In celebration of the halfway point to Halloween, I’ve decided to share a list of my favorite horror anthologies that are perfect to watch on Halloween night.
Most of these movies are pretty gory and violent, so make sure the kids are in bed or definitely preoccupied with their candy haul in another room. The 70s are long gone and responsible parenting is in, so, don’t scar your kids for life with things they can’t unsee. Although, the worst that could happen is they turn into lifelong horror fans like us.
Trick-‘r-Treat, 2007 – Directed by Michael Dougherty. With his directorial debut, Dougherty gave the world the terrifyingly cute Halloween mascot Sam, a trick-r-treating demon with a simple list of rules that must be followed on Halloween night. This cult-favorite film never saw a theatrical release because Warner Bros. supposedly didn’t know how to market the film. I think it was mostly due to the violence of and to the children in the film’s stories. Whatever the case, this is as perfect as an anthology film can get. Great acting, great storytelling, art direction, costumes, and cinematography are all on point, and then, there’s the birth of a Halloween icon, Sam. Films that spawn multi-dollar merchandising opportunities are pretty rare, but the fact that it all grew into a worldwide fan favorite without fancy marketing and a normal production release, absolute kismet! Earlier this year, rumors spread that a bonafide sequel was in the works, but there have been no other details. Fingers crossed that Dougherty’s magic casts a second spell over the horror lovers.
The Mortuary Collection, 2019 – Directed and written by Ryan Spindell. Shudder produced this slick original anthology with a framing story more interesting than the shorts. As a big fan of Clancy Brown, I was delighted to see him starring as the eccentric mortician in the small town of Raven’s End. When a young woman answers the “Help Wanted” sign, the mortician decides to test her resolve and recounts several macabre stories of death cases he’s encountered over the years, but, as it turns out, this secretive new employee has a tale of her own to tell. The acting, score, and production quality here are all top-notch and the short stories are pretty much classic horror, with one freshly woke tale guaranteed to make men squeamish.
Creepshow, 1982 – Directed by George A Romero. In this early 80s horror-comedy, legendary horror icons, Romero and Stephen King, who wrote three stories specifically for the movie, collaborate together for the first time. The good friends really knew how to speak each other’s language and produced a classic campy fun spooky anthology of five stories which really helped make horror anthologies appreciated in the same vein as horror films. Despite the Creep feeling awfully familiar to the Cryptkeeper of Tales of the Crypt fame, the Creepshow Magazine framing story is a solid tale of an abused boy named Billy, who just wants to enjoy his comics, but his father decides to throw his beloved magazine out instead. Creepshow was a perfectly executed anthology series, starring a lot of well-known Hollywood celebrities of 1980s respectively. With special effects and monster creations done by longtime Romero friend and collaborator Tom Savini, the film paid homage to old 1950s horror and sci-fi comics and movies. My favorite short, They’re Creeping up on You, starred EG Marshall, as a bigoted, racist germ-freak tycoon who gets his comeuppance in a creepy way.
Creepshow 2, 1987 – Directed by Michael Gornick. After George A. Romero wrote the screenplay for Creepshow 2, he stepped aside to allow the cinematographer of the first Creepshow movie, to wear the director cap, in this second film collaboration with Stephen King. Even with only three stories, this quintessential 80s horror outshines its predecessor and features fine performances from more Hollywood legends, like George Kennedy and Dorothy Lamour, and Tom Savini, who played the storytelling Creep and helped again with special effects. The stories are Stephen King’s classic tall tales come to life, with The Raft and The Hitchhiker being the best of three but I really did enjoy the outlining story involving the same bullied comic-reading hero Billy from the first film. Much like the first film, Creepshow 2 simply reminds us of why some of us fell in love with horror in the first place.
All Hallow’s Eve, 2013 – Directed and written by Damien Leone. What an introduction to the brutal sadistic horror villain Art the Clown. In his first feature-length film, Art terrorizes a babysitter on Halloween night, when she finds an old VHS tape containing three horrifying stories. One of the creepiest things about Art the Clown and why he’s become such a popular horror villain, is we just don’t know why he’s doing all this. It harkens back to the early days of Halloween’s Michael Myers, before the armchair psychologists showed up and ruined him. The boogeyman doesn’t need a reason.
V/H/S/94, 2021 – Directed by various directors. Does anyone even know or remember what VHS tapes are? All the Shudder’s V/H/S movies are great, but in ’94, I really enjoyed all the shorts and the framing story about a group of swat officers who raid the compound of a cult only to discover body parts and disturbing videotapes playing in each room. The Subject directed by Timo Tjahjanto was my favorite. What a gruesome action-packed delight. This is a perfectly cast and executed production of cyborg horror with a fantastic story and a hero which I hope we haven’t seen the last of. (I’m still waiting for cyberpunk horror genre to take off, now that we have the technology.) Fingers crossed someone gives Timo some money and lets him make a sequel or prequel.
Black Sabbath, (I tre volti della paura, ‘The Three Faces of Fear), 1963 – Directed by Mario Bava. The legendary Italian horror maestro teams up with horror icon Boris Karloff to tell three terrifying tales. This is mostly a thriller, light on actual scares, except for the last story, A Drop of Water. Now this is a horror classic that will haunt you. Bava stole from the best to bring these creepy tales to life and has found a cult following since its initial release, which was considered a bomb. I guess Kaloff’s star was fading by then. Thank the horror gods for DTV and streaming.
Tales of Halloween, 2015 – Directed by various directors. This Netflix production of ten separate horror stories, all taking place on Halloween night, is a lot fun and a great film to put on in the background of your Halloween party. After a long animation montage of the short’s titles and credits, we jump right into the action. There’s no framing story, just horror legend Adrienne Barbeau lending her smooth voice as a local DJ to set the mood for the evening. While not as scary as some other anthologies on this list, the Halloween vibe is strong and some shorts are really amusing and filled with dark humor. My favorite story was Friday the 31st which I found quite humorous and a real treat for those who like twists.
There’s no real order to this list. I think every anthology series has merit and should be seen by horror fans. I can’t guarantee every story will tickle your fancy, but enough of them will. If you’re looking to have a spooky good time on Halloween night after the trick-or-treating is done, these are timeless horror classics that get the job done.