by Patrick Bromley
The anthology is like the pizza of the horror genre, in that even when the makers get one wrong, I'm still happy to have it. These movies have an advantage other horror movies don't: they're able to reset every couple of minutes, offering a new segment and a new opportunity to win us over. We tend to hold them to different standards, too, in that they're so often judged by their best segment and not as the sum total of their parts. A horror anthology just has to give us one banger -- and hopefully no real stinkers -- and we'll be a fan forever.
Clancy Brown stars as the excellently-named Montgomery Dark, a mortician interviewing a prospect (Caitlin Custer) for a possible job. She wants to hear stories about the bodies at the funeral home, so Mr. Dark begins to spin tales for her. The first and most succinct finds a young woman attacked by something lurking behind the bathroom mirror. In the second, a rapey fratboy (Jacob Elordi of The Kissing Booth) has the tables turned on him in unexpected ways. The third story centers around a man (Barak Hardley, Bounty Killer) with a terminally ill wife who's going to make good on his wedding vows one way or another. Finally, it's the girls turn to tell Mr. Dark a story, and she tells the story of a babysitting job gone horribly wrong when a killer pays a visit to the house.
I love the production design, too, which is never period-specific but has an aesthetic and somewhat desaturated color palette in keeping with the late '60s and '70s. It gives the film an Amicus vibe for which I'm a total sucker, but combines that with '80s Amblin and '90s horror. The wraparound alone has references to both Tales from the Hood and Tales from the Darkside: The Movie, two of the best anthologies to come out of that decade. Clancy Brown is perfect at the center of the film, his deep bass practically made for telling spooky stories, his eyelids heavy under old age prosthetics, his backstory appropriately mysterious. There are touches throughout the film that get it just right, that tell us that Spindell is a tried and true horror fan. He's One of Us, and his movie proves it.