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With: Adrienne Barbeau, Barry Bostwick, Grace Phipps, Lin Shaye, Stuart Gordon, Barbara Crampton, Lisa Marie, Mick Garris, Alex Essoe, Booboo Stewart, Caroline Williams, Greg Grunberg, Dana Gould, Ben Woolf, John Landis, Kristina Klebe, Pat Healy, John Savage, Drew Struzan, Joe Dante, Keir Gilchrist, Greg Grunberg, Alex Essoe, Pollyanna McIntosh
Written by: Axelle Carolyn, Billy Jackson, Andrew Kasch, Neil Marshall, Lucky McKee, Mike Mendez, Dave Parker, Ryan Schifrin, Clint Sears, John Skipp
Directed by: Darren Lynn Bousman, Axelle Carolyn, Adam Gierasch, Andrew Kasch, Neil Marshall, Lucky McKee, Mike Mendez, Dave Parker, Ryan Schifrin, John Skipp, Paul Solet
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody horror violence throughout, language and brief drug use
Running Time: 92
Date: 10/16/2015

Tales of Halloween (2015)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Tricks and Treats

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Horror anthologies are a dime-a-dozen, and there are already a few more or less official Halloween entries (Trick 'r Treat, from 2007, is terrific), but with its ten brief, punchy little stories, Tales of Halloween (2015) is a highly enjoyable hoot (or haunt). It begins well, with new title sequence music composed by none other than Lalo Schifrin (probably best known for Dirty Harry and The Amityville Horror); it seems Lalo's son Ryan — who wrote and directed one of the segments here — recruited him for the job.

Adrienne Barbeau — who has the distinction of having been in films by George A. Romero, Wes Craven, and John Carpenter — plays a Halloween night radio DJ who occasionally narrates (similar to the role William Shatner played in another anthology film, A Christmas Horror Story). And there are plenty of horror legends or cult stars here, if you keep your eyes open.

All of the stories take place on Halloween day and/or night. I especially enjoyed Darren Lynn Bousman's The Night Billy Raised Hell, wherein a young boy is seemingly tempted by the devil to play vicious practical jokes all over the neighborhood. (Bousman is responsible for many of the Saw sequels.)

Axelle Carolyn's Grim Grinning Ghost is also wonderfully simple, and features a whole host of horror icons in the opening scene as hostess Lin Shaye tells a story to her guests (Stuart Gordon, Barbara Crampton, Lisa Marie, Mick Garris, etc.). After the party's over, Alex Essoe seems to be pursued by some kind of malevolent spirit. Carolyn is also a producer on this collection.

I also enjoyed Andrew Kasch and John Skipp's This Means War, depicting the simple battle over Halloween lawn decorations, the old-fashioned versus the gory. (Comedian Dana Gould stars, in zombie makeup.)

And something about the aforementioned Ryan Schifrin's vicious little The Ransom of Rusty Rex stuck with me. Two kidnappers snatch a wealthy man's son, only to find out that he's a demon that isn't easy to get rid of. John Landis appears as the relieved "father." The demon is played by Ben Woolf, who tragically died after the completion of this movie (it's dedicated to his memory).

Two directors whose work I had previously admired, Neil Marshall (The Descent) and Lucky McKee (May) are also here, with fine, but not outstanding results. Marshall directs the closer, Bad Seed, a parody of a cop movie about an evil jack-o-lantern on the loose, with Kristina Klebe as a police detective, and Joe Dante in a cameo. Pat Healy (The Innkeepers) and John Savage (A Nightmare on Elm Street) also star, and poster designer Drew Struzan plays a police sketch artist.

McKee offers a dark comedy about a man who realizes his wife is an actual witch and hopes to eat little children that ring their doorbell.

That leaves four more stories, ranging from a silly one about a tiny alien to a more powerful one about bullies in a tough neighborhood, but I'll stop here. Astute viewers will spot some crossovers among the small trick-or-treaters, as they pass from one story to another. Other notable appearances are by Caroline Williams (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2) and Barry Bostwick (The Rocky Horror Picture Show). Of course, many of the younger actors may go on to become horror icons themselves.

Overall, Tales of Halloween is precisely what Halloween should be: a little scary and a little fun. I purchased my copy from iTunes for less than $10, but die-hard fans may want to invest in a 2016 four-disc home video release, including a Blu-ray, a DVD, a CD soundtrack, and tons of extras.

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