A couple weekends ago I took a trip to Indiana to Horror Hound’s 10th-anniversary celebration and had a fucking great time! The main draw was the Nightmare on Elm Street reunions, which came at a somewhat appropriate time given the passing of Wes Craven.
While I love going to conventions to see panels and buy stuff, I always have to make sure I can see at least one movie playing in one of their icy cold showrooms. This year I got to see the long-awaited Tales of Halloween, a new anthology horror from 10 great directors. This flick is riddled with cameos and treats for horror fans of all kinds. Let’s jump in!
The film opens up with a seriously rad credit sequence that begins with Adrienne Barbeau narrating the nights tricks and treats ala The Fog. We zero in on kids running happily through the streets collecting treats and our first story begins:
Dir. Dave Parker (The Hills Run Red)
Trick ‘r treating is what I miss most about being a kid. Not Christmas or summer vacation, but trick ‘r treating and I never really was all about the candy unlike the Mikey in Sweet Tooth. As his babysitter and her creep of a boyfriend settle in for the night, the boy sits and dumps all of the candy on the floor, tossing shitty “treats” like apples and toothbrushes. As he’s about to dig in his sitter’s boyfriend tells the tale of Sweet Tooth. Sweet Tooth loved Halloween and every year his parents would let him go out but when he came back his parents wouldn’t let him have any and sending him to bed. One night Sweet Tooth decides to see what the fuck is up with his parents and discovers them eating all of his candy while intertwined in flesh and melted chocolate. Enraged he takes an ax to his parents and finishes off the candy but he’s not satisfied he needs more so he decides to take what his parents have already eaten.
This gruesome tale of candy thievery sets the tone well for the rest of the stories. Dave Parker does fantastic job mixing humor and grotesque horror. So if any of you decide to eat your kid’s candy this year, beware of Sweet Tooth. And don’t fucking steal your kids candy!
The Night Billy Raised Hell
Dir. Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II-IV)
Darren Lynn Bousman has always been a mixed bag for me, but his heart and twisted sense of humor always have me coming back. Billy is sort of a wimpy kid, but he adores Halloween, even enough to don a devil costume mask and all in the California heat. When his sister and dick-brain boyfriend urge him to knock on the resident spooky old house he complies only to find himself within the creaky old house. Its resident? The devil, of course, played by an almost unrecognizable Barry Bostwick. The Devil decides to show Billy what Halloween is really about as he embarks on a night of murder and mayhem with Billy in tow. Or is it?
Bousman continues the fun streak in this flick by giving us some truly outrageous scenes of violence, including shooting many trick ‘r treaters. I can’t help but wonder if the use of Barry Bostwick for this delightful role was a goal of Bousman’s. His work on Repo! The Genetic Opera and Devil’s Carnival has inklings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show so I could see this being an awesome experience as a fan for him.
Dir. Adam Gierasch (Autopsy, Night of the Demons 2009)
Trick takes a break from the comedic tone of the other segments and investigates the dark side of trick ‘r treating. We’ve all heard tales of razor blades and poison, but we’ve brushed them all off as urban legends. Trick centers around a group of 4 adults who are enjoying a night of alcohol and weed as kiddies stop by for goodies. Until one strange girl arrives dressed as a witch, she refuses to answer trick ‘r treat and we know some shit is about to go down.
Gierasch’s entry to Tales of Halloween gets mad recognition because it’s the only one that really duped me. Maybe I was caught up in the spectacle of it all but I didn’t see the end coming and it’s a doozy.
The Weak and The Wicked
Dir. Paul Solet (Grace, Dark Summer)
This story felt the most out of place within the entire film. It focuses’ on a trio of street kids that terrorize the town, in particular, kids smaller than them. When one kid attempts to stand up they beat him down only to realize he is the surviving son of a family they killed as children. The boy is now a teen and set on a revenge even if that means summoning a demon.
The producers of Tales are the same ones behind Turbo Kid and Solet’s segment had a lot of that feeling about it. Essentially the set up is very western-esque and I don’t mind that so much I just couldn’t get into it. The best part of the segment comes from the monster summoned which looks fucking sweet.
Grimm Grinning Ghost
Dir. Axelle Carolyn (Soulmate)
While there are cameos all over this movie, Grimm Grinning Ghost takes the cake with Lin Shaye, Mick Garris, and Stuart Gordon. The story plays off more urban legends with Shaye gathering her daughter- played by Alex Essoe from Starry Eyes – and her aforementioned friends for a night of spooky stories and candy. For the most part, this segment is pretty run of the mill as far as ghost stories go. The word is that the grimm grinning ghost stalks on Halloween night and if you look at her terrible face you will die.
