Friday, October 16, 2020

New Flesh: Tales of Halloween (2015)

The Film: Tales of Halloween (2015)

What Is It About?: Tales of Halloween is a collection of ten short segments all set within the same suburban town on Halloween Day and connected via the narration of the town's local radio host (Adrienne Barbeau). The plots of the segments are as follows:

    1.) Sweet Tooth -> Young Mikey (Daniel DiMaggio), fresh off of trick or treating, is told a story by his babysitter's boyfriend Kyle (Austin Falk) about Sweet Tooth: A child who was banned from eating any of the candy by his parents and then, upon discovering his parents eating his candy, took revenge on them to reclaim his treats. According to Kyle, Sweet Tooth has been on the prowl ever since for more candy to eat, something that sends a scared Mikey off to bed. Little does Mikey know that, despite Kyle scaring him so that he could have alone time with babysitter Lizzy (Madison Iseman), he have been unintentionally protected by Kyle as danger arrives...

    2.) The Night Billy Raised Hell -> Another kid, Billy (Marcus Eckert), gets dared by his older sister's boyfriend (Ben Stillwell) to prank their neighbor Mr. Abbadon (Barry Bostwick). Just as he's about to go through with the prank, he is caught by Mr. Abbadon. From there, Mr. Abbadon makes Billy accompany him as he performs a series of escalating violent pranks throughout the neighborhood, leaving Billy in a precarious position at the end of the night.

3.) Trick -> A group of friends are spending Halloween night hanging out and toking while watching Night of the Living Dead. When trick or treaters arrive, one of the friends, Nelson (Trent Haaga), answers the door. Instead of being asked for candy, Nelson is attacked and killed by the children at the door. The other friends must fight for their lives against the killer kids, but not all is what it seems as the friends have a secret of their own.

4.) The Weak and The Wicked -> A standoff occurs between a teenager, Jimmy (Keir Gilchrist), and three older bullies (Grace Phipps, Booboo Stewart & Noah Segan). As Jimmy tries to put an end to the cruelty of the bullies, the bullies chase and fight him throughout town. Everything leads up to a surprising ace up Jimmy's sleeve, one that he plays to put a stop to the bullies once and for all.

5.) Grim Grinning Ghost -> At a Halloween party, a woman (Lin Shaye) shares a ghost story about a woman named Mary Bailey, who was bullied for her appearance throughout her life and now wanders the mortal plane as a spirit claiming the eyesight of those who see her. After the party, the woman's daughter Lynn (Alex Essoe) travels back to her home. Along the way, she faces escalating complications that may or may not be caused by Mary Bailey herself, seemingly determined to make Lynn her next victim...

6.) Ding Dong -> A married couple, Jack (Marc Senter) and Bobbie (Pollyanna McIntosh) are childless. Bobbie wants a child, while Jack doesn't feel the same due to Bobbie's abusive streak. On Halloween, the two put on their best game faces to greet the neighborhood children as they trick or treat. While Bobbie plots to try to steal a child for herself, it's up to Jack to prevent her from enacting her plan and escape Bobbie once and for all.

7.) This Means War -> Two neighbors, Boris (Dana Gould) and Dante (James DuVal), embark in a competition over who can attract more attention to their Halloween-decorated homes. The rising tension between the two turns into a full-blown brawl with surprising consequences for the pair.

8.) Friday The 31st -> A killer (Nick Principe) chases a woman (Amanda Moyer) throughout a farm with the intent on murdering her. Despite the woman's best efforts, she is murdered by the killer. However, after the arrival of a new party, the killer finds the tables turned and that he must run and fight for his own life now.

9.) The Ransom of Rusty Rex -> Two petty criminals, Hank (Sam Witwer) and Dutch (Jose Pablo Cantillo) enact a plan of theirs to kidnap one Rusty Rex (Ben Woolf). Hank and Dutch desire to hold Rusty hostage in exchange for a hefty ransom payment from Rusty's millionaire father, Jebediah (John Landis). Much to their surprise, Jebediah is overjoyed that Rusty has been kidnapped and insists on Hank and Dutch keeping him for themselves. The confused duo soon learn exactly why Jebediah is overjoyed at being rid of Rusty as the younger Rex reveals his true nature to the criminals.

10.) Bad Seed -> Local detective McNally (Kristina Klebe) is tasked with investigating a series of murders happening throughout Halloween night. She comes to discover that the culprits are none other than pumpkins that have come alive to kill humans and raise hell. Will McNally get to the bottom of what's behind the pumpkins, or will she be the next victim?

Why Do I Recommend it?

The most wonderful time of the year has finally begun! No, not Christmas season, but rather October! With Halloween quickly approaching, a lot of horror fans tend to binge watch as many horror films as they can get their hands on. And, if they're like, they want a little bang for their buck in terms of quantity; that's why the theme for this month's content is all about horror anthologies, including Tales of Halloween.

Tales of Halloween is an obviously stacked film, considering the plot synopsis may be the longest one I've ever written. So, let's get the bad out of the way first: Like most anthologies, the segments are hit or miss. While there are more hits, the misses are still misses. The more comedic segments, such as "This Means War" and "The Night Billy Raised Hell" tend to be the weaker ones as they don't gel well with the rest of the movie and tend to be more focused on goofiness than anything else. They aren't necessarily terrible, but they would be better served in another anthology that is more overtly horror/comedy than Tales of Halloween. The other major fault to be found in the film is, because of the sheer number of stories it's trying to tell, the short length given to each story doesn't always do them justice. While segments like "Trick" and "Friday The 31st" work fine, others like "Ding Dong" and especially "Bad Seed" feel like clips of stories rather than actual short stories and leave you wanting more.

There is a lot of good to be found within Tales of Halloween, however: For starters, there's more hits than misses: "Grim Grinning Ghost", written and directed by Axelle Carolyn, is a master class in how to create atmosphere and fear within mere minutes, starting with a classic ghost story provided by Lin Shaye's character and ending with ramping up fear with repeated subverted jump scares until the inevitable finally happens to poor Lynn. "The Weak & The Wicked" successfully embeds Western genre elements into the horror short to create a loaded tension between the protagonist and the trio of antagonists. One that worsens as the trio chases and hunts down protagonist Jimmy, with the intent on killing him, but provides for relief when Jimmy overcomes and vanquishes the bullies for good. "Bad Seed", despite being too short for my liking, is a successful example of the film balancing horror and comedy: The ridiculousness of the basic premise of killer pumpkins attacking humans is balanced by the sheer amount of violence the pumpkins wreak, as well as the levity brought by Kristina Klebe's performance as detective McNally.

The best of the Tales of Halloween

Another fun component of Tales of Halloween is the sheer amount of talent in front of the screen, often serving as a "Where's Waldo"-esque game of familiar horror veterans. Some are up and front as the leads of the segments, including Barry Bostwick from Rocky Horror Picture Show, Pollyanna McIntosh of The Woman and The Walking Dead fame, Alex Essoe from Starry Eyes and Doctor Sleep, and Kristina Klebe from The Devil's Carnival: Alleluia! and Rob Zombie's Halloween remake. A lot, however, are cameos spread out throughout the film: Some are obvious, such as Adrienne Barbeau as the film's de facto narrator, a homage to her iconic role from The Fog, as well as the aforementioned Lin Shaye giving a tip of the hat to her character in the Insidious franchise. Some you have to look for, such as Felissa Rose from Sleepaway Camp's brief appearance in "Ding Dong", Robert Rusler and Caroline Williams of Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2 and Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 respectively can be found in "Sweet Tooth" as the titular character's abusive parents, and Jack Dylan Grazer from the remake of It in an early role as the younger version of "The Weak & The Wicked"'s protagonist. There's even some appearances from horror creators such as Joe Dante, Stuart Gordon and Mick Garris sprinkled in for good measure.

Some of the familiar faces within Tales of Halloween

Some more of the joy of Tales of Halloween is a quality that I wrote about before in last month's recommendation for Detention: Tales of Halloween is a very versatile film that, despite having that uneven segment quality, will probably have something to offer to any horror fan. The directors' differing mix of genres allows for, on a base level, appeals to different types of fans: There's straightforward horror in segments such as "Sweet Tooth", "Trick" and "Grim Grinning Ghost", varying measures of comedic horror in segments like "The Night Billy Raised Hell", "This Means War", and "The Ransom of Rusty Rex," and then delves into other genres such as Westerns with "The Weak & The Wicked" and dramas with "Ding Dong". In terms of the actual content, there is also a lot of versatility: Besides the wide arrange of actors that each have their own fanbases, you have content that, again, not unlike Detention can appeal to most. Whether it be serial killers, demons, witches, aliens, a minotaur, evil children or even monstrous pumpkins, there is likely going to be something for anyone who likes horror here.

The versatility of the monsters/stories in Tales of Halloween

So, while Tales of Halloween isn't one hundred percent consistent, it's still a fun assortment of content, especially for horror fans seeking an entertaining anthology for the spooky season among us.

Available on: Tubi, Shudder, Amazon & iTunes.

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