Essential Horror Anthologies for Ideal Halloween Viewing – Page 2
We’ve compiled a list of essential horror anthology films for your perfect Halloween movie line-up!
The original title of this 1963 Italian horror anthology was The Three Faces of Fear. Following the trend in Italian cinema at the time, the film was shot at a low-budget and featured a largely international cast. This cast included Boris Karloff as the narrator (and a small cameo appearance), taking the audience through three separate stories of horror and woe.
The short “The Drop of Water” is our personal favorite, a highly intelligent and creepy tale. Still, both “The Telephone” and “The Wurdalak” have their moments. Each tale was directed by French-Italian horror legend Mario Bava (I Vampiri) and his flair for the genre elevates the script, making this one of the great classic anthologies.
The movie would make this list on merit alone, but it can’t go without mentioning that this film inspired the name of one of heavy metal’s most famous rock bands, as well as the structure for one of Tarantino’s best: Pulp Fiction. That’s right, without Black Sabbath we wouldn’t be able to listen to Valhalla or watch John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson talk about cheeseburgers.
TALES FROM THE CRYPT
Another anthology film based on a horror television series, Tales from the Crypt was hardly an original concept. That fact does not make it any less of a classic in our eyes.
The film was produced by Amicus Productions, a sci-fi and horror company which led the pack on anthology films. Prior to Tales from the Crypt, they produced Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors, Torture Garden, and The House that Dripped Blood. Based on several stories from the EC Comics bi-monthly issue of the same name, Tales from the Crypt features the perfectly creepy narrator of the Crypt Keeper, a skeleton that enjoys a good story as much as an evil curse.
The shorts are all wonderfully campy and just scary enough, though “Wish You Were Here” is perhaps the strongest of the five. A star-studded 70s cast plus the fact that this film helped to kick-start what was then called “portmanteau” horror make this film a must-have in any anthology fans library.
TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE
Rod Serling’s classic anthology television show is without a doubt one of the most significant works of science fiction. It ran for 5 seasons from 1959 to 1964 with 156 episodes, each telling a different short story ranging from purely scientific to incredibly fantastical. The stories often told a moral lesson, featured political allegory, or just really creeped us out.
Aside from being revived in 1985 and in 2002, The Twilight Zone was also spun-off into a film, Twilight Zone: The Movie. The list of directors alone would make any child of the 80s shriek with glee. John Landis, Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante, and George Miller each directed a short part of the film, comprised of remakes of famous Twilight Zone episodes.
Landis directs the first short “Time Out,” which the weakest of the remakes, but the introduction was also his, and it is significantly better. Simply a conversation between Albert Brooks and John Belushi, their comedic abilities help make the rote traveling scene shine, and the fourth-wall breaking is unnecessary but fun.
Spielberg’s short is a low-point for the director, not a particularly interesting or compelling tale. Dante and Miller are the true directorial stars here, with their adaptations of “It’s a Good Life” and “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” respectively. Dante applies his dark-comedy chops to the famous Twilight Zone episode, using a Hollywood budget to improve the short just enough to make it worth watching. Miller smartly recasts the William Shatner role from the original with John Lithgow to great effect.
Despite the film’s infamy regarding film’s standards and practices (two child actors were killed in a helicopter accident during the filming of Landis’ segment), it holds up as a solid tribute to the fantastic anthology series and certainly deserves a spot on this list.
Originally intended to be an anthology television series for Showtime, John Carpenter’s Body Bags was later rejected by the network. Three completed sample shorts were then compiled into a made for television anthology movie, the spectacular film we have today.
Body Bags is notable for featuring an insane amount of horror legend cameos. Sam Raimi, Greg Nicotero, Roger Corman, and Wes Craven all have bit parts over the course of the film. Directors Carpenter and Tobe Hooper also have small roles, Carpenter narrating the entire piece.
Gratuitous (and amazing) appearances aside, each short is scary, gory, and just the right about of campy. Our personal favorite is “Eye”, which features Mark Hamill as a baseball player with an eye that has more control over him than he does of it. Guess he shouldn’t have gotten an eye transplanted from a dead serial killer.
TALES OF HALLOWEEN
Tales of Halloween is a terrific example of using the anthology style to the filmmakers’ advantage, since it houses not two, not three, but ten vignettes from eleven different directors. This not only gives viewers a versatile film to enjoy, but also allows these accomplished filmmakers the chance to show off their skills in a fun film centered around All Hallows Eve.
Like an omniscient observer gazing quietly over a quaint suburban neighborhood, Tales peeks in on ten different stories, all happening in the same streets, all on the magical and mysterious holiday of Halloween. Coaxed into the story by a smokey-voiced radio DJ Adrienne Barbeau a la John Carpenter’s The Fog, the setup is simple and smooth, as her husky voice warns the viewer that spooky spirits will soon arise, and strange things will shortly unfold in the hours that follow when the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest.
TRICK ‘r TREAT
Director Michael Dougherty recently released Krampus, a terrifying Christmas treat for those who avoid the typical holiday fare. But years before the wide-released star-studded scream fest, Dougherty got his hands dirty (with fake blood) while writing and directing Trick ‘r Treat.
The film follows four separate tales that all intertwine on the night of Halloween in the fictional Warren Valley. Tales with murder, pumpkins, ghosts, and werewolves of course. With a cast that includes Dylan Baker and Anna Paquin, it’s surprising the film did so poorly upon release. Dougherty manages to bring the laughs and the scares in equal quantity and quality throughout each separate tale and expertly connects them in a gory finale. Cult horror fans will agree: Trick ‘r Treat is the perfect film to watch when October 31st comes by again.
When you ask a seasoned horror fan to recommend an anthology film, Creepshow is the movie that immediately comes to mind. A solid collaboration between George Romero and Stephen King, Creepshow features five alternating spooky and silly tales.
One highlight includes Stephen King’s acting debut as a man named Jordy Verrill who touches a meteorite and slowly becomes a sort of plant monster. It plays out exactly as you would expect, and King delivers a delightfully bad and schlocky performance. Other stand-out moments are the twists in the shorts “The Crate” and “Father’s Day,” both of which are more ‘creepy’ than King’s starring-vehicle.
Romero’s idea for Creepshow was to mimic the horror comics and serials that both he and King grew up reading. The stories are book-ended by freeze-frames that turn the stills into comic book pages. This touch, along with an excellent grouping of shorts from King, put Creepshow at the top of our list.
So there you have it…13 essential horror anthology films to keep you busy straight through Halloween. Let us know your favorite and why: