For some reason horror anthologies haven’t always been commercially popular, but they do retain a fond place in the bloody hearts of horror fans around the world. For those unaware, these types of films are composed of number of short stories, usually tied together by a story that wraps around and connects them all. There has been a recent rejuvenation in the genre and with the festival of halloween around the corner, we look back on our favourite horror anthology films.
15. Tales from the Darkside: The Movie
Dir. John Harrison, 1990
It’s been labelled the spiritual successor to Creepshow 2, and it does have a contribution from both Stephen King and George A. Romero (they even used a story that they couldn’t include in the sequel to the seminal horror anthology film) but the stories are tonally different to one another. The first segment ‘Lot 249’ feels most like the TV show that the film is a product of, but it’s also a little dull, however it does have Steve Buscemi, Christian Slater, and Julianne Moore in it! The latter two are more interesting affairs ‘Cat From Hell’ was actually dropped from Creepshow 2, but it’s such a bizarre segment that you can only find in a horror anthology. The last one ‘Lover’s Vow’ has so many flaws but is still nonetheless captivating, and is the best of the lot (They tend to leave the best till last).
14. Tales from the Crypt
Dir. Freddie Francis, 1972
Amicus Productions was a British film production company that specialised in horror films, and released a number of anthologies in the 1970s. Tales from the Crypt is memorable for having an all star cast including Joan Collins, Peter Cushing, and Ralph Richardson. The film finds five strangers talk about how they died after stumbling into a mysterious crypt and finding themselves trapped. It’s a little slow in some of the stories, but they’re all reasonably entertaining to watch, especially ‘Poetic Justice’ which had Peter Cushing on top form. The film is a nice introduction to the Amicus horror anthologies, and worth a watch.
13. V/H/S 2
Dir. Adam Wingard, Simon Barrett, Eduardo Sanchez, Gregg Hale, Jason Eisener, 2013
Found footage films aren’t for everybody, and the V/H/S series is no different. In this entry of the trilogy so far, 2 private investigators are searching for a missing student and stumble upon a pile of mysterious of video tapes which venture into some truly bizarre and horrific places. The film boasts a new generation of horror talent including Eduardo Sanchez, Adam Wingard, and Simon Barrett, and their entries are hit and miss, but the best segment belongs to the man who directed The Raid Gareth Huw Evans. Titled ‘Safe Haven’ the story follows a documentary crew enter a compound belonging to a cult for an interview, but things take a turn for the worse. The section is extreme, so be warned.
12. Fun Size Horror: Volume 1
Dir. Zeke Pinheiro, Michael May, Mali Elfman, & more, 2015
Fun Size Horror is exactly how it sounds, a series of snack bite sized shorts that make up a solid collection. There are 25 in total, from a serious of different people and in all sorts of styles. We watched this recently on Amazon Prime, and it is most certainly flying under the radar. Obviously not all 20+ shorts are a hit, but there are some hauntingly effective ones that could easily be extended into feature lengths, and some that are solid as they are in short form. ‘Mr. Hendrix’, ‘The Collection’ and ‘Knock Knock’ were our favourites and in my humble opinion this series of shorts is better and more consistent than the ABCs of Death. For a horror film it is immensely easy to watch thanks to the length of the shorts, and should anything not take your fancy it won’t last long.
11. The Vault of Horror
Dir. Roy Ward Baker, 1973
The second entry on this list from Amicus Productions, and is our favourite. It lacks originality in its framing device which is eerily similar to Tales from the Crypt, including the cautionary tale approach, but the individual stories are really good and contain some moments not out of place in modern horror. All the stories come from issues of EC comics, and there are some good ones. From the artist who learns voodoo to the magician on holiday in India they all contain great little snippets and stories. If you watch one Amicus horror anthology, make this it.
Dir. Kevin Smith, Anthony Scott Burns, Kevin Kolsch, Nicolas McCarthy, Adam Egypt Mortimer, Ellen Reid, Gary Shore, Sarah Adina Smith, Scott Stewart, Dennis Widmeyer,2016
It was only a matter of time before every season/holiday of the calendar would get some variety of horror spin, and it so happens we got them all at once with this warped anthology. Though there are some really good entries, such as Father’s Day, Easter, and Valentine’s Day there are also a couple not so good ones. It is not a film for the faint of heart as literally the first segment features a bloody heart that is not quite surgically removed. For a deeper insight into the film check out our review here.
9. Body Bags
Dir. John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper, 1993
Despite looking older than it’s 1993 release date Body Bags is enjoyable fanfare that contains a who’s who of the horror genre. Not only is it directed by John Carpenter, he stars as an unusual formaldehyde drinking morgue attendant that seems to be doing an impression of Beetlejuice as he introduces each story. Our favourite segment is ‘Eye’ which features Mark Hamill as a baseball player who recieves a transplant eye after a car crash, bad news for him is it starts making him a bit cuckoo. In addition to Hamill, there are appearences from Sam Raimi, Wes Craven, David Naughton, George ‘Buck’ Flower, David Warner, Stacey Keach, Greg Nicotero, Debbie Harry, Twiggy and Roger Corman. You get the point.
8. The House on Terror Tract
Dir. Lance W. Dreeson, Clint Hutchison, 2000
I love this anthology. Plain and simple. It’s not in any way scary, but ridiculously hilarious. The awesome John Ritter plays an estate agent showing a couple a number of houses that are available for sale, but as per his remit must divulge the grisly details behind the history of each house he shows them. This acts as a wrap around story as Ritter and the couple visit three different properties with three horrible histories. Two of the three stories are great for their own reasons. The second segment ‘Bobo’ stars Bryan Cranston as a father who relentlessly tries to rid his house of an evil monkey that his daughter has taken into the home, and the third segment before the epilogue is about a serial killer dressed as in a so bad it’s good granny mask. The killers punchline is “come to granny!!!”. It’s dumb but hysterical, and how it hasn’t spawned a cult following based off that alone I do not know. Get it watched.