However, that’s not to say it still isn’t fun. Even as an adult things like Bloody Mary freak me out so I felt for Essoe’s character as she attempts to get home without injury. The end is predictable but still a fun story for the kids.
Dir. Lucky McKee (May, The Woman)
By far Ding Dong is the most creative and disturbing of all, but what do you expect from Lucky McKee? There’s no cut and dry storytelling here and while that might not float well with some I actually enjoyed it and I’m generally hit or miss with Lucky McKee. A distraught woman laments her inability to get pregnant as she watches happy children trick ‘r treat. Her husband attempts to console her by dressing their pug up as Gretel from Hansel and Gretel and is met with a ferocious smack to the face.
This story takes a more psychological term, he is constantly abused by her resulting in his possible delusion of viewing her as a demon/witch. I say possibly because McKee never reveals if she really is a supernatural being or just an abusive bitch. This is definitely the deepest of all 10 segments and uses some extremely interesting visual effects to unnerve the audience. Ding Dong just might be my favorite thing Lucky McKee has ever done.
This Means War
Dir. Andrew Kasch (Never Sleep Again) & John Skipp (Clowntown)
With faux-docs like The Houses That Built October and real docs like The American Scream, haunted houses are making a big come back. This Means War falls under American Scream territory with rival neighbors competing for best Halloween decorations. On one side, we have the family-friendly tradition graveyard scene and on the other we have the metal-head blood and gore scene. Fed up with his rowdy neighbors and their partying the man sets out to destroy all of their fun. Soon the death rockers and suburban neighbors are at each other’s throats spewing fake blood and destruction.
I love the satire of this segment because, as many of you can probably agree, decoration your yard is a fucking fun time and the bigger the better. It’s not the most engrossing of the stories but if it doesn’t make you crack a smile I don’t know what will.
Friday the 31st
Dir. Mike Mendez (Big Ass Spider, The Gravedancers)
The third to last segment is my absolute favorite! Mendez sets the scene with an incredibly cliche chase scene involving a pretty girl and flat-out Jason rip-off and when it first started I rolled my eyes and sighed. And then things changed. After killing said pretty girl, our masked killer commences his post-kill rituals only to be interrupted by a UFO that sends a huge beam of light down sending with it the cutest claymation alien trick ‘r treater ever. The killer is perplexed and has no idea how to handle the persistent alien who repeats “twick or tweat” on loop. What follows is a series of comedic events until the killer crushes the little guy under his boot, but don’t worry that’s not the last of our alien compadre.
Mendez is a director who likes to have fun, he thoroughly enjoys the craft and the genre and adds his own spin on things. Using a cliche as a set up isn’t new but I think Mendez has done it much better than most.
The Ransome of Rusty Rex
Dir. Ryan Shifrin (Abominable)
When two bumbling crooks kidnap the child of a wealthy man (John Landis) they soon realize they’ve inadvertently kidnaped a monster. The kidnappers are tormented by a little monster that serves as a curse. If you take him he’s yours forever no matter how hard you try to get rid of him.
The story is actually a twisted version of the O. Henry tale, “The Ransome of Red Chief” which I hadn’t read so I went in blind. I can’t speak on how similar they are, but this story offers lots of laughs, including a hilarious phone conversation between the kidnappers and John Landis who refuses to take him back. The final scene is my favorite. but overall I wasn’t too enthralled with this segment. Maybe I should read the story.
Dir. Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, The Descent)
And the last story brings the Halloween feel all together with one of the oldest holiday past times, pumpkin carving. While getting ready to go out for the night, a husband decides to carve his masterpiece while his wife gets ready. Little does he know this pumpkin has a thing or two to about it.
Marshall’s segment has the best effects in the entire movie, the monstrous pumpkins are genuinely creepy and the idea of pumpkins fighting back is just ridiculous enough to be fun. My only qualm with this final addition is the cop drama aspect. Police get involved to seek out the culprit behind these super pumpkins and it sort of threw me out of it. It’s not a bad story at all, just not my cup of tea. However, the practical effects in this segment are incredible and goes to show you that they aren’t dead entirely. Our final cameo goes to Joe Dante in a very fitting role, it’s always good to see Dante.
Tales From Halloween doesn’t connect the stories together quite as well, say, Trick ‘r Treat does despite it taking place in one night in the same town. Some things overlap but not enough to make it really feel pulled together. And really, that’s my only major problem and it’s not even that bad. I’m really happy anthologies are making a comeback, especially ones like this and Volumes of Blood that do such a fantastic job of capturing the Halloween spirit.
But I sure as fuck wouldn’t want to live in that town.