Tales of Halloween (2015) is the best Halloween-themed horror anthology film since Trick ‘r Treat (2007), and one the best of the recent upsurge in horror anthology films that started with V/H/S (2012) and The ABCs of Death (2012). A few months ago, I started a post on anthology horror films after watching another really good one called Fun Size Horror: Volume One (2015). I wanted to included those three films I just mentioned as well as V/H/S2 (2013), Hi-8 (2013), ABCs of Death 2 (2014), and V/H/S: Viral (2014). I’ll probably finish up that post after watching the upcoming Southbound (2015) and XX (2015). The latter film features segments directed by female filmmakers and starring female leads. The title refers to female chromosomes – get it? I’m very eXXcited for that film! Anyway …
Ten stories are woven together by their shared theme of Halloween night in an American suburb, where ghouls, imps, aliens and axe murderers appear for one night only to terrorize unsuspecting residents.
Tales of Halloween, created by Axelle Carolyn [a filmmaker who also happens to be female!], consists of 10 segments directed by 11 filmmakers. The segments are all set in the same town on one Halloween night, and are connected by the ramblings of a radio DJ played by the lovely Adrienne Barbeau [who played a radio DJ in John Carpenter’s The Fog (1980)]. Most of the segments are amusing, some are spooky, and a few are dark and horrifying! Oh, and almost all of them deliver buckets of blood and gore!
Tales of Halloween, if nothing more, is awesome Halloween fun! Sadly, I watched this film one week after Halloween night but, next year, I’ll watch a double feature of Tales of Halloween and Trick ‘r Treat on Halloween night! And, even though it’s not an anthology horror film, I’ll throw in John Carpenter’s original Halloween (1978), too! I mean Halloween is only, like, one of my favorite horror films of all time! Next year will be a scary good time! This year, I took my daughter Gaby and her friend Maddie trick-or-treating around the neighborhood, and we stumbled upon an awesome house where all the famous horror movie villains were taunting the passers-by! Michael Myers (from Halloween), Jason Voorhees (from Friday the 13th), and Freddy Krueger (from A Nightmare on Elm Street) were there! Jigsaw (from Saw) was riding on a tricycle, Sadako (from The Ring) crawled out of a TV set on the front lawn, and Leatherface (from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) chased trick-or-treaters around with a fake but noisy chainsaw! And, the crowds that swarmed around that suburban home from 6 PM to 8 PM appreciated every bit of those ameteur frights! Anyway …
Where was I? Oh, right – Tales of Halloween! OK, here’s my ranking of the the film’s ten segments from best to, well, least best (because, like in Trick ‘r Treat, none of them suck) …
(1) “Bad Seed” – Written and directed by Neil Marshall. Starring Kristina Klebe (McNAlly), Forensic Bob (Pat Healy), Greg McLean (Ray Bishop), Cerina Vincent (Ellen Bishop), Captain Zimmerman (John Savage), with Joe Dante (Prof. Milo Gottlieb). “A detective tries to put a stop to a genetically-engineered man-eating pumpkin that’s terrorizing the town.”
“Bad Seed” feels more like an extended clip from a full-length horror movie than a short film! I love when the pumpkin, after eating Ray Bishop’s head, sprouts tendrils and scurries off to Ellen Bishop’s horror in an obvious homage to John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982). I love the ending twist, too, which hints at something much more! I would watch the hell out of a full-length version of this segment! “Bad Seed”, as it is, would be perfect as a double feature with Jason Eisener‘s gory Christmas horror short Treevenge (2008) in which Christmas trees rise up and exact their revenge! No – those two films would be perfect as a triple feature with Jordan Downey’s Thanksgiving horror/comedy ThanksKilling (2009) in which an evil turkey is resurrected every 500 years to take revenge on the ancestors of the white men who dishonored a Native American back in pilgrim times!
Det. McNally is a wonderfully real character who is thrown up against a wonderfully unreal foe! She’s afraid but also pretty bad-ass! Kristina Klebe, who plays McNally, played Eva Braun in director Adam Green’s segment (“The Diary of Anne Frankenstein”) in the horror anthology film Chillerama (2011). She will be featured next in the upcoming Christmas horror comedy Slay Belles directed by SpookyDan Walker. Watch the Indiegogo campaign video with a teaser trailer (here). Adam Green, by the way, cameos as cop Carlo in “Bad Seed”. He is best known for his slasher trilogy: Hatchet (2006), Hatchet II (2010), Hatchet III (2013). Cerina Vincent, who plays Ellen Bishop, previously starred as Marcy in Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever (2002) and as Alison in the effective horror short SKYPEMARE (2013), as well as many other films. John Savage, who plays Captain Zimerman, is a movie/TV veteran as is Joe Dante, who plays Prof. Milo Gottlieb. Dante has directed films such as Piranha (1978), The Howling (1981), Gremlins (1984), and more!
Writer/director Neil Marshall previously wrote and directed the one of the best werewolf films ever Dog Soldiers (2002), as well as the claustrophobic horror film The Descent (2005) and the post-apocalyptic sci-fi film Doomsday (2008)! I didn’t like Doomsday much but I own the DVD simply because star Rhona Mitra is a bad-ass beauty in that film! I loved The Descent but, truth be told, I liked the sequel The Descent Part 2 (2009), which Marshall executive produced, a little better! The original was tense, while the sequel was action-packed; but Natalie Mendoza was awesome in both!
Neil Marshall, by the way, is married to Tales of Halloween creator Axelle Carolyn. She is also an actress and has appeared in several of Marshall’s films.
Best line in this segment: “Nice work, Rembrandt.”
(2) “Trick” – Directed by Adam Gierasch. Written by Greg Commons. Starring John F. Beach (James), Tiffany Shepis (Maria), Casey Elizabeth Ruggieri (Catlyn), Trent Haaga (Nelson), Marnie MckEndry (Princess), Rebekah MckEndry (Mother), Mia Page (Girl – Witch), Clayton Keller (Alien), Kennedy Fuselier (“Gypsy” AKA “Cinderella”), Sage Stewart (Devil), Bianca Miller (Little Girl). “A group of friends are terrorized by vigilante trick-or-treaters.”
“Trick” is the darkest of all the segments in Tales of Halloween. It’s very creepy and disturbing. The original one-line synopsis I took from Wikipedia spoiled the twist, so I left it out. “Trick” should be viewed without knowing the twist. I love the scene where devil girl (Sage Stewart) pauses at Nelson’s body to eat a piece of candy from the floor then gently sets the wrapper on his chest! Sage Stewart, by the way, is the little sister of Booboo Stewart who is featured in the next segment in my ranking. Tiffany Shepis, who plays Maria, is a popular scream queen who has starred or been featured in many,many B-horror films including the 2009 remake of Night of the Demons which was directed and co-written [with his wife Jace Anderson] by “Trick” director Adam Gierasch.
Best line in the entire film: “Happy Halloween, you fucking sicko!”
(3) “The Weak and the Wicked” – Directed by Paul Solet. Written by Molly Millions. Starring Keir Gilchrist (The Stranger), Grace Phipps (Alice), Booboo Stewart (Isaac), Noah Segan (Bart), Jack Dylan Grazer (Young Stranger), Katie Silverman (Young Alice), Matt Merchant (The Demon). “A young man summons a demon to exact vengeance on 3 bullies who burned down his home along with his parents in it.”
“The Weak and the Wicked” is like a modern horror film mixed with a spaghetti western! Paul Solet’s unique vision is very cool and I’d love to see more of it! Grace Phipps is excellent as sadistic Alice in this segment! I love when she, Isaac and Bart “mount up” on their BMX bikes by her order! I watched Tales of Halloween because I was so taken with former Disney star Phipps as a wayward cheerleader in the slasher film Some Kind of Hate (2015), and I was not disappointed in her segment or the rest of this film! Oh, and I love the the final shot of Alice’s blood splattering on The Stranger’s face following by a satisfied grin!
Paul Solet also directed Grace Phipps and Keir Gilchrist in the horror thriller Dark Summer (2015). I’m guessing the two projects were filmed simultaneously. Dark Summer also stars Maestro Harrell who starred with Grace Phipps and Noah Segan in Some Kind of Hate. I’ll have to watch that film next!
Best line in this segment: “There are no monsters here. Just me.”
(4) “Sweet Tooth” – Written and directed by Dave Parker. Starring Hunter Smit (Sweet Tooth), Cameron Eastman (Timothy Blake), Caroline Williams (Mrs. Blake), Robert Rusler (Mr. Blake), Clare Cramer (Lt. Brandt-Mathis), Greg Grunberg (Alex Mathis), Daniel DiMaggio (Mikey), Austin Falk (Kyle), Madison Iseman (Lizzy). “A teenage babysitter and her boyfriend pay the price for eating all of her charge’s candy.”
“Sweet Tooth” sets up a cautionary tale about eating too much candy on Halloween night in which a boy murders his parents because they saved all his Halloween candy for themselves. “Now every Halloween, every single Halloween since, his evil spirit comes back trick-or-treating. If you don’t share your candy with him, he will come and take it, even the candy you’ve already eaten. Anything to satisfy his sweet tooth,” Kyle tells Mikey. Kyle and Lizzy, of course, learn the hard way that there’s always some truth in scary stories. Sweet Tooth is a very creepy monster. Lizzy, on the other hand, is so adorably sexy! Oh, how I wish my babysitter Vicki dressed like Lizzy when I was under her care!
Greg Grunberg [Felicity, Lost, Heroes] and Clare Cramer starred in Mike Mendez’s sci-fi/horror film Big Ass Spider! (2013). Grunberg played exterminator Alex Mathis, while Cramer played Lt. Karly Brandt. Now, Alex and Lt. Brandt are married – with dead babysitters. Mike Mendez, of course, is a producer of Tales of Halloween. He also directed the next segment in my ranking, as well as the awesome horror film The Convent (2000).
(5) “Friday the 31st” – Directed by Mike Mendez. Written by Mike Mendez and David Parker. Starring Amanda Moyer (Dorothy), Jennifer Wenger (Possessed Dorothy), Nick Principe (Killer). “A deformed serial killer meets his match when a trick-or-treating extraterrestrial gets upset when he doesn’t have any candy.”
“Friday the 31st” is like Friday the 13th meets The Evil Dead – with aliens! This segment is the bloodiest of Tales of Halloween! Possessed Dorothy and the Jason-like killer fight with machetes, cleavers and chainsaws. They sever limbs, cut bodies in half and, in the end, decapitate each other – showering the barn in arterial-sprayed blood! My only gripe with “Friday the 31st” is with the tiny, cutesy alien. I would’ve have liked this even more if it was Friday the 13th meets The Evil Dead – with demons!
Mike Mendez. The Convent (2000). Big Ass Spider! (2013).
(6) “Grim Grinning Ghost” – Written and directed by Axelle Carolyn. Starring Alex Essoe (Lynn), Lin Shaye (Lynn’s mother), V Nixie/Liesel Hanson (Mary Bailey). “A young woman is stalked by a malevolent spirit.”
“Grim Grinning Ghost” is the most effectively scary segment in Tales of Halloween. Don’t watch it at night, alone. However, the jump-scare employed here has been used quite often in horror films but it works – even if you’re expecting it. Check out the short horror films of Swedish filmmaker David F. Sandberg (here) for similar jump-scares. The difference in “Grim Grinning Ghost” is that Axelle Carolyn offers a creepy ghost backstory. “If you find yourself alone on the way back, and you hear an evil cackle and footsteps behind you, I wouldn’t turn around because if she finds you looking, when you least expect it, she’s gonna take your eyes,” Lynn’s mother tells her party guests. The story sets the mood for Lynn’s walk home where dread is felt through spooky imagery and by building tension, not a quick jump-scare.
Alex Esso starred in the horror film Starry Eyes (2014) in which she played a hopeful young starlet who makes a deal with the Devil. The film also starred Noah Segan, Natalie Castillo, Pat Healy and Marc Senter who are all featured in segments of Tales of Halloween. Lin Shaye starred as Elise Reiner in Insidious (2011), Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013) and Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015), and as Mrs. Jefferson in Mike Mendez’s Big Ass Spider! (2013). This segment also features cameos by directors Stuart Gordon [Re-Animator (1985)] and Mick Garris and actresses Barbara Crampton [Re-Animator (1985)] and Lisa Marie as Lynn’s mother’s party guests.
(7) “Ding Dong” – Written and directed by Lucky McKee. Starring Marc Senter (Jack), Pollyanna McIntosh (Bobbie) and Lilly Von Woodenshoe (Gretel). “A man learns that his wife is a child hungry witch and tries to put a stop to her.”
“Ding Dong” works mostly because of Pollyanna McIntosh’s spirited performance as Bobbie! I recently watched her in The Blood Lands (2014). I didn’t like the movie much but I loved her in it! I also loved her as the feral woman in Lucky McKee’s disturbing The Woman (2011), based on Jack Ketchum’s novel of the same name. Must watch McIntosh next in Let Us Prey (2014)! Lucky McKee with Chris Sivertson co-wrote and co-directed All Cheerleaders Die (2013), a remake of their own 2001 film of the same name. I liked the 2013 movie. Didn’t love it, but I liked it.
