Fright-sized scares

Yesterday, while I was at work, a woman handed me a banknote with dried blood on it. I didn’t ask why, instead I just took it as an indication that the spirit of Halloween has truly been set in motion. Jason has gripped his machete and Freddy has donned his glove. Likewise I must ride off on my own little crusade of bringing horror to the soon-to-be horrified.

In my last post I told you about my Halloween tradition of watching three horror movies back-to-back; or “Hallowthreen” as I am now calling it.  Afterwards it occurred to me that one of the biggest complaints about a movie marathon is “it’ll take ages!”. Yes, movies are long. At an average length of 90 minutes, human beings can only just about handle three of them in a row before feeling like they never want to see another one ever again. Many of you may sight this as a reason for preferring television, considering that the common length of a tv-episode is a snappy 21 minutes. Ok, so maybe this Halloween you like the idea of watching a few different horror stories but don’t want to spend half a day on it. I get that, I really do, and luckily I have the solution for you:

Anthology films are films within films, or what some might call “filmception”.

What you’re basically getting here is a few short stories told within the framework of a larger story. It’s perfect for Halloween, because it allows the viewer to dive into several different genres and character pieces. The format has been explored quite a bit in the past, so let’s open the dusty pages and have a look at the yield.

There are a few weird things about this film which hint at the respect it has not been given by its producers. First off, the font they used for the title can be easily found on Microsoft Word; fail! Secondly, James Marsden and Amy Smart are featured heavily on the poster but…they’re hardly in the movie! Clearly the marketing company cared more about bringing in the cash than accurately portraying the narrative. So, what narrative is that  exactly?

“Four teenagers crash their car in the woods on their way back from a concert. Realising that they have to spend the night outside, they decide to light a campfire and begin to share spooky stories. “

– Cinema-Rant

The stories they tell are the most classic of the classic, starting with one about the escaped mental patient with a hook for a hand. Almost everyone’s heard it, but if you haven’t then I won’t ruin it for you. From there they reel off the stories of a couple on their honeymoon night being stalked by menacing creatures outside their camper van, a little girl alone one night who finds herself accidentally chatting online to a crazed serial killer, and a lone motorcyclist staying the night in a house owned by a mysterious and beautiful mute woman with a murderously overprotective father. Are the stories tied together in any way? Do they have any outlying significance? How can or do they affect the main characters? You’ll have to find out when you watch it.

For less of an american teenage feel and more of a British literature approach, we turn to Tales From the Crypt from 1972. The concept is…

“Five people get lost in a crypt and meet up with a strange crypt keeper who tells them the stories of how they will die if they do not change their immoral behaviour.”

– IMDB

Sounds heavy, right? It is, but it’s also very inventive. With twisted stories that could have been written by Edgar Allen Poe himself, it brings you into a world of intrigue, corruption, murder, and of course…the supernatural.

This one is great because it combines this post with my earlier one about Stephen King’s Misery. Stephen King is, as I’ve already told you, a legend in the world of horror stories. Who better, then, to lend their skills to a horror anthology movie?

“Three stories of suspense and horror are linked by a single stray cat moving in and out of each one.”

– Cinema-Rant

First of all I’ll put an end to some of the suspense by answering the most important question here: Yes, that is Drew Barrymore on the cover. Not only that, but the film also features James Woods and Robert Hays – so the cast list is solid. What I really love about it, though, is the uniqueness of the stories. These are obviously tales that only King himself could come up with. Firstly; we’re introduced to a man who tries to quit smoking by unknowingly joining a cult. Then; a man is offered to have his debt removed by a crime boss if he agrees to shimmy himself around the outside of a skyscraper for the bosses amusement. Finally; A child is unknowingly watched by a little devilish creature living in the walls of her room. You have to watch it to see how the premises play out into their inevitable conclusions, but it’s definitely satisfying.

Ok so…keep the Stephen King and now throw in a little George A. Romero, and you have the Creepshow movies. The godfather of zombies meeting the supreme ruler of shock can only mean good things.

The deal here is that the short stories do not take place within a greater one, but instead unfold like the pages of a comic book, with cartoon segments between them. Altogether there are seven stories featured with actors like Ed Harris, Leslie Nielsen, and Ted Danson portraying the characters as well as fun cameos from Tom Savini and Stephen King himself.

Alright, the last three films on this list are my favourite, in descending order with my absolute favourite being the last:

Now this is where these movies start to get really dark and bizarre, which is what I love about them. The plot, or rather plots, of Tales from the Darkside are a little twisted:

“A suburban woman, who reveals herself to secretly be a witch, has captured and imprisoned a young boy in her basement – she plans to cook him in a stew and eat him. In order to postpone his own death, the child reads her a series of frightening and outlandish tales from a nearby book.”

– Cinema-Rant

Yeah, you read every word of that correctly. A child is about to be diced and put into a pot…at the beginning of the movie! Believe it or not, it only gets madder from there. First we are read the story of a young student who unleashes the key to reanimating an ancient mummy and controlling it at will. That’s not freaky enough? How about a hit man who is summoned to a mansion by a wheelchair-bound geriatric who tells him that he wants him to assassinate his cat; a cat who, he says, is a cold hearted killing machine. Oh yeah, it gets stranger; with the fable of an artist who encounters a vicious gargoyle monster in the back alley behind a bar. The gargoyle lets him live in exchange for a promise: that he will never tell another living soul of what he saw.

