Director Axelle Carolyn rounded up ten of her friends to assemble an anthology where the only rules are that each segment must be set in the same American suburb and must occur on Halloween night. Save for these two stipulations, the directors have the freedom to go no holds barred in exploring themes and personal influences of Halloween. The result is a horror buffet of ghouls, goblins, ghosts, axe murderers, and much more unleashed upon the neighborhood’s residents.
Perhaps due to the ambitious scope of the project, this anthology marks one of the rare few that lack a wraparound story. Save for a Radio DJ (played by Adrienne Barbeau in a clever homage to The Fog) that opens and closes the film with her holiday broadcast, the segments just play one after another. This also means that the directors must pull double duty in not only spinning their own themed tale but in layering characters and visuals that places their story in the same universe as the rest. In Lucky McKee’s segment, “Ding Dong,” every single trick-or-treater featured in any of the segments show up at the witch’s door for some candy. Or a couple of intoxicated party goers in Axelle Carolyn’s “Grim Grinning Ghost” make a brief, blink-and-you’ll miss it background appearance in a later short. There are even cross character references mentioned in dialogue in the various shorts. So much meticulous detail is added all for the sake of continuity and tying the whole piece together.
Halloween means something different for everyone, and never is that more on display than here. Each segment varies in tone, and all demographics are represented. Some directors prefer dark humor while others prefer to capture the more spooky aspect of the holiday. Then there are the directors who choose to really hone in on the joy of Halloween. The drastic changes in tone lends to an unpredictability that contributes to the overall charm. Of course, this also means that not all segments will be loved, though which ones will vary based on personal taste. The only true disappointment is that Neil Marshall’s closing segment, “Bad Seed,” isn’t a full length feature.
The amount of homages and nods each director packs into their short, less than ten minute, segment is astounding. It’s dizzying to try to pick them all out upon the first viewing. Aside from cameos by horror masters such as John Landis, Joe Dante, Adam Green, Stuart Gordon, and Mick Garris, there’s notable horror vets like Barbara Crampton, Robert Rusler, Pat Healy, and Lin Shaye making appearances. There are obvious influences from The Thing, Halloween II, Friday the 13th, and many other notable classics. The homages even trickle down to the tiniest of details, such as a Carpenter chocolate bar or even the Necronomicon hidden in the background of Mike Mendez’s “Friday the 31st.” Curious to know how characters Alex Mathis and Lt. Karly Brant got on after the end of Mike Mendez’s Big Ass Spider? That’s answered in Dave Parker’s “Sweet Tooth.”
The entire film is polished and stunning; not a single entry was shot as found footage. In fact, no found footage was Epic Pictures only criteria when greenlighting this anthology. Though cinematography varied based on the director, the complete film looks cohesive due to the same color correction and post production being applied to all segments. The music department also deserves credit for perfectly capturing the sounds and feels of Halloween. Of course, having notable composers such as Joseph Bishara (The Conjuring, Insidious series) helps.
Simply put, Tales of Halloween is a blast. This group of directors put a lot of effort into creating a unified anthology while still retaining their own identities; each one creating something that represents their vision of Halloween. Carolyn and crew, all horror industries experts in their own right, have pulled in a multitude of horror masters and well-loved horror mainstays to assist in creating something memorable. From battling yard haunters, ghouls, trick-or-treaters, jack-o-lanterns, gore, humor, and so much more there’s something to appease everyone. The level of detail proves what a labor of love this anthology is not only to Halloween, but the horror genre as well. Tales of Halloween recaptures that feeling of fun associated with the holiday and is certain to find a permanent home on requisite October viewing lists.
Tales of Halloween [Review]
A love letter to both Halloween and the horror genre by Axelle Carolyn and ten other genre directors. Tonally varying, yet still a stunning cohesive piece, this anthology is a blast.