The vigilante kids from “Trick” [#2] and Rusty Rex from “The Ransom of Rusty Rex” [#10] trick-or-treat at Jack and Bobbie’s door in “Ding Dong”. Oh, and I love the witch make-up – with those extra arms and all!
(8) “The Night Billy Raised Hell” – Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman. Written by Clint Sears. Starring Barry Bostwick (Mr. Abbadon), Marcus Eckert (Billy), Christophe Zajac-Denek (Mordecai/The Little Devil), Ben Stillwell (Todd), Natalie Castillo (Britney). “A young boy is about to egg an old man’s house. The man turns out to be the devil himself and teaches the young boy a lesson.”
I love the twist in “The Night Billy Raised Hell” and Barry Bostwick makes a great devil! The twist, however, isn’t that Bostwick is the Devil. Bostwick will star with Kristina Klebe (“Bad Seed”) in the upcoming Slay Belles. Speaking of the Devil, Natalie Castillo was featured in the horror film Starry Eyes (2014) with Alex Essoe, Noah Segan, Pat Healy and Marc Senter. Model/Peter Brady’s ex Adrianne Curry makes a cameo appearance in “The Night Billy Raised Hell” as herself. Darren Lynn Bousman directed Saw II-IV (2005-07).
(9) “This Means War” – Written and directed by John Skipp and Andrew Kasch. Starring Dana Gould (Boris) and James Duval (Dante). “A man battles his new neighbor to the death for the best Halloween decorations on the block.”
Elissa Dowling, who plays Dante’s girlfriend Velma, is quite sexy! Oh, and director Adam Green makes another cameo appearance as a cop, presumably Carlo. Well, actually, it’s the first appearance if you watch the segments in order.
(10) “The Ransom of Rusty Rex” – Written and directed by Ryan Schifrin. Starring Sam Witwer (Hank), Jose Pablo Cantilllo (Dutch), Ben Woolf (Rusty Rex), John Landis (Jebediah Rex). “Two bank robbers kidnap a wealthy man’s son only to discover that the child is a deformed creature that doesn’t ever want to leave anyone’s side.”
Sam Witwer played vampire Aidan Waite in the North American remake (2011-14) of the British TV series Being Human in which a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost [played by lovely Meaghan Rath] all live together. I loved that show! John Landis, of course, is filmmaker John Landis who directed films like National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978), The Blues Brothers (1980), An American Werewolf in London (1981), and many more.
David Naughton starred in An American Werewolf in London as well as a whole bunch of commercials for soft drink Dr. Pepper. I knew a girl once who was the actor’s cousin. She was my age. We were 19, at the time, I think. The girl’s mother was my mother’s friend. My mother, her friend, the daughter and her boyfriend, and I all hung out at my mother’s house one night that ended with my mother’s friend, on the floor, chanting in some archaic language. It was very weird. I think she was, in fact, some kind of witch or something. I don’t remember my mother’s friend’s name or her daughter’s name, but her daughter was such a sweet and lovely girl. I wonder where she is now? Anyway …
Watch the trailer here …
“Bad Seed” is my favorite segment, but it’s actually the last segment in Tales of Halloween and, as such, it makes references to all of the other segments. “We’ve got hysterical blindness, we got neighbors attacking neighbors, kids looting convenience stores. There’s even a fucking report of a UFO,” Captain Zimmerman tells Detective McNally. He’s referring to “Grim Grinning Ghost”, “This Means War”, “The Night Billy Raised Hell”, and “Friday the 31st”. Then, McNally asks cops Hellman (Graham Skipper) and Carlo (Adam Green) about their filthy hands. “Some crazy kid ate a shitload of chocolate,” Hellman tells her. “Yeah, and then he ate his babysitter,” Carlo adds. I love that! They’re referring, of course, to “Sweet Tooth”. There’s more references throughout the entire film, so pay attention!
Stick around for the closing credits over which you’ll hear the title song by “ultra-horrific raw-kill-billy!!!” band Psycho Charger. The film’s main theme was composed by Lalo Schifrin who is best known for his iconic “Theme from Mission: Impossible”. He is also the father of Ryan Schifrin, who wrote and directed “The Ransom of Rusty Rex”.
OK, that’s it! No, wait – I also love the film’s title sequence which was created by Ashley Thorpe!