Published Oct 22, 2015Horror anthology films are kinda like pizza — even a bad piece still has its good moments. The recent resurgence of anthology films — the ABCs of Death series, V/H/S, etc. — have seen a new tide of promising genre filmmakers flexing their imaginations using limited budgets and slimmer runtimes. Tales of Halloween promised to be a solid entry in this canon; with an impressive roster of directors (including The Descent's Neil Marshall and The Woman's Lucky McKee) and horror hero cameos (including John Landis and Joe Dante), how could it lose? Sadly, Tales is the rare exception to the pizza analogy; from beginning to end, it's pretty much a stinker.
Tales' conceit is that it features ten stories all set in the same milquetoast suburban town on the most diabolical night of the year. Here, various characters confront prepubescent psychos, sentient pumpkins, urban legend ghosties and child-hungry witches. There are plenty of horror nods — Night of the Living Dead seems to be running on virtually every TV screen, and in addition to the aforementioned cameos, Adrienne Barbeau plays the wraparound narrator in an obvious hat-tip to Tales' far superior predecessor, Creepshow — but most of the stories are played for laughs rather than scares.
That would be fine, except all the jokes are leaden: "The Night Billy Raised Hell," directed by Darren Lynn Bousman of the Saw franchise, sees a young boy lurch around with the Devil — a plasticized Barry Bostwick — who plays off their hijinks with a lecherous "nyuk-nyuk, yay boobies!" sensibility that feels flabby and dated as hell.
The entire movie is hacky. Each segment uses the same garish colour palette, most characters are incredibly underwritten and obnoxious, and the "gotcha!" moments in each story feel rote and unoriginal. I get that the filmmakers are trying to pay tribute to the great anthologies of yore, but it sadly happens at the sacrifice of their own unique sensibilities. The segment that fares best in this turd pile is "Sweet Tooth," directed by Dave Parker, where a kid gets revenge after his babysitters covertly eat all of his Halloween candy.
As someone whose younger siblings frequently pillaged their trick or treating booty, I enjoyed the story's murderous young protagonist, and wish he'd aimed his disembowelling claws toward the remnants of this cinematic dumpster fire.