United States. Directed by David Parker, Darren Lynn Bousman, Adam Gierasch, Axelle Carolyn, Lucky McKee, Paul Solet, Andrew Kasch, John Skipp, Mike Mendez, Ryan Schifrin, Neil Marshall, 2015. 92 minutes. 6/10
Hallowe’en is almost here, kids, and you know what that means! That’s right–it’s the perfect time of year for horror anthology movies! Yay! This one is ten stories in ninety-two minutes, all of which take place in the same small town, with entries from the directors of The Descent, May, Repo! The Genetic Opera, and Big Ass Spider. Thankfully, none of them are found-footage.
And away we go!
“Sweet Tooth,” directed by David Parker: Straight-up slasher in which a babysitter and her obnoxious boyfriend tell their young charge the story of Sweet Tooth, who killed and ate his parents because they ate all his Hallowe’en candy. Big surprise, Sweet Tooth turns out to be real. It’s kinda funny, but I’m not really into the slasher stuff. The kid’s Snake Plissken costume is hilarious, though.
“The Night Billy Raised Hell,” directed by Darren Lynn Bousman: Young Billy goes to egg his neighbor’s house on a dare. The neighbor turns out to be the Devil (okay, he’s actually Barry Bostwick) and Billy gets a lesson in how to pull off a real Hallowe’en prank. Bousman operates in full camp mode here, even to the point of including droll comic sound effects. He means well, but I just couldn’t get into the vibe, and I wasn’t particularly impressed with Bostwick’s performance.
“Trick,” directed by Adam Gierasch: Young trick-or-treaters visit and butcher a house full of hipsters, including Tiffany Shepis and Trent Haage. Nothing here I could really engage with, and the final reveal left me a little confused about what was going on. Not a fan.
“Grimm Grinning Ghost,” directed by Axelle Carolyn: A shy ghost follows a young woman home from a Hallowe’en party. Shot well with good atmosphere, but ultimately not particularly substantial. Cameo appearances from Mick Garris, Stuart Gordon, and pretty much everyone else who’s ever directed a horror movie.
“Ding Dong,” directed by Lucky McKee: You know the old story about Hansel and Gretel, right? Well, it turns out the witch is real, but her house isn’t made of gingerbread and she’s married. Oh, and she’s played by Pollyanna McIntosh from The Woman. At least I think that’s what’s going on. McKee seems to be saying something about women and children and relationships and stuff, but I can’t figure out what. At least the makeup is cool.
“The Weak and the Wicked,” directed by Paul Solet: This is the first segment I actually liked without reservation. It’s got this sort of bizarre Western standoff vibe, and it’s about three bullies and the victim who comes back years later for his revenge. Great cinematography, great costuming, great performance from Grace Phipps as the ringleader of the tormentors, great all-around atmosphere. The monster looks kind of stupid, but that’s the point. I hope.
“This Means War,” directed by Andrew Kasch and John Skipp: Dana Gould and James Duval play neighbors who take their Hallowe’en decorating rivalry to a deadly new level. Astonishingly fucking hilarious with a great cast–even the cameos are great.
“Friday the 31st,” directed by Mike Mendez: Slasher again, but with a twist. So there’s this big burly deformed psychotic murderer who likes to butcher young ladies with a chainsaw or a hatchet or something–you know the type. That’s when Claymation aliens arrive for an evening of trick-or-treating, but Mr. Gigantic Inbred Butt-Ugly Psycho Dude doesn’t have any candy for them, and…oh, I can’t describe anymore, you have to see it for yourself. Easily my favorite segment of the film–just the right side of gonzo.
“The Ransom of Rusty Rex,” directed by Ryan Schifrin: A couple of bad pennies abduct John Landis’s son, but when they make the ransom call, it turns out the director of Kentucky Fried Movie isn’t exactly interested in getting his son back. That’s probably because the kid is an annoying, hyperactive monster who likes to bite. Great cast on this one, but the late Ben Woolf steals the show as the titular Rusty. A horror-comic gem.
“Bad Seed,” directed by Neil Marshall: This one’s a bit all over the place, starting with a jack-o-lantern biting a man’s head off and ending with Joe Dante doing something I’m not going to tell you about. Good turns from Kristina Klebe and Pat Healy, but the big shock here is Neil Marshall: I tend to associate him with Deadly Serious Stuff, and wouldn’t have thought he had something this bizarro in him. It’s not very consistent and the effects work is a bit dodgy, but when it’s on (which is most of the time) it’s fantastic.
So, to sum up: it takes Tales of Halloween a while to get going, but the second half is a lot stronger than the first half. But the second half is a lot better than the first half. At any rate, there should be something here for every taste.