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Jason Widgington [Celluloid 07.27.15] horror



Ah, the anthology film. It can very often be a mixed bag of the occasional gem shining among the usually three or four other short films involved. But when done right, especially when there’s a common theme to the segments, the result can easily be an instant classic. Tales of Halloween, which had its world premiere at the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival with no less than four of its eleven directors there to present it, falls into this category.

There is a pretty tight-knit community of horror film creators in Los Angeles, and one of them, Axelle Carolyn (Soulmate), thought it would be fun if the lot of them made a Halloween-themed anthology film and started gathering the troops. It wasn’t long at all before a full slate of directors jumped aboard, including Neil Marshall (The Descent), Mike Mendez (Big Ass Spider), Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II through IV), Lucky McKee (The Woman), and Paul Solet (Grace). Deeming themselves "The October Society," they set forth with a small set of rules: the tales each would create and film had to be set on the same Halloween night in the same Anywhere, USA suburb, and should feature some sort of link to the rest of the segments, which is cleverly done for the most part.

The result is a tight 95-minute thrill ride featuring 10 different short films, all done without any Hollywood interloping during production, and each uniquely a product of the independent creator who wrote/directed it.

And then there’s the cast. Featuring a veritable who’s who of the indie horror scene, and sprinkled with cameos and bit parts by some well-loved classic genre stars and directors, it would take too long to list them all, and singling any one of them out would not be fair. Better to enjoy the film the first time with an “oh look! It’s so-and-so” every once in awhile. In short, everyone seems to have had so much fun making this film that there are no questionable performances, and not even a bad segment. All of the directors involved in the film are big fans of practical gore effects, and this is also a huge benefit, as there is blood and gore aplenty in Tales of Halloween and it all was done with practical magic, except for maybe a few touch-ups in post-production.

The stories themselves vary slightly in style, though more so in tone. The tropes are all there, some played for laughs, some for scares. There are gory slashers, serious ghostly scares, the twist ending, monsters of various shapes and sizes, a kidnapping gone wrong, and even a minor alien invasion (“Twick ‘O’ Tweet”). It would ruin it to give any of the stories away, so I’ll leave you with this: While Tales of Halloween will not win any awards – it’s hard for a film like this to do so, given each segment’s short running time and shift in tonality – but that isn’t the point. In fact, the point was for The October Society to have as much fun as possible making an anthology horror film. The fun they had is wildly evident on the screen, resulting in a horror film that will be as fun and entertaining to watch for the fortieth time as it is the first time.

Tales of Halloween truly is a love letter to horror fans, by horror fans, and deserves a spot as a perennial go-to film during the month of October.



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