Ten Halloween tales all centered in a small town tied together by a radio DJ (Adrienne Barbeau) working the Halloween shift.
An anthology film, Tales of Halloween is the the closest a film has come to taking the mantle of best Halloween feature from the reigning champion, Trick ‘r Treat. While it doesn’t succeed, it comes damned close and is an extremely enjoyable film that will be required viewing for Halloween seasons to come. With ten segments directed by eleven directors, there is not a bad short here. While some are much better than others, every one is intriguing and and well thought out and perfectly captures a different aspect of the Halloween and trick or treating season. This is a film that had me grinning with ghoulish delight.
All ten of the stories are fairly standalone, with the exception of some of the actors appearing in other segments, namely the trick or treating children. It is not a strict narrative like Trick ‘r Treat is, so this town has a lot of shit happen to it. In the final segment, Bad Seed, directed by Neil Marshall (The Descent, Doomsday), the police chief does make mention of a kid killing his babysitter and boyfriend for eating his candy. That is segment one, Sweet Tooth. The final segment is really the one that ties all of what we had seen before together and makes you realize this is all taking place in the same town. Other than the radio DJ, played in a cameo by Adrienne Barbeau, who some of you may recall was a DJ in John Carpenter’s The Fog, there isn’t a lot tying these films together, other than their obvious love of Halloween.
This film runs the gamut in the stories it tells. There are a couple of urban legend shorts, a Friday the 13th homage (with aliens), a murderous pumpkin created by a greedy corporation, a decidedly intriguing Hansel and Gretel retelling, the devil wreaking havoc, a couple of guys who create awesome lawn displays fighting, and more. Seriously, this film has almost everything I could think of related to Halloween thrown in there. Like I said, though, they aren’t all winners, even though none are outright terrible like in ABC’s of Death, which had more than a few segments that were flat out awful.
The one segment I do want to call out for being a little weak is the intriguing Hansel and Gretel short. While I loved the concept, which is the witch trying to get pregnant by Hansel (who is grown up and married to her), it was a little too vague. I questioned whether I was watching Hansel and the witch or just an abused husband who visualized the witchery in his mind. It was a little too vague and I spent more time questioning the segment as I watched it than enjoying it. This is the one segment that I think was hindered by it’s shorter runtime. Is it a bad segment? Not at all. It was just too artsy for a film of this nature, I feel.
While most of the shorts are good to great, I think one of my favorites was the Friday the 13th homage. It lovingly pays tribute to that film then goes off the rails in a completely unexpected and hilarious direction. Yes, it involves claymation aliens trick or treating. No, I am not making that up. It just has to be seen to be believed. I was laughing something fierce in that segment and it is one of them that I can’t wait for the Blu-Ray for, so that I can bounce to that chapter and watch it over and over again. It is fabulous. And funny. And gory.
Tales of Halloween is the second best Halloween anthology, right behind Trick ‘r Treat. It comes close to usurping the throne, but doesn’t quite manage it. It is a valiant effort though, and I feel this film will be a success and we will see more in this series. At least I hope we do, as long as they can pull good directors who have great ideas for the next ten shorts. If you are a fan of the Halloween season, this film is for you. I highly recommend it.
Tales of Halloween is currently playing in select theaters and is available on VOD.
***1/2 out of ****
NOTE: Watch for cameos from Joe Dante, Drew Struzan, and John Landis. Struzan’s cameo is particularly funny, especially of you know who he is.