About a half hour into Tales of Halloween, I realized this was my first viewing of a movie I’d be watching over and over again. We all have our holiday film traditions – maybe you watch A Christmas Story every December, or Groundhog Day each February. Tales of Halloween has officially entered my October viewing schedule, and I plan to see it again this time next year, and the year after that, and beyond.
Tales of Halloween is a new horror anthology telling 10 stories that all take place on the same Halloween night in the same town. It’s impossible not to draw the connection to Trick ‘r Treat, another recent flick with virtually that exact same premise. That also happens to be one of my favorite horror films of all time, and one I have revisited every October since. Unfortunately, Tales of Halloween isn’t quite as memorable, but it very nearly reaches those heights, and the two would certainly make for an excellent double feature.
What Trick ‘r Treat has that Tales of Halloween doesn’t is a sense of cohesiveness between all the stories. That makes sense, as Trick ‘r Treat was directed by one person whereas Tales has a total of 10 directors. All the segments in Tales work together more effectively than some other anthologies with a plethora of filmmakers, and it’s actually a lot more consistent than I expected. But it’s challenging to avoid the problem all these anthologies have, where they constantly seem as if they’re starting and stopping. Trick ‘r Treat manages to avoid that by seamlessly flowing back and forth between each tale and making it all appear to be one unit. Despite all of the shorts in Tales being loosely connected by setting, it’s blatantly obvious that they were constructed independently, and never does it feel like we’re watching one large narrative.
Trick ‘r Treat also has only four segments, allowing each room to breathe and be fleshed out. With 10 shorts crammed into a little over an hour and a half, there are a few instances in Tales where you wish you could spend more time with the current characters before moving right along to the next batch.
Overall though, what’s most refreshing about Tales of Halloween is that just about every single story is either good or great. Take another anthology like The ABCs of Death or even V/H/S. Both of those have one if not several segments that are clearly a massive step down from the rest, and you find yourself checking your watch waiting for it to be over. On the other hand, I enjoyed pretty much every single second of Tales of Halloween. Everyone who sees it will have their favorites for sure, but there isn’t one section that is obviously inferior.
If you’re in search for a spooky Halloween themed movie for October, Tales of Halloween is now the second greatest one out there behind Trick ‘r Treat. Every frame is jam packed with pumpkins, colored lights, costumes, and it will instantly put you in the Halloween spirit. What’s also so much fun about the movie is that it explores so many different elements of Halloween from different characters’ perspectives. We have shorts about eating candy when you come home from trick or treating, playing pranks on neighbors, being adults and giving out candy to neighborhood children, and trying really hard to have the best decorations in town. Rarely do we feel that the same subject matter is being covered again, and so the advantage of the segments not being totally blended together is that each one offers something completely fresh. It’s like a road trip through every aspect of the 31st.
For a relatively low budget picture, the special effects of Tales of Halloween are phenomenal. In an age where horror movies heavily overuse CGI blood and monsters, here’s one that mainly relies on practical effects. The majority of the creatures are people in costumes or props that someone clearly spent a lot of time building, and that just makes them so much more visually interesting. Some computer animation is included on occasion, but only when it’s absolutely necessary. This movie packs a punch, with dozens of deaths, lots of blood, and enough gore to satisfy any blood thirsty viewers.
Tales of Halloween does try to mix in some humor on occasion, though, and overall that isn’t quite as effective as it could have been. I never laughed, although a few ideas are amusing and possibly worthy of a slight chuckle. Personally, I would have preferred a more serious take with fewer winks at the camera and intentional gags, but luckily, the comedy is never taken far enough to ruin the movie.
In terms of the segments themselves, I wouldn’t want to give away too much, but things get started perfectly with an excellent short where a young boy is told a spooky urban legend. It’s about a spirit who returns every Halloween seeking out candy, and if he doesn’t get it, there will be some bloody consequences. That’s reminiscent of Sam in Trick ‘r Treat, but it’s still a delightful and at times genuinely scary outing. From there, some of the highlights include a group of adult friends being terrorized by trick or treaters, a Friday the 13th homage with a twist, and a Neil Marshall directed segment about killer pumpkins.
Tales of Halloween offers something for everyone, then, blending lots of different stories and genres together into a surprisingly even package. It’s a tribute to horror and to everything we all love about Halloween, and if you’re getting yourself amped up for the big night and are looking for something that reflects this excitement, it’s hard to imagine you’ll come away disappointed.