"Tales of Halloween" follows the mold of those classic horror anthology movies, much like another movie I recently reviewed, "Creepshow", and a multitude of other films, some of which I will probably revisit very soon. What's a little different and unique about this one is it's actually 10 different stories, whereas most anthology films contain about 4 or 5, which each being directed by the best of the newer generation of horror directors. I'd heard about this movie for quite a while, and sadly missed out on a screening at HorrorHound Weekend last month. Thankfully, it's now available on video on demand, and whatever you do, WATCH THIS MOVIE!
I'll structure this review like I did my "Creepshow" review, and give a blurb about each story. Since each story is only about 8-10 minutes long, I'm not going to give them a score individually, as this really needs to be watched in it's entirety. Spoiler alert: I f'ing LOVED this movie! It's so fun, has such humor and gore and not really one weak story in the bunch. The movie features the wonderful Adrienne Barbeau as a radio DJ on Halloween night in a small town. The 10 tales all take place in this little town, and surprisingly have lots of connections amongst one another. Here's a rundown:
1. 'Sweet Tooth' - I knew I was in for a treat when the main kid in the opener is dressed up as Snake Plissken for Halloween. He's sitting in his living room, gorging himself on his riches of candy, while his babysitter and her boyfriend begin to tell him a local Halloween legend to try to scare the shit out of him. They tell him the story of 'Sweet Tooth', a boy from years ago who loved trick or treating, but had super strict parents, and at the end of the night, would never let him have a single piece of his candy. After wondering what they did with the candy, he snuck downstairs one night to find them eating all the candy themselves. He murders them, eats every piece of candy, possibly even that that's already been eaten! So years later, he comes back every Halloween to take all the candy. I won't spoil what happens. But it's bloody.
2. 'The Night Billy Raised Hell' - This was probably my favorite, but oddly enough, because it was unbelievably hilarious. We're introduced to Billy, a little boy in a devil costume that his older sister and her guy friend are taking trick or treating. They're honestly being mean to him, making fun of him, etc. The come up on a house that the teens explain is inhabited by an old man, and then tell him he's gotta egg it. He goes up to the front door, where the old man steps out and pulls him in the house. The old man is apparently Satan himself. He tells Billy that he's going to show him the true meaning of a Halloween trick. We then see this amazing montage of Billy and the Devil going through the neighborhood, wreaking more and more havoc throughout the night, ranging from setting decorations on fire to robbing convenience stores, to just shooting people to take their candy. It was just so awesome and funny, as the things they do go from bad to worse, but in a lighthearted manner (kind of). At the end of the night, maybe Billy is the one that ends up getting tricked.
3. 'Trick' - Probably one of my least favorite stories, but still very good. We have a group of grown-ups, sitting at home, drinking, getting stoned, taking turns handing out candy to the kids at the door. One little girl shows up dressed as a witch, and after some prodding, just says "trick!" and starts rapidly stabbing the guy in the stomach. From this moment, a group a kids invade the property, just mobbing and killing this group of adults in some surprisingly brutal fashion, including being burned alive via a hairspray and lighter flame, then has rat poison shoved in his mouth and taped shut. The last surviving woman in the house manages to hide out in the garage, which has been converted to something like a medical laboratory. There is a little girl tied down to the table, who has had her eyeball removed. Thanks to pics on a cell phone, we see that this group of adults had been maiming and torturing kids. These kids have come to rescue the little girl, in hopes of exacting revenge, as well.
4. 'The Weak and the Wicked' - This one has a total Western feel, which is totally unique and different and great. We see a nerdy kid in an alley eating some candy, when a group of punks grab him and are fixing to do some bad things to him, when the gang leader notices someone standing at the end of the alley. They let the kid go and traverse down the alley to confront this stranger, only to find this guy dressed in this weird garb. He hands the leader a piece of paper that has a drawing of his demon-type character, and says he is the one to help the weak by defeating the wicked. This kid is easily scared off, where we have a long chase sequence featuring lots of parkour, POV's, riding bikes really fast, lots of kinetic action. When they finally chase him down, we see a bit of the backstory. We learn that a few years ago, this gang actually burned down a camper that had this boys family in it. By wearing this costume, he has summoned the Demon of All Hallow's Eve, who quickly takes care of these punks.
5. 'Grim Grinning Ghost' - This one made me smile from the beginning because it's filled to the brim with cameos. We see a group of people in a house, all dressed up, and none other than Lin Shaye (Insidious) begins telling the legend of a spirit of a woman who was made fun of because of a physical deformity, and she now takes revenge. She warns that if you hear cackling or steps behind you, do not look behind you. Her daughter, played by Alex Essoe (Starry Eyes), who I think is the bee's knees, leaves the party and ends up having car trouble. During her walk home, she's super creeped out by everything, and I think we can all remember a time when we've walked home alone at night and been terrified by the smallest things. Is something really following her on her walk home? We shall see. Some great red herrings and jump scares in this one.
6. 'Ding Dong' - Definitely the outright strangest one, but no less entertaining. We're introduced to a couple sitting at their house last year on Halloween, and the wife is staring out the window at all the kids trick or treating, just sobbing and beside herself because she wants a child herself. After a failed attempt at appeasement by her husband and him dressing up their dog, she suddenly physically transforms monstrously, and knocks him out. Cut to Halloween this year, she's dressed as a witch, he's dressed as Hansel (from the fairy tale). They hand out candy, where she is just obsessed with these children. We see one little boy show up who's apparently lost, and the thought crosses her mind to take him as her own. But his mom shows up. After the night is over, in her anger and frustration, she continues this sporadic transformation, which I can't really even explain. She fires up the oven to bake some cookies, and he informs her that he can't take anymore of this, and that he had the doctor fix it where he can't give her a child, for fear she would treat it like she treats him. Hmm. He's dressed as Hansel, and she just turned on the oven...
7. 'This Means War' - One that started out very lighthearted but became something else, we see a man who is decorating his house and yard for Halloween. This is one of those guys that just goes ALL out. All of a sudden, a truck pulls up to the house across the street and the couple that live there begin to do their own decorations. It then becomes a competition between the two to outdo the other, with this couple far outdoing the one guy. I mean, they turn their front yard into something amazing. That night, as they're playing their music too loud, he walks across the street to ask them to turn it down. They refuse, and he explains to them that he's been doing this for 20 years and it's his gig. He begins trashing their set up, and the husband then goes and starts trashing the other guys. They then try to outdo the other on the destruction, until they start physically fighting, and it's just a lot of great fun. I think they end up with the ultimate Halloween decoration in the end.
8. 'Friday the 31st' - The set up is an obvious ripoff of any other slasher, with a masked killer chasing the super attractive female in the woods. She runs into a shed (naturally), where she sees the gory remnants of his victims, people she knows apparently. After a bit of a tussle with him, she escapes and runs off, only to have him throw a spear and kill her. What happens next was just so out of left field. After he kills her, a UFO shows up above them and beams a light down, and a little bitty animated alien shows up, saying "twick uw tweet!" repeatedly. It's hilarious because our killer, who is a cross between Jason and a mutant out of 'The Hills Have Eyes', even though he doesn't talk, tries telling the little alien that he doesn't have any candy. After getting tired of hearing the alien beg for candy, he steps on the alien, squashing him. When he walks off, the alien turns into a substance and goes into the dead woman's mouth, which brings her back to life as this part zombie, part alien woman. The tables are totally turned, as she turns into the psycho killer, chasing down the monster who killed her. Once they end up in the shed, they have a huge battle, tit-for-tat, hacking and slashing at each other.
9. 'The Ransom of Rusty Rex' - Another one with a twisted sense of humor, we see a couple of men sitting in a van, outside of a really nice house, where a millionaire's little boy has just left to go trick or treating. The two men talk about their plan to kidnap the kid for a ransom, they'll call his dad, get the money, let him go, easy money. They follow the kid around, eventually bagging him up and taking him to their hideout. One of the men calls the boy's dad, who actually hangs up on him. After calling him back, the dad explains that they've made a mistake and they're going to regret taking him, he's not worried. After the boy's mask is taken off, we see he's this little devil monster kid, who just begins terrorising the two captors. After they've had enough of his torture, they call the dad and plead with him to please take this kid back. He explains to them that it's not his son, he showed up 5 years ago and wouldn't leave them alone. He's elated because he's now gotten rid of him! Let's just say these 2 kidnappers can't get rid of him so easily.
10. 'Bad Seed' - Our final story is about a killer pumpkin. We see a couple getting ready for a party, and the husband has carved a pumpkin, creating his masterpiece. His wife gets ready, only to find this pumpkin has come to life and killed her husband and escaped. The pumpkin grows, and sprouts these roots that it uses to scoot around, all done practically, and is just genius. The cops come to investigate, and it's played straight up like an episode of 'Law and Order'. The sketch artist completes a sketch of the suspect, a pumpkin, forensics completes a mould of the bite mark, etc. After the detective finally tracks the pumpkin down, it leads her on a chase, where she finally blows it away with a shotgun. But she notices a label on a piece of the pumpkin, that leads her to this factory, where she has this researcher show her how they grow these pumpkins. Our story ends when they arrive to the warehouse, and see these pumpkins for as far as the eye can see. I do like this one and how it's played straight, but I do think this was a weaker one to end on.
My only complaint about the entire thing is that some of them were played more for the humor, rather than being scary, which is fine, but I'd say the majority was based on humor. Maybe not even a complaint as much as a preference. It's very rare when you find an anthology where you genuinely like every single story. I loved every performance, every actor, and even about 95% of the special effects. There were a couple of questionable effects shots of things like CGI flames or blood, but very minimal. That's something else that I was pleasantly surprised by was the amount of gore. There was LOTS. So many times in the horror genre, there are ideas that are great, but aren't necessarily enough to fill an entire film, and it totally worked in this movie. Each story was lean and trim and fast paced, no real filler material. I truly, truly hope this is the start of a yearly tradition. Please support this and watch it!! I rented it on Vudu for $4 bucks and am certainly going to buy it when it comes out.
'Tales of Halloween' gets 9 Carpenter Bars out of 10!
Here is the original trailer: