The Pick: It's Shocktober! That means Halloween! This movie literally has Halloween in the title! I hate to disappoint you, as I imagine you thought my movie pick requirements were far more stringent than that, but that's pretty much exactly the way it happened. Sorry.
The Film: Tales of Halloween is an anthology film with ten stories centered around, you guessed it, Halloween night. The ten stories are all wildly different in terms of the ideas on display, but each demonstrates a great sense of style that pervades the entire film. This really is all the more impressive given that each of the ten tales is written and directed by a different filmmaker, much in the vein of other recent anthology films like XX, The ABCs of Death and Holidays.
I rather enjoyed the first story of the film, entitled Sweet Tooth, in which a babysitter and her boyfriend tell her young charge a local legend about a young boy with an unhealthy obsession with his Halloween candy. In the legend, the boy has very strict parents that never let him eat the candy that he collects on Halloween. One night, after sneaking out of his room after begin sent to bed, the boy finds out what his parents have been doing with the confiscated candy, and thus the monstrous Sweet Tooth is born. Directed by David Parker, Sweet Tooth is a fun take on a modern holiday boogeyman, not entirely unlike Sam from Trick 'r Treat, but still wholly original. Frankly, I found the entire concept to be pretty inventive, and yet obvious in that way that makes me wonder why I've never seen a similar idea on film before now.
Another story I enjoyed was Ding Dong, a unique take on the old witch's tale. This story, written and directed by Lucky McKee (All Cheerleaders Die), centers around a middle-aged couple that are unable to have children. The wife is particularly damaged by this, and is shown physically abusing her husband during a moment of anger. Fast forward to Halloween night and the couple tries to put on their best faces, dressing up as a witch and Hansel to answer the door and performing an elaborate skit for each child. The steady stream of children proves overwhelming, and we witness the gradual breakdown of the wife's psyche. As the situation deteriorates and violence begins to bubble up just beneath the surface, the husband begins to see his wife as a multi-armed, red-skinned demon. Beyond the striking, stylish makeup, it's an interesting physical depiction of the domestic violence that the husband endures.
The last story I'll tell you about, Friday the 31st directed by Mike Mendez, is a twist on a classic slasher horror film. We pick up near the climax of what could be any of countless slasher films. We join the final girl, here dressed as sexy Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, as she discovers all of her murdered friends in an abandoned barn. The disfigured killer emerges and chases her down and, contrary to the popular slasher formula, he succeeds in killing her. The story continues to surprise as the disfigured killer is then visited by an UFO and a little green alien that wishes to partake in some traditional Halloween trick or treating. Without any candy to appease the otherworldly creature, the killer and the alien go to war. This was an incredibly surprising and fun short, one which had me laughing throughout its duration.
Tales of Halloween transcends its low-budget, demonstrating a great sense of style and presenting a wide variety of original ideas. With so many stories, there is bound to be at least a handful that catch your attention. However, with only a 90 minute run time, I did feel as though many of the stories were too short and underdeveloped. Although I might wish that the film had decided to focus on 4 or 5 of the tales, the film does keep a quick pace, making it compulsively watchable. While I think I still have to give the nod of best Halloween anthology to Trick 'r Treat, I don't think that Tales of Halloween has anything to be ashamed of. Put it on for your next Halloween party.