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    Tales of Halloween (2015): Movie Review

    "A satisfying collection of wickedly funny and bloodthirsty stories.”

    Tales of Halloween is an anthology of ten short films celebrating the holiday, especially its traditional creepy decorations and trick-and-treating. Created by eleven filmmakers, it is a mixed bag of different spooky tales involving imps, ghouls, psychopaths and even extraterrestrial forces. It touches different subgenres of horror films like slasher, splatter, psychological, monsters and supernatural. Indeed, there is always something here for every taste. The collection has a macabre appetite for bloodlust but it also has an amusingly dark sense of humor, diluting the bloodfest and terror and reaching out more to a wider audience. 

    The movie is narrated by a radio DJ (Adrienne Barbeau) as she keeps track of the madness breaking out all over an unnamed town. Dave Parker’s Sweet Tooth is the first of these ten shorts. It introduces a new monster mythology, an urban legend about a ghoul who punishes those who do not share their holiday candy stash. The monster is frighteningly outfitted here and some gluttonous babysitters sample his intestinal-ripping rage.

    The Night Billy Raised Hell (by Darren Lynn Bousman) is deeply disturbing and its violence a little too inappropriate. With everyone guised as monsters, the Devil (Barry Boswick) and his elfish cohort spread wicked mischief around town and pit them all on an innocent tied-up little boy. Boswick is nastily entertaining here and his series of pranks is well-staged. Similarly, Adam Gierasch’s Trick summons evil from pint-sized innocents. It is an extreme example of revenge story as a bunch of trick-or-treating kids become initiators of carnage. Cinematography and production design is superb but its brutality overrides the fun.

    The succeeding three tales put females upfront. The Weak and the Wicked (Paul Solet) is about a trio of spiteful bullies and their victim’s retribution by calling forth an evil mercenary. The tale is somewhat anticlimactic but Grace Phipps carries the sequence with charisma and bad girl vibe. Axelle Carolyn’s Grim Grinning Ghost is the most forgettable tale in the anthology. After a night of sharing ghost stories, a girl’s nightmare comes true as she is followed home by a spectre. The material is too banal and storytelling is too sluggishly paced. Lucky McKee’s Ding Dong is another unfortunate miss with its too abstract narrative. A woman becomes a witch to her husband after she losses their child and becomes unable to conceive again. The story does not jive well with the film’s overall gleeful tone. It becomes over-serious with its theme of domestic violence. 

    This Means War (by John Skipp and Andrew Kasch) is one of the most engaging tales in the movie. Two neighbors become hostile and antagonistic with one another while competing for the best Halloween displays. The dialogues are effective, the throw of lines is absorbing, and the final showdown of gory swan dive is wickedly satisfying. Friday the 31st (by Mike Mendez) is another superb creation. It is perhaps the most comedic tale as it pits a shamelessly perverted masked killer with an adorably tiny, persistent and predatory alien being. It is a confident slasher spoof with excessive blood sprays on people’s face and a cute stop-motion animation sequence.

    The last two shorts are unlucky twists for some Halloweeners. In The Ransom of Rusty Rex (by Ryan Schifrin), two kidnappers abduct a rich man’s son only to find out that their catch is not who they think he is. John Landis has a significant cameo here. Lastly, Neil Marshall’s Bad Seed is about a pumpkin, after being masterfully craved, eats its owners and goes on a killing spree. It has an elaborate plot, involving a female detective who discovers the source of the animated human-eater. This finale also ties up together all of the movie’s previous stories.

    The movie is remarkably coherent and cohesive for an anthology. The opening is rather extended as it identifies the shorts’ titles and their filmmakers, complete with pop-up cartoons. However, once the first tale kicks in, the spell begins and a long night filled with bloody terror awaits a suburban neighborhood.

    The film is filled with references and exciting cameos. Characters can also be seen wandering from one story to another. Most of its tales are inventive and refreshing and its production and costume designs are generally outstanding. With its right balance of horror and humor, Tales of Halloween is a satisfying holiday chiller.

    Production companies: Epic Pictures Group, Film Entertainment Services 
    Cast: Jose Pablo Cantillo, John Landis, James Duval, Ben Woolf, Kristina Klebe, Robert Rusler, Grace Phipps, Dana Gould, Marc Senter, Booboo Stewart, Adrienne Barbeau, Samuel Witwer, Lin Shaye, Adam Green, Noah Segan, Joe Dante, Alex Essoe, Stuart Gordon, Barbara Crampton 
    Directors: Darren Lynn Bousman, Axelle Carolyn, Adam Gierasch, Andrew Kasch, John Skipp, Neil Marshall, Lucky McKee, Mike Mendez, Dave Parker, Ryan Schifrin, Clint Sears 
    Screenwriters: Axelle Carolyn, Andrew Kasch, Neil Marshall, Lucky McKee, Mike Mendez, Dave Parker, Ryan Schifrin, Clint Sears, John Skipp 
    Producers: Michael Arter, Shaked Berenson, Charles Arthur Berg, Axelle Carolyn, Tada Chase, Patrick Ewald, Mike Mendez 
    Directors of photography: Jan-Michael Losada, Zoran Popovic, David Tayar, Alex Vendler, Richard J. Vialet, Joseph White, Scott Winig 
    Production designers: Krista Gall, Sara Millan, Anthony Pearce, Jennifer Spence
    Costume designer: Rachel Apatoff 
    Editors: Matthew Barry, Josh Ethier, Andrew Kasch, Mike Mendez, Dave Parker, Zach Passero


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