Category Archives: Everything October

“Tales of Halloween” (2015) REVIEW

1As I laid on my couch last night, despondent over Halloween’s ghost quickly disappearing in my rearview mirror, I decided to watch the recently released horror anthology, Tales of Halloween, if only to keep the festive embers glowing just a little bit longer. It wasn’t something I had planned on watching; despite its voluminous cast and the certified Grade A horror pedigree involved, the trailer looked like the typical low-budget shot-on-digital crud that you’d expect to see being funded via Kickstarter. Alas, I was desperate for one last shot of Halloween, so I turned it on.

I will say this: it wasn’t terrible. In fact, it was totally watchable and easily digestible.

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Horror anthologies — much like all things nostalgic and ripe for a modern exploitation — have been making a comeback in recent years. They flickered out in the early-’90s, but they were reignited in 2007 with the release of Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘R Treat. Since 2012, the stream of horror anthologies has been pretty consistent, starting with the fair-to-middlin’ V/H/S. That same year, the superior and much more cohesive The ABC’s of Death was released. Multiple sequels for both films followed, and the trend continues today with Tales of Halloween and the soon to be released Holidays.

Now some horror anthologies have a common thread that ties the stories together, while others have a wraparound segment that begins and ends the movie. Tales of Halloween tries to pull off both by having all the stories take place on Halloween night, all seeming to occur in the same neighborhood with the same residents (very similar to the aforementioned Trick ‘R Treat) and by having a radio DJ open and close the movie, while providing some interstitial narration. I’m actually not a fan of the “common thread” approach; to me, it’s a very worn out trope. It feels like a cheap, easy, and unnecessary device to excite viewers when in reality it’s more distracting than anything and always feels shoe-horned in. It isn’t terrible in Tales of Halloween, but they also coulda done without it and still had the same exact movie. So what’s the point, y’know?

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Another facet of the horror anthology: determining the length of each segment. On one end of the spectrum, you have Two Evil Eyes, an anthology from 1990 which had only two segments, each one about an hour long. In the middle, you have Creepshow with five segments that clocked in around 22 minutes a piece. And at the other end of the spectrum you have The ABCs of Death, which had twenty-six segments, each only about 4 minutes long. Tales of Halloween falls somewhere in the middle with ten segments, each about 9 minutes long. Personally, I think Creepshow hit the sweet spot for segment length — not too short, not too long — the perfect format for an anthology. Despite this, I think the shorter length of the stories in Tales of Halloween actually works in its favor: get in, get out, no dragging of the feet.

Speaking of short episodic formats, one of the best parts about Tales of Halloween is that it reminded me of the TV show Tales from the Darkside. The segments vary from campy to gory to spooky, all crafted lovingly with a low-budget touch. Some anthologies — like Trick ‘R Treat — are shot very cinematically. They look like a typical movie, they feel like a movie. Tales of Halloween looks and feel like a collection of TV episodes — and I mean that in a positive way. I also got a Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark vibe from a couple segments, too — which is another plus.

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So a quick rundown of the segments before I wrap this up:

  • “Sweet Tooth”, your standard spooky under-the-covers Halloween story come to life.
  • “The Night Billy Raised Hell”, a little boy pulling pranks learns a lesson from a creepy old man. My second favorite of the bunch.
  • “Trick”, a bit of Children of the Corn meets The Strangers. Simple entry but still fun enough.
  • “The Weak and the Wicked”, a classic monster-infused tale of revenge.
  • “Grim Grinning Ghost”, quick and one-note but reminiscent of a Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark story.
  • “Ding Dong”, a dark and wacky story of a husband and his witchy wife — heavy Tales from the Darkside vibes on this one.
  • “This Means War”, neighbors battle over yard decorations. Funny and absent of any horror whatsoever, but still feels at home given the across-the-board variety of the movie.
  • “Friday the 31st”, another funny horror tale. Imagine if Jason Voorhees and Rankin/Bass got together to make an ode to Evil Dead, and you’d get this segment.
  • “The Ransom of Rusty Rex”, perhaps my favorite of the lot. Some kidnappers snatch a kid and get more than they bargained for. Creepy, funny, gory, silly. Hits all the major points. Definite Tales from the Darkside vibes from this segment, as well.
  • “Bad Seed”, a killer pumpkin wreaks havoc on the town. Almost Troma-esque in its concept and delivery.

My overall opinion of the movie: it’s actually a pretty fun jaunt. At times, the acting is a bit wooden (I get it; it’s low-budget), but that’s about my biggest complaint. Give it a watch, but make sure you go into it with the right mindset — expect to smirk more than shriek.

