I'm not sure what the point was but it seemed pretty mean.

      Everything else was well-done, I thought. There were a few times where I didn't like the way things were going but then a twist of plot made it awesome. Also I laughed more at this movie than I have in awhile. I agree with Sol that it'd be a great watch if you've been plowing through some heavier fare.

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    3. I also agree with some of the others that seeing this with a crowd would have probably changed the whole viewing experience.

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    4. For sure. That pretty much goes for all fun-type horror movies though. I think I would've liked the Visit alot less if I'd watched it by myself. I actually had as much fun seeing it in a theater, though, as any movie I've seen this year just because the crowd was into it.

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  12. Just watched this last night, and I was pretty disappointed. The film never takes advantage of it's Halloween/Fall setting, other than obviously having people trick or treating and things like that. It just didn't have that fun vibe one would expect out of something like this. It's a shame, because I was really looking forward to this one, too.

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