Monday, October 31, 2016

Tales of Halloween

Tales of Halloween is a fun anthology film with 10 interlocking stories sure to get you in the Halloween spirit. A radio DJ speaks about the night in between each segment. Some characters and events even overlap, which is impressive considering each segment is made by a different director.

* Sweet Tooth

Mikey just came home from Halloween but is warned by his babysitter and her boyfriend to leave some candy for Sweet Tooth, a boy who went mad and killed his parents over the denial of Halloween candy. If none is left for him, he even eats the candy you've already eaten. This segment is delightfully gruesome and gives those who don't follow the rules their just desserts. Despite the gore, this is an adorable segment that calls to mind that fear of monsters under the bed and believing in urban legends. The ending displays pitch perfect dark humor that I love.

* The Night Billy Raised Hell

Billy is pressured to prank a reclusive neighbor only to be caught. That neighbor turns out to be the devil who decides to take revenge. More pranks follow in a montage that start out pretty harmless, but ends with pranks like stabbings, setting people on fire, and grand theft auto that have serious and dangerous consequences. The only thing that detracts from the segment is the cartoon sound effects that undermine the sinister events. Barry Bostwick makes this horror comedy segment. The twist ending made me wonder what happened afterwards.

* Trick

A group of adults have a Halloween party to drink, smoke pot, and hand out candy to children until one trick or treater dressed as a which stabs the man who answers. The survivors are under siege by other murderous costumed children no matter how they try to fight back or escape. This segment takes children we see every Halloween and makes them into a legitimate threat. Like the victims in the film, it took a while to ensure this wasn't some sort of nightmare and disbelief takes a while to overcome. I never saw the ending coming and then it all makes sense. This segment is one of the darkest in a sea of ones that chose camp and humor over horror.

* The Weak and the Wicked

A teenage boy confronts a group of bullies to avenge his parents' death with a creature he attempts to summon. This segment is most like Tales from the Crypt with its black and white morality and over the top evil people. The three bullies are the worst kind of people that torture everyone they come across with glee. At first, they seem like run of the mill jerks, but flashbacks show them to venture into unforgiveable territory. You just hope something horrible happens to them. The creature has a unique design with practical effects. The ending is incredibly satisfying.

* Grim Grinning Ghost

A group of friends meet for a Halloween costume party. The host of the party tells the story of a disfigured woman who became a ghost and giggles behind her victims, killing them only if they turn around. One woman experiences the worst luck of all time and finds herself walking home alone, trying to outrun this ghost. This segment captures the fear of Halloween where spirits walk the earth. You're not supposed to look behind you or you'll die, but not looking makes you almost compelled to look or suffering with paranoia that something is behind  you. Suspense is built steadily through the whole segment, but it's wasted on a final jump scare. I felt the ending was cheap and ruined the segment.

* Ding Dong

Jack and Bobbie are a couple who haven't been able to have a child. Last Halloween, she was in tears over the children coming to their house and emerged as a brightly colored fairy tale witch. After a year which looks like it was full of abuse for Jack, its Halloween again and Bobbie decides to embrace the holiday. She develops an odd Hansel and Gretel act where she is the child eating witch and long suffering Jack is Hansel to entertain trick or treaters that isn't successful the first or fiftieth time. When a child is lost, Jack intervenes and calls for help instead of letting his wife have the child.

The style of the witch is a little more cartoonish than I would usually expect from Lucky McKee, but the harsh reality is in the abusive relationship between Jack and Bobbie. Bobbie isn't a literal witch, but it's how Jack pictures her when she unleashes her rage on him. As a result, he fears for any child they might have together. I felt the serious aspects were overshadowed by the light atmosphere and humor, but I still felt this segment was one of the best and most unique.

* This Means War

A man who has worked on his Halloween display for decades embraces old school horror with talking skeletons, spider webs, and other rather tame decorations. His neighbors are younger and choose to decorate in a much more gory, modern horror style complete with deafening heavy metal music. The younger people's display is more popular and older man finally snaps, insulting his competition and attacking them. The clash between two eras was interesting and shows how the horror community acts towards each other at times. There's room for both on Halloween and the horror genre. The ending is the logical conclusion to fights like this.

* Friday the 31st

This segment plays out like a parody of a slasher film. A scantily clad girl dressed as Dorothy runs from a masked killer and goes through the slasher rigmarole: finding a shed to hide in but of course it's where the killer keeps his cache of bodies! The unmasked killer looks like Jason and Leatherface had a baby. A visitor arrives and messes up this whole formula. While it was entertaining, again it was so cartoonish. It also borrows heavily from the Evil Dead, so the twist wasn't as surprising as it could have been.

* The Ransom of Rusty Rex

A couple of guys decide to kidnap a millionaire's kid for ransom. When they call to set up terms, the father hangs up on them multiple times. Confused, they quickly find out why he isn't interested to have his son back. This segment had some unexpected moments and great comic timing. John Landis makes a surprise appearance as the millionaire, which was fun to see. This is another segment that reminds me of Tales from the Crypt as the kidnappers get more than they bargained for.

* Bad Seed

A man makes a an amazing jack o'lantern, only to have it turn around and bite his head off! The killer pumpkin goes out into the night to find more victims. Detective McNally is on the case as a caricature of every cop ever on TV or film. She finds the killer pumpkin, but it may not be the only one. The balance of humor and horror is better in this segment. The blood and gore flies as cops have the ridiculous task of finding a killer pumpkin on Halloween when they are everywhere. It brings back nostalgia of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes but with a Halloween flair. I loved the ending and the Joe Dante cameo. I would actually want to see this one as a full film if the cops were less over the top,

Overall, Tales of Halloween is an enjoyable and well made anthology that runs more funny than scary. I would have preferred a little more darkness and a little less cartoonish. The stories are surprisingly cohesive and clearly all belong in the same universe. It's no Trick 'r Treat, which I deem the best Halloween anthology every, but it's a fun watch all the same.

My rating: 3.5/5 fishmuffins

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