The horror anthology format is one that can yield tremendous success (Trick’r Treat, Creepshow) or terrible results (Creepshow 3, V/H/S 3). It has a somewhat spotty history, but the tradition holds strong. Probably the most ambitious, but not entirely successful were the two ABC’s of Death films, which each contained 26 short films. Tales of Halloween keeps it to ten stories, which is probably the limit for getting a good yield of stories.
The film uses the framing device of a small town where every Halloween the dead walk, ghouls play and monsters eat. Guiding us through the tales is (in a pretty obvious homage to her role in the fog) radio host Adrienne Barbeau (Creepshow, Swamp Thing).
The stories are hit or miss, with an uneven tone, but when they hit? They are terrific fun. Standouts include The Night Billy Raised Hell, the Ransom of Rusty Rex, Bad Seed, and Friday the 31st. What makes all those stories work is their sense of humor. All are having more fun than trying to be scary.
This Means War starts out strong, but ends kind of weakly.
Friday the 31st starts out like a slasher story, complete with an obvious Jason type…but then takes a complete left turn. The Ransom of Rusty Rex tells a tale of ambitious kidnappers who grab a rich man’s (John Landis, director of American Werewolf in London) son while he is trick or treating. Except, the boy is a bit more of a hellion than anticipated.
On the other hand, Sweet Tooth goes more for the traditional monster/urban legend territory…and it ends exactly like you expect it to. The Weak and the Wicked lacks any real life in it’s narrative, and for being a short, fails to do much in it’s premise of revenge.
In the end, I found the film an enjoyable watch, with some good humor, fun cameos and even a few scares. It is not quite Trick’r Treat, but it is some good Halloween fun.