For the next week we’re partnering with FEARnet to celebrate Trick 'r Treat, one of my favorite anthology horror films of all time. FEARnet is going to be showing Trick 'r Treat for 24 straight hours on Halloween, making it the ideal choice to keep on when you’re entertaining trick or treaters, your costume party guests or the vengeful dead. The Trick ‘r Treat 24-Hour Marathon starts Thursday, October 31 at 6AM ET.
The anthology may be the perfect format for horror movies. It follows from my theory that the short story is the perfect format for horror fiction: short, to the point tales that are designed for maximum impact. It’s no coincidence that Stephen King’s scariest stuff isn’t his 1000 page behemoths but the gems tucked away in Night Shift.
In honor of Trick 'r Treat airing for 24 solid hours on FEARnet I’ve compiled a list of five other great anthology horror movies to whet your appetite for short form scares.
Mario Bava’s triptych of terror is full of atmospheric chills and luscious imagery. Boris Karloff hosts as well as stars in one of the segments, which vary from a creepy vampire tale to a double-twist stalking story to a delightfully downbeat cursed ring spooktacular. Black Sabbath is one of those movies with imagery so grand and design so cool that you just want to step through the screen and live in the haunted world. And it inspired a certain band’s name, as well! Make sure you see the European version, which has some extra gore and a lesbian subplot that was largely excised from the American International Pictures release.
Tales From The Crypt
The first time I ever saw EC Comics’ classic stories come to life was in this Amicus anthology film. Directed by Freddie Francis, who did other anthology films for Amicus (and who was the DP on Glory!), this adaptation has five strangers stumbling upon the Crypt Keeper, who tells each of them how they will die. Unsurprisingly, each death is ironic and horrifying. This Crypt Keeper is way more dour than the one in the comics, and only two of the stories actually come from Tales From the Crypt (including ...And All Through The House, one of the first stories adapted for the HBO Tales series), but each entry is a bit of twisted fun.
I have to be honest, this one is a mixed bag. I like the Takashi Miike segment, but it’s not that great. Park Chan-Wook’s Cut is good and stylish, but not his best work. But it’s Fruit Chan’s Dumplings that make the entire film worth checking out. Dumplings is so good that it was extended into a feature, which I don’t think has the same impact as the perfect short version. Dumplings is about an aging actress looking to stay young, and the strange dumplings that supposedly have de-aging powers. It’s creepy and gross and ultimately disturbing.
Remember when I mentioned how good Stephen King’s short stories are? Here’s a whole movie that proves it. George Romero’s Creepshow is technically a better Tales From the Crypt movie than Tales From the Crypt, with its comic book lighting and characters looking off frame and going *CHOKE*. It also has the very best zombie character ever in any medium in the Father’s Day segment, and the Ted Danson and Gaylen Ross zombies in Something To Tide You Over are in competition for the runner up slots. If we're being really honest, this is my favorite movie on this list. I can watch Creepshow any time!
We’re in the middle of an anthology renaissance, and unlike the olden days these films tend to be multi-director efforts. That means you’ll get more variety in your anthology, which is a lot of fun. V/H/S/2 might be the peak of the modern trend, a vast improvement on the original and just full of fun, gory and sometimes goofy stories. The best part of this film is, without a doubt, Safe Haven, directed by Timo Tjahjanto and Gareth Evans. It’s creepy and weird and, best of all, absolutely bonkers in its ambition. While that’s the best short, every one of the V/H/S/2 segments is strong, and they all do something unique and interesting with the tired formula of found footage.