Review: 'Tales of Halloween'

 By: Heather Seebach

Horror anthology films are always going to be a mixed bag - that is the nature of their design. And the more shorts a film squeezes into its run-time, the more varied the outcome. The ABCs of Death for example is best approached like a short film festival where the shorts are unconnected and vary wildly in quality. Other anthologies, like Trick r Treat, have successfully created a cohesive set of interwoven stories. Tales of Halloween, the latest horror anthology, more closely resembles the latter example, which is quite a compliment, needless to say. This collection of ten Halloween-centric shorts temporarily sates the hunger of all the fans waiting for Trick r Treat 2 to happen. 

Tales opens with "Sweet Tooth" from director David Parker (The Hills Runs Red). This one is basic fare about a Halloween urban legend. The mythology of the monster is unique and provides a bit of gory fun. Next up is "The Night Billy Raised Hell" directed by Darren Lynn Bousman (Repo! The Genetic Opera). Barry Bostwick hams it up as Beelzebub in this surprisingly un-gory little comedy about putting the "trick" back in "trick or treat." 

Speaking of, third in line is "Trick" from director Adam Gierasch (Autopsy). This one is like Who Can Kill A Child? Halloween-style, which is a pretty good premise, until the ending (of which I am less fond). After that is "The Weak and the Wicked" from Paul Solet (Grace) whose work I have very much missed! His entry only has a dash of horror but it's a stylish and unique short about evil-doers and the force that exacts justice upon them. 

The fifth tale "Grimm Grinning Ghost" comes from Axelle Carolyn (Soulmate) and it's the only ghost tale of the movie. It's mostly a lot of build-up but boasts some old-schools chills and cameos from genre legends like Barbara Crampton and Lin Shaye. Next up is my favorite segment of the film, Lucky McKee's "Ding Dong." McKee's The Woman star Pollyanna McIntosh plays a deranged mother who lost her child and abuses her meek husband. On Halloween night, her demons (proverbial and literal) really show. This one is weird, funny, and just so twisted. 

The seventh entry, from directors John Skipp and Andrew Kasch, is called "This Means War." It stars Dana Gould and James Duval as competing home haunters whose Halloween rivalry turns bloody. It's not a horror short by any means but it's an amusing reflection on those competitive suburban home decorators we've all known. The eighth film is my second favorite of the anthology, Mike Mendez's "Friday the 31st." The Big Ass Spider! director delivers a bonkers combination of Friday the 13th, The Evil Dead, and UFOs in this very blood but very funny short. 

Short #9 is all-out fun with Sam Witwer (Being Human) and Jose Pablo Cantillo (The Walking Dead) in "The Ransom of Rusty Rex" from director Ryan Schifrin (Abominable). Two would-be kidnappers decide to demand a ransom on a millionaire's kid but they make a terrible mistake. Finally, the film concludes with "Bad Seed" from director Neil Marshall (The Descent), wherein a killer Jack-o-Lantern terrorizes the neighborhood. It's not as good as I hoped from Marshall but it mostly serves to wrap up the other nine stories.

The anthology is loaded with director cameos - John Landis, Joe Dante, Adam Green, and more - plus beloved genre actors and even a few familiar journalists. The stories are not as seamlessly connected as in Trick r Treat but they are clearly in the same neighborhood with mutual characters passing through. Adrienne Barbeau serves as the narrator connecting the stories. Overall, the tales lean toward gory and funny as opposed to chilling and spooky, but there is enough Halloween nostalgia and bloody fun to satisfy Octoberphiles itching for a fix.

Tales of Halloween hits theaters, VOD, and iTunes on October 16th from Epic Pictures. 

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