7. Trilogy of Terror
Dir. Dan Curtis, 1975
Karen Black is Dan Curtis’s muse in this 1975 TV movie that adapts some works by Richard Matheson (I Am Legend). There are three stories in the film, all of which Black takes the lead role with some really great performances. ‘Julie’ follows a relationship between student and teacher that takes a nasty turn, ‘Millicent & Therese’ explores a conflict between two sisters, and ‘Amelia’ is a strange tale of a woman and a Zuni fetish doll that contains the evil spirit known as ‘He Who Kills’. The first two parts are crafty shorts that allow Karen Black to fully immerse herself into the roles, and both demonstrate rather sinister elements to characters. However the tale that everyone remembers is the last involving the murderous doll. It’s one of the first times film got a dastardly pint sized antagonist, and boy does it rampage against Black’s character. At the time it would have been scary, now it’s just mildly amusing but slightly freaky. Oh, I also invented a drinking game during the last segment that involves drinking every time Karen Black falls over, twas very effective.
Dir. Roxanne Benjamin, David Bruckner, Patrick Horvath, Radio Silence, 2015
This recent horror anthology is part of the new breed of films that are entering the genre alongside the likes of V/H/S, giving a more serious spin rather than the darkly comic nature of its forebears. The interlocked stories that feature in Southbound are all reasonably dark, and watch the journeys of people who are travelling down a desolate road for various reasons. A band is on their way to a gig before their van breaks down, a man is faced with a horrific hit and run accident, and a pair of friends are stalked by ghastly grim reaper looking spirits. Genre staple Larry Fessenden narrates as a preachy voice on the radio throughout the course of the film. It’s gruesome at times, especially the hit and run segment, but excels in creating intrigue by being purposely vague which keeps you gripped until the end. Light entertainment this is not.
5. A Christmas Horror Story
Dir. Grant Harvey, Steven Hoban, Brett Sullivan, 2015
Christmas horror films aren’t as prolific as you might expect, and the majority of them are pretty rubbish. There are some exceptions and this is one of them. Personally never did we think that we’d enjoy a film whose DVD cover features Santa and Krampus engaged in fisticuffs with staffs and chains, but we did, emphatically. There are four interwoven stories tied loosely through a radio DJ played by William Shatner. There are tales of doppelgangers, Krampus, and Santa fighting infected elves. That last one is just as entertaining as it sounds, believe me. Whether it’s for Halloween, Christmas, or just shits and giggles, A Christmas Horror Story is quite the laugh, even if it doesn’t always intend it.
4. Dead of Night
Dir. Alberto Cavalcanti, Charles Crichton, Basil Dearden, Robert Hamer
These days unless your a film student, or a purveyor of the genre your unlikely to have heard of or seen Dead of Night, nor be scared by its content. However the film is a standout of British cinema in the 1940s, a time when horror films were few and far between, and it left a legacy for decades to come. The film follows a house full of strangers sharing stories of unusual and scary events they’ve heard or experienced recently, the best of which is the most famed, a tale of a ventriloquist dummy that appears to have a life of its own and its jaded owner played expertly by Michael Redgrave. The anthology is worth a watch for this segment alone, and as a piece of historic British film it deserves to be seen.
3. Cat’s Eye
Dir. Lewis Teague, 1985
Stephen King has a long relationship with horror and this won’t be the only time his name appears on this list. After a few successful adaptations of his work, including the next entry, King went on to write more material for this classically eighties horror anthology. A black cat plays the framing device as it meanders through three stories, the first two adaptations of King’s work and the latter new material. The first stars James Woods who is forced to extreme lengths to quit smoking in ‘Quitters, Inc’, the second story ‘The Ledge’ follows a nasty casino owner make a bet with a tennis coach who has fallen for his wife, and the third called ‘General’ tells the tale of a troll who lives in the wall of a little girls room. The strength of this anthology rests on the quality of the three stories, all of which pull their weight, a rarity for the genre.
Dir. George A. Romero, 1982
The horror anthology genre isn’t a deep one, but it contains within a few milestone entries. One of the mot significant is this delightfully black horror comedy directed by the godfather of the zombie genre George A. Romero. Visual effects maestro Tom Savini joins him in creating some colourful imagery. The film also marks Stephen King’s screenwriting debut, adaptations of two of his short stories ‘The Crate’ and ‘Weeds’, the latter containing an appearance by King himself as Jordy Verrill.
Of the five stories contained within, our favourites are ‘The Crate’, a story about a mysterious crate found in a university, and ‘Something to Tide You Over’ which features not only Ted Danson, but a jealously sinister Leslie Nielsen. You can also play spot the actor with turns from Ed Harris, Hal Holbrook, and Tom Atkins too. This ode to the EC and DC horror comics that inspired it is an entertaining watch and one all horror fans should watch.
1. Trick R’ Treat
Dir. Michael Dougherty, 2007
Though there are some classic anthology films, the one that is really the cream of the crop is this masterful homage to anthologies of the past and the horror genre itself. The film weaves between interlinked stories chock full of ghoulish characters seamlessly, and Dougherty achieved his goal of creating a mascot for halloween with his wonderful ghastly creation of Sam. It’s easily our favourite horror anthology, and one of the best films to take place at halloween. Dougherty went on to direct one of the best Christmas horror films last year with Krampus, showing a flair for thematic and seasonal horror films.
So there are some of our favourite horror anthologies, there were plenty that didn’t make the list. What did we miss out? And what should we watch?