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Review: ‘Tales of Halloween’ is a first-class horror compilation (Includes first-hand account)

For horror fans, Halloween is the greatest time of year. Beyond the costumes, haunted houses and parties, the tradition of sharing scary stories to celebrate the classic holiday is paramount. One of the most entertaining interpretations of this practice is the film horror anthology. Often produced by some of the genre’s best and most renowned creators, these pictures dispense ghosts, monsters, fiends and everything in between in just the right measure. The latest and highly anticipated compilation features 10 segments and 11 directors who are collectively going under the name “The October Society.” Tales of Halloween take place in the same town on the same night and there’s way more going on than the holiday’s usual antics.

The movie begins strong with Dave Parker’s segment, “Sweet Tooth.” The disturbing tale of a repressed boy who still goes out to collect candy and serve his insatiable hunger every year is a creeptastic first entry that sets the perfect mood for the rest of the film, which continues to deliver clever, interconnected shorts. Though self-contained, all of the narratives occur in a single, interrelated world. Rather than include a framing story it’s up to audiences to recognize the links between tales, such as recurring characters and locations. One of the more interesting linkages is Adrienne Barbeau, who reprises her role as a radio DJ from The Fog and can be heard broadcasting over various radios throughout the picture.

The cameos in this picture are one of its highlights. From renowned horror directors such as Stuart Gordon, Joe Dante, John Landis and Adam Green to well-known genre actors, including Lin Shaye, Barbara Crampton, Barry Bostwick, James Duval and Noah Segan. Even the directors of this film’s shorts appear in each other’s tales with all but one of the filmmakers uniting for a single scene in Neil Marshall’s segment. The size of their contributions vary, but each appearance is a treat in itself. After watching the movie, one could spend hours on IMDB tracing the history of the majority of actors listed. And behind-the-scenes, acclaimed film composer Lalo Schifrin provided the score for the shorts.

A scene from Darren Lynn Bousman's “The Night Billy Raised Hell” in the horror anthology  Tale...

A scene from Darren Lynn Bousman’s “The Night Billy Raised Hell” in the horror anthology ‘Tales of Halloween’
Epic Pictures

Axelle Carolyn’s “Grim Grinning Ghost” about a legend crossing paths with a scaredy cat is good for a quick fright. Both Darren Lynn Bousman’s “The Night Billy Raised Hell” and Adam Gierasch’s “Trick” lead to entertaining twists involving a vengeful devil and nasty pranks respectively, while Ryan Schifrin’s “The Ransom of Rusty Rex” begins with a surprise that just keeps on giving. Mike Mendez’s “Friday the 31st” and Marshall’s “Bad Seed” feature fun practical effects. The former contains a small stop-motion alien that takes on a serial killer and is brought to life by a Robot Chicken animator, and the latter centres on a man-eating pumpkin hunted by a detective (Kristina Klebe). Andrew Kasch and John Skipp’s “This Means War” is an extreme contest of Halloween decorations; Paul Solet’s “The Weak and the Wicked” has an unexpected but satisfactory Western influence; and Lucky McKee’s “Ding Dong” is a strange look at a couple trapped in an abusive relationship.

In spite of being written and directed by numerous people, their efforts to create a continuity between the stories is evident in its seamless flow. The result is an excellent, unified collection of horror shorts that’s easy to recommend and definitely worth repeat viewing. Unfortunately it only had one sold out screening at the Fantasia International Film Festival, but the world premiere is definitely just the beginning for this picture.

Directors: Darren Lynn Bousman, Axelle Carolyn, Adam Gierasch, Andrew Kasch, Neil Marshall, Lucky McKee, Mike Mendez, Dave Parker, Ryan Schifrin, John Skipp and Paul Solet

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Sarah Gopaul is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for film news, a member of the Online Film Critics Society and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer-approved critic.

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