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DEATH ROW DINER – 13 Days of Shot on Video! (#1)

With 13 Days of Shot On Video I’ll be reviewing a new shot-on-video horror film every weekday for the last two weeks of October. You can view all entries HERE.

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Well, the day has arrived: this is the final entry in my two week-long odyssey into the belly of the bare-bones beast, “13 Days of Shot on Video”. Honestly, it went a lot smoother than I thought it would. It wasn’t until today that I became afraid I wouldn’t make it. I know, it sounds silly to say but I really didn’t think I’d complete my final entry. I can only liken it to what I assume runners experience when they hit “the wall” miles into their marathon, right before they reach the finish line. Not only am I mentally exhausted from churning out a new review (for what are essentially identical movies) everyday for almost two weeks straight, but my tolerance for the camp and low-budget whimsy of these monsters is totally deep-fried. I’m beginning to no longer appreciate their shortcomings, which is unfair to them and makes for an impartial review. I said it before and I’ll say it again: I am in major need of a detox! Continue reading DEATH ROW DINER – 13 Days of Shot on Video! (#1)

BLOOD LAKE – 13 Days of Shot on Video! (#2)

With 13 Days of Shot On Video I’ll be reviewing a new shot-on-video horror film every weekday for the last two weeks of October. You can view all entries HERE.

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Despite there not being a whole lot of information about Blood Lake to be found online, the scant reviews I did find on various horror blogs made one thing abundantly clear: people do not like this movie. I must be in the minority, because I didn’t mind it so much!

Blood Lake is almost identical to an earlier SOV release (and one I reviewed at the beginning of my “13 Days of Shot on Video” run), Sledgehammer. Both films see a group of young kids headed to a remote cabin for a weekend getaway filled with drinking, partying, and sex. And naturally, both movies see an evil presence stalking and killing them one by one. Both movies also feature tons of unnecessarily long, drawn out shots that were most likely left unedited to pad out the run time. However, there are certain elements about Blood Lake that give it an edge over Sledgehammer. Continue reading BLOOD LAKE – 13 Days of Shot on Video! (#2)

CAPTIVES – 13 Days of Shot on Video! (#3)

With 13 Days of Shot On Video I’ll be reviewing a new shot-on-video horror film every weekday for the last two weeks of October. You can view all entries HERE.

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I just finished watching Gary P. Cohen’s “lost” home invasion movie from 1988, Captives, aka Mama’s House, and I gotta say: I didn’t really enjoy it. Perhaps it’s the fact that I was fresh off the surprisingly great shot-on-video home invasion flick, Venus Flytrap — or maybe it’s because I love Gary P. Cohen’s other two movies so much (Video Violence and Video Violence 2) that, when compared to the aforementioned SOV flicks, Captives can’t help but fall a little flat.

The movie follows three intruders (all siblings) who break into the home of a young couple. The husband has just left for work and the wife is home alone with the baby when, all of a sudden, she’s being terrorized by these three maniacs. Soon, the young girl’s mother-in-law pays a visit to the house. The old lady is quickly tied up, and the intruders lead the young wife to believe there’s more to this grandmotherly woman than she lets on. Continue reading CAPTIVES – 13 Days of Shot on Video! (#3)

VENUS FLYTRAP – 13 Days of Shot on Video! (#4)

With 13 Days of Shot On Video I’ll be reviewing a new shot-on-video horror film every weekday for the last two weeks of October. You can view all entries HERE.

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I had no idea what to expect going into Venus Flytrap. Not much info exists about it online (no Wikipedia page, a scant IMDB page, and only a handful of horror blogs have reviewed it), and the only reason I happened upon it was because it was included in one of those “buy this group of DVDs together, save this amount of money” type deals when I was adding DVDs to my shopping cart on Amazon. The cover art looked really unique and I don’t think it cost no more than ten bucks, so I thought, what the hell. You only live once, right?

Let me say, I am so happy I took a chance on Venus Flytrap! Continue reading VENUS FLYTRAP – 13 Days of Shot on Video! (#4)

MAD RON’S PREVUES FROM HELL – 13 Days of Shot on Video! (#5)

With 13 Days of Shot On Video I’ll be reviewing a new shot-on-video horror film every weekday for the last two weeks of October. You can view all entries HERE.

mad4Mad Ron’s Prevues From Hell is such a singular, unique film that of course it could only be birthed during the ’80s shot-on-video boom.

In fact, it’s not much of a movie at all: in reality, it’s 90 minutes of exploitation film trailers from the ’60s and ’70s hosted by a man and his zombie puppet. The trailers are film stock, but the interstitial wraparound segments featuring the ventriloquist and his dummy are pure shot-on-video awesomeness. Continue reading MAD RON’S PREVUES FROM HELL – 13 Days of Shot on Video! (#5)