Friday, 6 March 2015


With my recent review of Tales of the Supernatural and upcoming coverage of Dreadtime Stories, it got me thinking about the plethora of portmanteau style horror anthologies out there.
With recent releases such as V/H/S: Viral and ABCs of Death 2 proving there is still plenty of demand for this type of storytelling, it seems like a great time to look back at the very best.

6: V/H/S 2 
Various, 2013

This is the most recent movie on the list (yep, I'm going old-school today) and it is definitely one of the most extreme. While the first and third efforts in the V/H/S series were something of a mixed bag (although Hannah Fierman's 'I like you' girl in the Amateur Night section of the first is amazing) there is barely a duff moment in the middle film. The segments were longer than in the first film, giving them more time to crawl under your skin.
The undoubted highlight is Safe Haven, directed by The Raid's Gareth Evans. Following a diabolical Far Eastern cult this visceral explosion of sheer, unadulterated awesome screams out for a feature-length adaptation and is enough to warrant inclusion on this list by itself. But that isn't to say that the other segments are duds — far from it! 
Jason Eisener (the man behind one of my favourite Grindhouse homages, Hobo WIth A Shotgun) brings us the hilariously deranged Slumber Party Alien Abduction, The Blair Witch Project’s Eduardo Sanchez hits us with his unique take on the zombie flick, A Ride In The Park and THE Adam Wingard (he of You’re Next fame) gives us a delightfully atmospheric chiller with Phase I Clinical Trials
You need to see it.

Michael Dougherty, 2007

Odds are that if you've read one of my features you know all about my unbridled love for Michael Dougherty's amazingly atmospheric Halloween anthology.
There's really very little left to say about why this movie is a stone-cold classic. The awesome cast (featuring the likes of X-Men’s Anna Paquin, Manhunter’s Brian Cox and Spider-man’s Dylan Baker), a brilliantly creepy and intricately interwoven series of wonderful stories and the birth of a legitimate horror icon in the incredible Sam, plus cinematography that means the film positively OOZES Autumnal atmosphere — this kicks all kinds of ass and the long-awaited sequel cannot come soon enough for this fan.
With storylines including zombies, ghosts, werewolves, serial-killers and the worst kind of demonic imp, Trick 'r Treat is a seasonal masterpiece. If you haven't yet seen it, make sure you set it aside to watch on 31st October this year. You absolutely will not regret it.

Jon Harrison, 1990

Apparently this was the unofficial Creepshow 3 and, thankfully, it is FAR superior to the official one released in 2006. In fact, many of the crew from the first two Creepshow movies were reunited on this picture. Furthermore, Tales From The Darkside sprang from a TV series that was essentially Creepshow: the TV series (albeit renamed), so the lineage is there.
You know what else is there? BRILLIANT stories and an equally brilliant cast!
The wraparound tale featuring Blondie's Debbie Harry as a Hansel and Gretel-esque witch preparing a young boy as meal is pretty good, but the segments are jaw-dropping.
Take Lot 249, based on the original and best mummy tale as penned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It boasts an amazing practical effects undead assailant and stars Christian Slater, Julianne Moore AND Steve Buscemi.
Read that again.
That's just one section!
The second, the Poe-like Cat From Hell (penned by George A Romero no less!) stars character actor supreme William Hickey as a wheelchair bound CEO of a pharmaceutical company that has killed thousands of cats for medical research. Now he hires a hitman to rid him of a sinister single black cat that he claims is out for revenge. Wackiness ensues.
But it is the third segment that cements TFTDS as one of all my all-time favourites. Lover’s Vow stars Rae Dawn Chong and James Remar along with one of the very finest practical creature effects from the era in which these things were at their best. The story is simple, poignant and creepy — and the movie is a classic.