There are a few things I need to acknowledge at this point. For one, Stephen King and George A. Romero seem to love the anthology format quite a bit, since they have their masterful hands knuckle-deep in this film as well. Also, what is up with the repetitious use of the word “tales”? We had Campfire Tales, followed by Tales from the Crypt, and now Tales from the Darkside. I didn’t even mention Roahl Dahls classic television show Tales of the Unexpected, but it used it too.  They should just make one giant movie called “Campfire Tales of the Unexpected from the Darkside of the Crypt” and call the whole thing off. Hey, I’d watch it!

So if Tales From the Darkside hasn’t interested you yet, I’ll make two last ditch effort to try and draw you in. I shall reveal the cast:

Still not impressed? How about the trailer?

Alright, so what could possibly be better than the previous combination of elements; Stephen King, George A. Romero, Arthur Conan Doyle, and that impeccable cast? Well, how about a combination of the 70’s and 80’s four most high-profile directors?

There’s no way you haven’t heard of The Twilight Zone, everyone has. It’s one of the most famous television shows ever, all about weird little stories of the paranormal, supernatural, and downright inexplicable.

The Tv show came and went throughout the 1950’s and 60’s. Then, 20 years later, a group of filmmakers teamed up and decided that they wanted to make a big, bold, anthology films that was a saturated tribute to the series. Who were these filmmakers? Why John Landis, Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante, and George Miller of course. For those still sketchy on the significance of the names; That’s John Landis of The Blues Brothers and American Werewolf in London, Steven Spielberg of…all the Spielberg films, Joe Dante of Piranha and Gremlins, and George Miller of the Mad Max films.

I was going to show you the trailer but…it’s pretty terrible and shows you nothing of any value or atmosphere whatsoever, so I won’t. Instead I’ll share with you a creepy behind-the-scenes story on the making of the film:

During the production of the very first segment, directed by John Landis, there was a tragic accident. Not only tragic…it was insane! One of the scenes in the segment called for a ridiculously scary stunt in which a helicopter hovered mere meters above three of the actors heads, Vic Morrows and two vietnamese child actors; Myca Dinh Le and Renee Shin-Yi Chen. Just about everything that could go wrong did go wrong when the helicopter actually crashed on top of them, decapitating and crushing them completely. Not only that, but the cameras were rolling as it happened – which means that the whole thing eventually found its way onto youtube. Then, as if that’s not crazy enough, John Landis nearly went to jail for murder, as he had ignored union film safety regulations. Now that’s some freaky spooky shit!

When I first saw the movie I had no idea that all this was in the background of it. Some might say that it warrants not completing the film, as it could be seen as profiting off the death of three people. I can understand that, but to me it makes the movie that much more interesting. Although I have written about death in somewhat respectful and philosophical terms before, I have a confession to make: I have a slight morbid obsession with it as well. Watching a movie like The Twilight Zone and knowing that three of the stars in the picture had their heads chopped off on set…makes it fascinating to me! Just like the Poltergeist curse, where a disturbing number of the actors ended up dying one after another to the point of suspicion, this event adds even more mystery and intrigue into an already mysterious and intriguing anthology film. I’m not going to lie, it does contribute to it’s high placement on the list.

But even that can’t boost it past my favourite anthology film of all time, which is…

I love Trick ‘r Treat! Love love love love love love love love love looooove it! I know that was very grammatically negligent of me, but the point needs to be made with some seriously heavy trauma!

It tells four separate stories, all within the same universe. As the stories play out periodically, they also intersect and affect one another. Staying true to all the traditions of horror anthology films, it provides us with morally corrupt central characters who quite literally face their demons in the form of gruesome and supernatural incarnations. Not only is this movie a tribute to anthology films and horror films alike, it’s a gorgeously penned love letter to Halloween! Every frame of this movie praises the very spirit of the holiday and childishly rolls around in it. OK, that’s it. Forget the rest of the movies I mentioned. Alright no, I mean – they’re all great and deserve your attention thoroughly…but this movie is it! If you only choose one movie out of all of them to watch this Halloween, make it this one! You cannot be disappointed! It’s not possible!

However, it’s very important to make sure that you buy or rent Trick ‘r Treat, not Trick or Treat. Trick or Treat is a 1986 film with Gene Simmons and Ozzy Osbourne…and I am not endorsing that.

Please take a look at the trailer and let it inspire you. Become a child again and forget all the torture films and found-footage crap, this is where it’s at; going back to the classic atmosphere of all hallows eve. Open your chest, take out your heart, dip it in sugar, and enjoy! Yumm!

I’m going to try and end each post from now till October 31st with an update on how my Hallowthreen is coming along. As you may remember last time I told you that I was possessed by the idea of selecting The Woman in Black as my first choice. I haven’t given up on that, but another film has begun to float around my attic recently and that’s Ti West’s The Innkeepers.

Ti West is an interesting guy. A few year ago he made a fantastic little cheap horror film called The House of the Devil. It intentionally used 1970’s stock, cameras, and filmmaking techniques to invoke the feeling of that decade. Not only that, but the film was also released on VHS as well as DVD and Blu-Ray, for no other reason than nostalgia. Tonally the movie reminded me very much of The Exorcist, and for any of you out there planning your own Hallowthreen, The House of the Devil is a great choice if you haven’t already seen it.

As for The Innkeepers, the trailer intrigues me but I’m not sure whether to laminate it in as my second choice, or paste it over my first. Trailers can be deceptive, as we all know. Aaarrgh, if only I was a poor starving african child living the simple life in a third world country – then I wouldn’t have to deal with these pressing issues! Please help me out, people.

What do you think? Does it look scarier than The Woman in Black? Maybe some of you out there have even seen both of them and can tell me whether you think it was.

– Rant Over

2 thoughts on “Fright-sized scares

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