Advance Review: Trevor Parker Takes on TALES OF HALLOWEEN

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SHOCK takes a critical look at the new omnibus TALES OF HALLOWEEN.

(Note: Previous SHOCK editor Sam Zimmerman reviewed TALES OF HALLOWEEN out of Fantasia earlier this summer. Here’s another take on the film from our Trevor Parker. Enjoy! – Ed)

Mention the words ‘Halloween’ and ‘anthology’ in the same sentence, and most horror fans will instantly flash to writer/director Michael Dougherty’s delectable seasonal confection TRICK ‘R TREAT from 2007—easily one of the finest fright films of the last decade, and as evocative of the October season as the smell of freshly-vivisected pumpkins sitting out on the porch. So TALES OF HALLOWEEN (out October 16th from Epic Pictures Releasing), a new anthology with a similar Samhain theme, arrives under a bit of a shadow cast by that mighty predecessor.

Producer and curator Axelle Carolyn was prudent enough to stock her TALES candy bowl with a slew of recognizable, and in some cases beloved, talent—both in front of and behind the lens. Neil (THE DESCENT) Marshall and Darren Lynn (The SAW franchise) Bousman contribute on the directing side, while the huge cast includes Barry (ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW) Bostwick, hilariously rascally as a dapper old devil, and eternal beauty Adrienne (THE FOG) Barbeau once again lending her smoky vocals to the part of a radio D.J. TALES is also decorated by a dizzying flood of horror folk cameos that will have diehards playing a filmic ‘Where’s Waldo’: appearances are made by young bucks like Adam Green and Trent Haaga, as well as old guard such as John Landis, Joe Dante, and Stuart Gordon.

With its stacked troupe in place, TALES unravels ten stories of Halloween night murder and mayhem, each from a different writer and director. Inconsistency is the torpedo that sinks many anthologies credited to multiple directors, and TALES does a remarkable job of staying the course in terms of tone and quality throughout. If there’s a fault here, it’s that there are simply too many guests invited to the party: the ten segments and animated opening credits crammed into a ninety-minute running time are so brief that they serve more as skits than as actual stories. Thus, the various quickie plots are altogether unexceptional, mostly consisting of whispered Halloween legends coming to rampaging life or chocolate-coated yarns of gory revenge. It’s all bloody enough, though TALES seems more satisfied with a laugh than a scream—there’s a cartoonish comedic slant here that defuses any real dread. Imagine Kristina (HALLOWEEN’07) Klebe battling a chomping, ambulatory jack-o-lantern, or a spacey slasher spoof that plays like a FRIDAY THE 13th sequel as staged by Monty Python, and you’ll get the overall TALES vibe. The sharpest razorblade hiding in the apple is definitely Bousman’s segment, where he displays a heretofore untapped comedic flair in a little ode to juvenile misbehavior, tasking star Bostwick to drag one poor little devil out for the Halloween ride of his life.

TALES’ rapid-fire format prevents it from building the weight or the characters of a classic like TRICK ‘R TREAT, but TALES could at least serve as TREAT’s funnier, saucier sidekick. Its influences and inspirations are proudly sat out on its costumed sleeve, and it speaks the language of fans like few other holiday horrors (One prominent trick-or-treater is dressed up as Snake Plissken, for goodness sake!). TALES deserves a shot to become part of your All Hallows’ Eve go-to movie traditions.