Released Oct. 16, 2015
Rated R – 1hr 32 min
Directed by Neil Marshall, Darren Lynn Bousman, Lucky McKee, Adam Gierasch, Mike Mendez, Axelle Carolyn, Andrew Kasch, David Parker, Ryan Schifrin, John Skipp, & Paul Solet
Starring Adrienne Barbeau, Caroline Williams, Barry Bostwick, Tiffany Shepis, Alex Essoe, Lin Shaye, Pollyanna McIntosh, Dana Gould, James Duval, Cerina Vincent, Kristina Klebe, John Savage
A horror-comedy anthology of ten stories where all manners of terrors are visited upon the residents of a suburban town on Halloween night.
It really wants to be Trick ‘R Treat, but with segments, each from a different director, lasting roughly 8 minutes a piece and sometimes linked by only the thinnest of references to the other entries. They’re presented through a wrap-around segment starring genre favorite Adrienne Barbeau as a local radio DJ, playing homage to her famous role in John Carpenter’s The Fog.
Anthologies are notoriously difficult to execute. The most successful ones, such as Creepshow or the previously mentioned Trick ‘R Treat, were made by a single director. In those instances, George Romero and Michael Dougherty were able to control the pace and tone of their final products from start to finish despite the numerous shuffles of plot, characters, and setting. So, collaborative anthologies are even more challenging, yet examples like Twilight Zone: The Movie and the first 2 V/H/S films show that they can still come together in a satisfactory way.
Tales of Halloween is not one of those – it’s a hot mess. The only guidance that the directors assembled here seem to have received is ‘make a Halloween short under 10 minutes, and make it kinda funny if you want. Or not. Whatevs.’ And the result lines up accordingly. Some play it completely straight, like Adam Gierasch’s ‘Trick’ and Axelle Carolyn’s ‘Grim Grinning Ghost’. Some are just goofy as fuck, like Neil Marshall’s ‘Bad Seed’ and Darren Lynn Bousman’s ‘The Night Billy Raised Hell’. There are two silly slapstick-heavy entries back-to-back; Andrew Kasch & John Skipp’s “This Means War” and Mike Mendez’s “Friday the 31st”. Then you have, plunked right in the middle, Lucky McKee’s quirky and surreal subversion of fairy tales titled ‘Ding Dong’. While they might be cohesive enough to all exist as episodes of the same series – like Tales from the Crypt, for instance – it’s jarring to see them in rapid succession as part of the same movie, especially when the presentation tries to bundle them together as tightly as it does. It doesn’t help that most are running through their stories at a mad sprint to bring them in at the extremely truncated runtime.
Complaints aside, it’s not all bad, particularly when considering some of these microfilms individually. I found the highlights to be ‘Trick’, ‘Ding Dong’, and Ryan Schifrin’s botched-kidnapping farce ‘The Ransom of Rusty Rex’. They all excel for starkly different reasons, which only exasperates that lack of consistency I was bitching about, but when included with other solid efforts like ‘This Means War’ and Dave Parker’s urban-legend chiller ‘Sweet Tooth’, there’s an entertainment value to Tales that can certainly be appreciated. There’s also a couple noteworthy disappointments, like ‘The Night Billy Raised Hell’ and ‘Bad Seed’, which are eye-rolling or even groan-inducing in their sloppiness.
So Tales isn’t an altogether bad movie – just frustratingly uneven. You could do worse for a Halloween-themed flick during Halloween season, but it won’t hold up against the top-shelf classics, so it’s best relegated to an early October viewing. As so, when it comes to assigning it a grade, I have two options. I could judge it as a whole, where it likely fares worse, or I can give it an average of the sum of its separate parts. Since it failed to come together as a whole, I think I’ll opt for the average, which goes something like this:
- Sweet Tooth: B-
- The Night Billy Raised Hell: D
- Trick: B+
- The Weak and the Damned: C-
- Grim Grinning Ghost: C
- Ding Dong: B
- This Means War: B-
- October the 31st: C-
- The Ransom of Rusty Rex: B+
- Bad Seed: D+
That gives Tales of Halloween a