“Definitely the Lighter, Sillier Side of Halloween”
After its UK premiere at last year’s Frightfest this US anthology movie, that manages to tell ten stories in just over ninety minutes, gets a UK disc release courtesy of Arrow Films.
Over the years, it’s fair to say that British and American attitudes to the 31st of October have been markedly different. For many in the UK, Halloween night still represents an uneasy mix of pagan ritual history, coupled with an excuse for the more PURGE-like members of modern teen and twenty-something society to perform wanton acts of vandalism. In the US, on the other hand, it seems to be mainly about sweets. Oh, and having a party, with a distinct orientation towards children and family fun.
I say this because if you’re expecting a grim and downbeat anthology movie about witchcraft, cruelty and the general grimness that we might expect from a Halloween here in the UK (as I think quite a few Frightfest attendees including myself were anticipating when this one premiered) you’re going to be disappointed by TALES OF HALLOWEEN, a movie that’s very much about the lighter, sillier, and very much more American aspect to this particular night of the year.
The movie opens with a cracking credit sequence designed by Ashley Thorpe that deserves not to have the credits reeled out over it. The ten stories all take place during one Halloween night, pretty much on the same street as far as I could tell. We begin with Dave Parker’s Sweet Tooth, a cautionary tale featuring a pre- BLOOD FEAST remake Robert Rusler and Caroline Williams who make the mistake of eating all their little boy’s sweets.
In Darren Lynn Bousman’s The Night Billy Raised Hell Barry Bostwick with horns takes his little friend around the neighbourhood to play some ‘hilarious’ pranks on a Jeffrey Combs lookalike and others. Adam Gierasch’s Trick involves some eyeball violence, while Axelle Carolyn’s Grim Grinning Ghost crams in a host of cameos before getting to the subject of the story. Lucky McKee’s Ding Dong is a thinly veiled tale of domestic abuse with a hilarious Pollyanna Mackintosh looking like Donna Summer with four arms.
Mike Mendez scores a daft hit with Friday the 31st, a tale of a tiny space alien that ends up chasing a Jason Voorhees lookalike. John Skipp and Andrew Kasch’s This Means War details a feud between neighbours and their garden decorations, pretty much all set to music. Paul Solet does a backstreet Halloween Western with The Weak and the Wicked and Ryan Schifrin’s The Ransom of Rusty Rex is all about how John Landis has his son kidnapped for ransom. Or does he? Last and best and daftest of the lot has Neil Marshall directing his tale of a monster killer pumpkin on the loose in Bad Seed, with Joe Dante turning up at the end.
I have to admit that, much as I wanted to enjoy TALES OF HALLOWEEN, I found it a bit of a slog, with the first bit that was actually any good occurring way past the halfway mark. A couple of these stories would work well as comedy sketches, others just seem an excuse to parade a host of famous friends in bit parts. Bad Seed is the kind of solid silly comedy the Zucker brothers used to do so well, and Friday the 31st could have been lifted direct from something like ROBOT CHICKEN. You’ll probably have trouble remembering the rest of the stories the next day.
Arrow’s DVD comes with a number of extras, including a commentary track, deleted scene, behind the scenes, photo gallery and storyboards. Exclusive to the Blu-ray are a number of shorts including the rough-as-VHS-ever-got Brain Death from Neil Marshall, Axelle Carolyn’s The Halloween Kid, Joe Lynch desperately needing a drink and finding a serial killer in Thirsty, thirty seconds of a plasticene man and his penis in Lucky McKee’s Boilly, a brain-frying pop video called Hot Rod Worm and a great little short by Ryan Schifrin called No Rest for the Wicked - go straight to this one as it’s by far the best of the bunch.
TALES OF HALLOWEEN is out on Blu-ray and DVD from Arrow Films on 24th October 2016