Thursday, October 15, 2015
The October Society's Tales of Halloween
Cody celebrates the holiday with a horror anthology that will be in theatres and on VOD October 16th.
A project created by former film journalist Axelle Carolyn, author of the book It Lives Again! Horror Movies in the New Millennium, Tales of Halloween is a horror anthology film featuring ten segments directed by eleven directors whose names will be very recognizable to most genre fans. The ten short tales of terror are all tied together by their setting: they all occur over the course of one Halloween in the same suburban town.
Dave Parker, director of such films as The Dead Hate the Living! and The Hills Run Red, kicks things off with a fun and creepy story called Sweet Tooth, which could introduce a lasting Halloween legend with its homicidal, candy-obsessed titular character. It may also function as a tragic sequel of sorts to Mike Mendez's Big Ass Spider!
An irreverent sense of humor runs through the second segment, Saw II-IV/Mother's Day remake director Darren Lynn Bousman's The Night Billy Raised Hell, in which a young boy is taken out for a destructive, violent night on the town by his potentially demonic neighbor. It's very goofy and funny, with an amusing performance by Barry Bostwick.
Characters played by Troma alums Trent Haaga and Tiffany Shepis are spending the night hanging out, getting drunk and high with their significant others, when their good times are disrupted by the arrival of a group of murderous trick-or-treaters in Trick, directed by Adam Gierasch (the remakes of Toolbox Murders and Night of the Demons). It's a strong segment, with tense moments and some shocking violence, a couple of the killer kids are played by the children of Shepis and Sleepaway Camp's Felissa Rose (who also cameos in the film).
Taking place on the other side of town, which looks more urban than suburban, Grace director Paul Solet's The Weak and the Wicked reunites his Dark Summer stars Grace Phipps and Keir Gilchrist for the tale of a group of bullying punks getting their long overdue comeuppance. This segment feels very different from those surrounding it, but still entertains, and even has a bit of an incongruous Western flavor that totally works for it.
Then we've reached Grimm Grinning Ghost by the anthology's mastermind Axelle Carolyn, who made her feature directorial debut with 2013's Soulmate. While making her way home from a party populated by the likes of Lin Shaye, Mick Garris, Stuart Gordon, and Barbara Crampton, a woman fears she's being stalked by a mocking spirit she just learned about. This segment tries a bit harder to be scary than most of the ones that preceded it and does manage to build up a nice atmosphere.
Some familiar trick-or-treaters show up in Ding Dong, from Lucky McKee (May). This one was very strange and I found it to be the least interesting and effective segment of the bunch, despite an exuberant performance by Pollyanna McIntosh.
Things pick back up with the fast paced, fast cut, over-the-top zaniness of This Means War, a collaboration between Never Sleep Again documentarian Andrew Kasch and novelist John Skipp.
Then we're into the segment that captured my heart right away, Friday the 31st, from Big Ass Spider! director Mike Mendez. As the title implies, this one is something of a Friday the 13th homage, starting off with a young woman getting chased through a foggy countryside by a lumbering masked figure carrying a machete and a severed head - reminiscent of horror icon Jason Voorhees, particularly the way he was portrayed in Freddy vs. Jason. When the slasher is revealed, he's dressed similarly to the way Jason appeared in Friday the 13th Part 2, bib overalls and a flannel shirt. When a UFO appears overhead, this short goes in a direction no Friday the 13th ever went, and the slasher becomes our beleaguered protagonist as he's forced to deal with some Evil Dead-esque shenanigans. It's totally ridiculous.
Abominable director Ryan Schifrin contributed the segment The Ransom of Rusty Rex, in which the young son of a millionaire played by John Landis is kidnapped and, yes, held for ransom by a couple guys who soon realize that they're in way over their heads. The world hasn't heard nearly enough from Schifrin in the nine years since Abombinable came out, he hasn't made a feature since, so it was a great to see him back in the horror game here. Rusty Rex also provided a memorable role for 4'3" actor Ben Woolf, who died in a tragic accident earlier this year.
The anthology reaches its conclusion with Bad Seed, directed by Carolyn's husband, Dog Soldiers/The Descent director Neil Marshall. Cabin Fever's Cerina Vincent, Halloween 2007's Kristina Klebe, and Joe Dante star in this detective story, where the killer the authorities are trying to track down just happens to be a man-eating pumpkin. It's the perfect way to wrap things up.
Anthologies with multiple directors tend to have their ups and downs, and such is the case with Tales of Halloween, but those ups and downs are much less drastic here than they have been in other cases. There were segments I didn't enjoy as much as others, but none which I disliked.
The filmmakers rarely went for scares, instead the film feels like a celebration. A celebration of the Halloween holiday and all that comes with it, and of the horror genre in general. As I've noted throughout, the movie is packed with appearances by genre regulars, and there are even more familiar faces than I've mentioned, like Hatchet director Adam Green, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2's Robert Rusler and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2's Caroline Williams. There are also nods to films like Escape from New York, Night of the Living Dead, and The Shining, among others.
The anthology is even hosted by Adrienne Barbeau as a radio DJ, kind of reprising her role from John Carpenter's The Fog. She doesn't get quite as much to do as anthology hosts of the past like Creepshow 2's The Creep did, she doesn't introduce every story, but her inclusion is a nice touch.
Tales of Halloween packs a whole lot of fun into its 97 minutes. It's a must see for horror fans, many of whom are going to choose to make viewings of the film an annual October tradition. I'm one of those fans who will be watching this movie every year from now on, and I'm looking forward to seeing it again.