Freddie Francis, 1972

I'll be honest, I could have done a Sinister Six Ace Amicus Anthologies list, but sense prevailed and I forced myself to limit Amicus’ presence on this list to just one entry. A contemporary cousin and rival to Britain's indomitable Hammer Films, the UK-based Amicus Productions pretty much made its name with a stunning series of ghoulish portmanteau tales that started with 1965's Dr Terror's House of Horrors (hey, that's a cool name...) and continued all the way through to 1974's From Beyond The Grave. Several of these were based on stories by Psycho writer Robert Bloch, and it was a bit of a toss-up as to whether I'd go for the incredible Asylum or Tales From The Crypt for my Amicus selection on this list. In the end I opted for the film based on the EC Comics title. 
It has developed a real cult following, not least for the All Through The Night section that saw Joan Collins under attack from a killer Santa a full 12 years before Silent Night, Deadly Night was banned for a similar story. Collins joins impressive names such as Peter Cushing (whose heartbreaking segment is a rollicking revenge tale) and Patrick Magee who bosses the screen as the stony-faced blind man out for vengeance against a greedy care home owner.
The wrap around story is great and features a killer punch at the end, while other segments such as the Monkey's Paw-like Wish You Were Here are more than satisfying. This is a sterling film from a time when British cinematic output was incredibly strong. It is highly, highly recommended.

George A Romero, 1982

An homage to the banned and lurid 1950s horror comics, filled with stories written by Stephen King and directed by the father of the zombie movie, George A Romero.
I’m tempted to just leave this description there as evidence enough as to why this film rules, but that would actually do the flick an injustice. Featuring fabulous effects work from the one and only Tom Savini, this is a legitimate cult classic.
The stories are a little flimsy, revelling in their trashy roots but they are all great fun, boasting appearances from the likes of the late, great Leslie Nielsen, Ted Danson and even King himself! My favourite segment, The Crate, has been mentioned in my epic horror movie links feature, and is a brilliantly dark and surprisingly personal tale, while the other standout, They’re Creeping Up On You, descends into a stomach-turning nightmare with its creepy-crawly overload.
Now a confession — I actually prefer the second Creepshow movie. I think The Raft is a genuine classic horror story and probably prefer The Hitch-hiker with its 'Thanks for the ride, lady' catchphrase over the segments in this film, but as THE film that brought back the anthology format during the Golden Age of Eighties horror, Creepshow is a movie landmark. 

Various, 1945

I did say I was going old-school! And there are none more old-school than this classic film from the revered Ealing Studios. I won't go so far as to call this film and its various segments the prototype for the genre, but the fact remains that without Dead of Night the horror landscape would be very different indeed. Without this picture Amicus would have never tried to replicate its success and brought us the string of class anthologies mentioned earlier.
Sure, it feels a little dated now, but this film came a good 30-40 years before the films which took its ideas and ran with them.
With an amazing cast of top acting talent and some legitimately scary segments, Dead of Night is widely regarded by horror makers as one of the all-time greats. Martin Scorsese himself has hailed the film as one of the scariest of all-time, while Andy Nyman, one of the creators of the incredible horror portmanteau stageplay Ghost Stories is unashamed in his admiration for the film (in fact, upon closer inspection its influences on the show are plentiful).
OK, the light-hearted story about the pair of golfing rivals is a bit of a misfire, but as recently as last year the film’s legacy could be seen in the likes of Oculus. The Hearse Driver, The Haunted Mirror, The Christmas Party and, last but not least, The Ventriloquist’s Dummy with the spine chilling Hugo — these are all genuinely incredible and iconic horror tales. The old-time era just adds to the creepiness in what is, purely and simple, a classic. 
The bottom-line is that Dead of Night is essential viewing. 

So what do you think of the list? Are there any glaring omissions or choices you disagree with? Do you have a particular favourite horror anthologies that you feel I've overlooked? Or perhaps you think I’ve given one of the movies above too much credit?
Leave your comments below or drop me a message, it'd be great to hear from you.
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Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.

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