Nothing says late March like a Halloween movie! We have the enormous good will built up by Mike Mendez with “Big Ass Spider!” and “Lavalantula” to thank for us watching this movie – he directed one of the segments in this, which is our first proper portmanteau / horror anthology movie. I mean, we suffered through “Red Lips: Eat The Living”, but that doesn’t count because it was so terrible it made me want to invent a time machine so I could go back and stop all movies from being made, ever.
Anyway, producer Axelle Carolyn had the idea, so she assembled a decent crew of actors and directors – most prominently Neil Marshall, but he is married to her so it was probably an easy “get”. Ten different stories, billed as “interlocking” but not really (it’s not much more than the star of one segment being in the background of another), are they any good?
I’m not going to list the ten stories, because you could just go to Wikipedia for that stuff. Also, I’ve just looked at it myself, 24 hours later, and I can’t remember one of the segments. It must have really been no good! Anyway, the first is “Sweet Tooth”, about a neighbourhood legend of a kid who had his candy stolen by his parents, so killed them and turned into a monster, who must be appeased every Halloween with the gift of candy outside your door. This is the segment which features the return of Greg Grunberg and Clare Kramer as their characters from “Big Ass Spider!”, and…I wish they’d not bothered, for their 20 seconds on screen and the exceedingly miserable “end” to their story.
The only good segments were the ones that had a beginning, middle and end, non-coincidentally enough: “Ding Dong” (about a man discovering the evil witch spirit that lives in his wife); “The Ransom Of Rusty Rex” (a couple of criminals kidnap a millionaire’s son, only to discover he’s a bit different); and the last, Marshall-directed segment, “Bad Seed”, about a killer pumpkin. The others were little more than fragments, really.
Think of the classic horror anthology movies – “Creepshow”, “Dead Of Night”, “Tales From The Crypt” and “Cat’s Eye”, for instance. What did they all have in common? Well, they didn’t have ten segments, for one thing. Five stories seems like a limit (and most of them have only three or four), because when you’re getting into the single figures of minutes for your story, something serious is going to have to be jettisoned, and with most of the stories from “Tales Of Halloween”, that something is the endings. And the “why is this happening?” parts.
I feel bad being down on this. It looks great with strong special effects, and I like the cast (as well as Grunberg and Kramer, there’s Barry Bostwick as the devil, standup Dana Gould, Lin Shaye, Joe Dante and John Landis). It just seems like a pointless experiment, and answers that critical question “can you make an effective horror short film that lasts five minutes?” with a definitive “no”. One of the more positive reviews talks about the “EC Comics” attitude, but with their stories, you always knew why the characters were getting the punishment they got, but this asks you to fill in too many blanks. Oh, and the one movie based explicitly on EC stories – “Tales From The Crypt” – had five segments and gave them all chance to breathe.
Rating: thumbs in the middle