'Tales of Halloween': Film Review

Tales of Halloween Poster - P 2015
Courtesy of Epic Pictures

Despite an abundance of genre pleasures, this Halloween offering is more trick than treat

This horror anthology offers 10 short films by such notable directors as Darren Lynn Bousman, Neil Marshall and Adam Gierasch.

There's no denying that the new anthology film Tales of Halloween has serious horror geek credentials. This omnibus of 10 short films features a who's who of genre talents, with entries directed by the likes of Darren Lynn Bousman (the Saw series), Mike Mendez (Big Ass Spider!), Adam Gierasch (Night of the Demons) and Neil Marshall (The Descent). Add to that appearances by the likes of Barry Bostwick, Lin Shaye, John Landis, Caroline Williams, John Savage, Greg Grunberg, Barbara Crampton and even Adrienne Barbeau, essentially reprising her radio DJ role from John Carpenter's The Fog, and you've got enough treats to satisfy the most voracious horror fan.

It's too bad, then, that this low-budget genre exercise arriving in theaters and on VOD in time for the titular holiday is such a mixed bag. The pros include its fast pace, cramming in 10 episodes into just 90 minutes, ensuring that even the more mediocre entries don't wear out their welcome; an enjoyable infusion of humor, albeit of the dark and twisted variety; the nifty animated opening credits sequence, accompanied by music composed by no less a screen legend than Lalo Schifrin (that his son Ryan directed one of the efforts no doubt accounts for his participation); and, as previously mentioned, the profusion of familiar faces.

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The cons include a lack of genuine scares; the narrative sketchiness of the entries, which often fail to live up to their provocative premises; and the overall lack of punch from the entire enterprise. Here, the whole seems less than the sum of its parts.  

There are certainly some highlights. Dave Parker's Sweet Tooth delivers a gory variation on the theme of the little boy who will do whatever it takes to get his fill of candy. Bousman's The Night Billy Raised Hell is an entertaining tale of a young boy who goes on an ultra-violent trick- or-treating rampage with a devil-like figure (Bostwick, in a hilarious turn), with a neat twist at the end. Gierasch's Trick is a nightmarish vision of adults besieged by homicidal trick-or-treaters who turn out to have a powerful motivation; and Schifrin's The Ransom of Rusty Rex delivers a clever variation on an O. Henry tale with its story of two kidnappers whose young victim (the late Ben Woolf, American Horror Story) turns out to be much more than they bargained for.

The other entries generally prove mediocre, including Friday the 31st, a slasher movie spoof with an extraterrestrial twist; Bad Seed, featuring killer pumpkins; and This Mean War, about the violence that breaks out between two very different Halloween celebrants.

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Still, while it pales in comparison to such horror anthology predecessors as Tales from the Crypt, Asylum and Creepshow, Tales of Halloween offers enough minor diversions to make it enjoyable late-night viewing, preferably at home with plenty of beer, snacks and like-minded friends.

Production: Epic Pictures Group
Cast: Pat Healy, Barry Bostwick Booboo Stewart, Clare Kramer, Alex Essoe, Lin Shaye, Grace Phipps, Kristina Klebe, John Savage, Keir Gilchrist, Sam Witwer, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Graham Skipper, Adrienne Barbeau
Directors: David Parker, Darren Lynn Bousman, Adam Gierasch, Axelle Carolyn, Lucky McKee, Paul Solet, John Skipp, Andrew Kasch, Mike Mendez, Ryan Schifrin, Neil Marshall
Screenwriters: David Parker, Clint Sears, Axelle Carolyn, Lucky McKee, Molly Millions, John Skipp, Andrew Kasch, Mike Mendez, Ryan Schifrin, Neil Marshall,
Producers: Patrick Ewald, Shaked Berenson, Axelle Carolyn, Mike Mendez
Executive producers: Patrick Ewald, Shaked Berenson
Directors of photography: David Tayar, Joseph White, Scott Winig, Jan-Michael Losada, Alex Vendler, Zoran Popovic, Richard Vialet
Production designers: Jennifer Spence, Krista Gall
Editors: David Parker, Sean Tretta, Zach Passero, Vanessa McKee, Josh Ethier, Eddie Oswald
Costume designers: Julia Chase, Susan Doepner-Senac, Sean Spillane, Rachel Apatoff, Kea Konneker
Composers: Lalo Schifrin, Christopher Drake, Bobby Johnston, Joseph Bishara, Christian Henson, Austin Wintory, Michael Sean Colin, Edwin Wendler, Chris Drake

Rated R, 90 minutes