Do you remember your mother telling you that to much of a good thing wasn’t good at all? Well if a few hangovers haven’t convinced you she was right, here’s something that will. For those of you who missed all the hype, this eagerly awaited anthology film features 10 stories by several of the biggest names in the genre Neil Marshall, (Dog Soldiers, The Descent), Dave Parker, (Hills Run red and the still unreleased Coldwater), Mike Mendez, (Big Ass Spider, Gravedancers) and Darren Lynn Bousman, (Repo: The Genetic Opera, Saw 2-4) chief among them.
Now, look at the cast list, the number of familiar names both actors and directors appearing in front of the camera is astounding. Barry Bostwick, Lin Shaye, John Landis, Caroline Williams, John Savage, Greg Grunberg, Barbara Crampton Adrienne Barbeau, Tiffant Sheppis, Cerina Vincent, Kristina Klebe, Joe Dante, Adam Green, Trent Haaga and more.
So how does something like this manage to fall apart? As near as I can tell, over-ambition. With 10 stories there’s just not enough time to develop what in many cases are good ideas. To many things come off as silly, one note gags iikioo8ii given a bit more time they could have been much better. There’s a reason the classic British anthology films kept to 4 or 5 stories, that allowed time to tell the story, build some tension and then bring on the twist ending. When you’re trying to fit 10, (never mind the 26 of the ABCs of Death films), there’s no time for this. Instead of the cinematic equivalent of a short story you get the equivalent of a quick skit. Which may be why so many of them play for dark, morbid EC Comics style laughs rather than actual scares which is, at least to me, a big disappointment.
That’s not to say the film is a total waste, it has it’s moments, some of the segments work quite well “Sweet Tooth” gets the film off on a high note with a tale of an urban legend come true, “The Night Billy Raised Hell” is a wild lesson in pranking with a sting in the tail, (it may remind a few of you of Jeff Lieberman’s dark comedy “Satan’s Little Helper”), and “Friday the 31st” is a nice twist on slasher cliches.
But mostly the segments are just kinda there, they’re not really bad but they’re not anything more than watchable either. “This Means War,” is like a Halloween version of “Deck the Halls” but without Danny DeVito, “Ding Dong” never quite manages to evoke the sadness and horror at the core of it’s story of a couple who’ve lost a child and “The Weak and the Wicked,” has a great creature but can’t pull off it’s Western inspired revenge story, (though casting some very unconvincing bullies didn’t help). I could go on, but you get the idea.
There is no wraparound story connecting things although Adrienne Barbeau does a riff on her DJ character from The Fog and somewhat holds things together. However since several of the stories overlap it is clear it’s all happening in the same town on the same Halloween eve.
It’s certainly a good film to look at. It’s well shot and apart from a couple of dodgy CGI shots the effects are all solid. It looks anything but low budget.
So while I don’t hate Tales of Halloween it is, given all the talent involved, a huge disappointment. I won’t say avoid it, but I won’t tell you to run out and buy the Blu Ray either. A cheap VOD rental or wait till it’s in the bargain bin or on Netflix.
I will however say I’d like to see The Halloween Society try again, but this time keep the number of stories down and develop them more. Quality not quantity please.