There are only so many portmanteaus out there and we hadn’t checked out a new one for a while. Tales of Halloween was sat there waiting to be watched but we had to psyche ourselves up for this one as it kind of looked rubbish. We’re idiots though and actually Tales of Halloween delivers a solid portmanteau experience with some nice twists to the formula.
First up, there are a whopping TEN sub-stories in this film. That’s pretty good value but quantity is no guarantee of quality. Thankfully our nerves about the film were settled right away as the overall story of the film (a deliciously paper-thin linking story that just has these ten tales happening in the same town on the same Halloween night) features one Adrienne Barbeau, the magnificent veteran actress known for her roles in Creepshow, The Thing and The Fog. Straight away we liked the film. How could we not?
Adrienne introduces the film as a radio DJ on Halloween. “It’s time to get you ghoul on because tonight is All Hallows’ Eve, my favourite time of the year”, she says before a fun animated opening credits sequence plays.
There will be spoilers from this point on. If you’re already interested in the film, don’t dick about. Get it watched!
Sweet Tooth – the first story is classic American horror movie fare. A young boy, Mike, (dressed as Snake Plissken) is enjoying his trick or treat candy when his babysitter, and her dick boyfriend, tell him to slow and save some for Sweet Tooth.
Sweet Tooth is a ghostly serial killer who, as a boy, was addicted to candy. He’d go out trick or treating but his parents wouldn’t let him keep his sweets. One night he comes downstairs and finds them eating all the sweets. And promptly goes berserk, kills his folks and then eats the candy that was undigested inside them.
His spirit goes on to plague trick or treaters every Halloween. If he isn’t given some candy, he kills you. Tough deal. Anyway, Mike goes to bed, leaving Sweet Tooth some candy. Unfortunately, the young couple downstairs didn’t, leaving Sweet Tooth to rip the sweets out of the douchey boyfriend’s fucking FACE.
Mike’s parents come home to find the couple with their guts hanging out.
This is a great opener. It’s funny, gory and utterly daft. It looks great and plays the scares perfectly.
The Night Billy Raised Hell – Another tale, another young boy. This time Billy is being taunted by his older sister and her boyfriend (another prick) and then talk him into trick or treating a miserable elderly gentleman who hates halloween.
The man takes him inside his house to tell him off and they appear to go out into the night to cause absolute chaos. The man is dressed as the devil, and we’re not sure if he actually is the devil, and he convinces the boy to maim, destroy and kill.
We see him stab people, set fire to halloween decorations and ultimately start robbing people with a gun. The old man is having a great time while the boy is enjoying himself too, driving a car through pedestrians (to the strains of some loud hip hop) and generally being a nightmare.
The story resolves when you realise Billy wasn’t in the costume at all. Instead there’s a little demon inside the costume. Billy steps out looking at the armed police who are there to arrest him.
This is another strong story with a good payoff and some fun set pieces. Two for two, so far. Tales of Halloween is off to a great start.
Trick – A group of young adults are getting drunk at home and watching Night of the Living Dead (as the couple in the first story were). When one of them answers the door, a young trick or treater stabs him in the stomach. As he dies, the rest of the group panic (like young adults often do in these sort of films) but it turns out the girl isn’t alone. A small group of costumed youngsters are looking to kill them and, predictably, they do. One at a time.
This is a standard riff on the slasher/Purge/Children of the Corn sort of film. And for a while you’re wondering why this is all happening. However, this story twists things up when the last survivor runs into the basement.
The children find her, and their friend. A young girl who has seemingly been tortured by the adults. The youngster says “happy Halloween you fucking sicko” as she drops an axe into the last woman’s head.
While not as strong as the first two stories, this one is redeemed by that twist ending.
The Weak and the Wicked – A vicious young woman, Alice, and her two male friends are bullying anyone weak that they can find when a man in a demon costume confronts them. Alice is unafraid as a Western-style showdown plays out.
But it turns out the demon is another weak victim of the group who isn’t particularly equipped to deal with them. He shows them a drawing of a demon and says it is here to avenge those who have been terrorised by the wicked.
As death metal plays out, the gang chase him down (on BMXs because America), eventually cornering him. A flashback shows him as a child watching his home burn down (with his parents in it) as the gang watch. Young Alice seems particularly horrible in the flashback.
As Alice goes to burn him, using a bottle of alcohol, the demon eventually shows up. Her two cronies fly off into the distance before he reveals himself. We hear Alice scream as blood hits the weak man in the face.
The weakest part so far. Not only is the story a little contrived, you don’t really get the pay off with all three deaths lacking the impact of previous stories. Still, it’s not a terrible one either. It misses the mark (it’s clearly going for some sort of demon Western vibe) but it still a pretty complete story.
Grim Grinning Ghost – An older lady is hosting a Halloween party and tell the story of a ghost, Mary Bailey, that takes peoples’ eyes if they look at her. Her guests eventually leave and we follow one woman in particular who is driving home. Her car breaks down and she has to walk the rest of the way.
She becomes aware that someone, or something, is following her. It’s hard to tell thanks to the liberal use of fog behind her. She then hears a witch cackle and we see it following her but she’s not about to look around to find out what’s up.
Keys are dropped (second time in the movie) but she makes it indoors. But not before looking around like an idiot. Anyway, after a quick scare from her dog, she stays in to watch, you guessed it, Night of the Living Dead.
However, the dog freaks out a little causing the woman to sit up. When she sits back down we see Mary Bailey behind her. The camera cuts away before we find out what happens next.
It’s a pretty basic tale with a very lacklustre finish unfortunately. It’s kind of creepy as the lady is being followed but the rest of it is kind of bollocks.
Ding Dong – This story is actually kind of interesting. A woman with a particularly strong Halloween game is bullying her boyfriend into playing along. She really wants a child of her own and until then she’s going to make a big fuss over the young trick or treaters.
However, when her boyfriend (forcibly dressed as Hansel) speaks out, she goes distinctly witchy with the visuals changing to show her a red spidery demonic witch. He’s scared shitless of her but when a young boy turns up, also dressed as Hansel, he realises she’s about to kidnap the kid. He quickly alerts the child’s mother who gathers the kid up.
Back inside, the scary witch bundles her boyfriend into the oven after he, rather unwisely, tells her he’s had a vasectomy because she’d be a properly shit mum, and as he burns the film cuts around all over the place before seemingly explaining that she’s burning because of the witch-shaped cookie that’s in with him.
It’s a shame the ending is so poorly put together as the rest of the story is actually kind of creepy. The witch lady, an English woman with her eccentricity turned up to eleven, is particularly worrying but unfortunately this story ends up being a miss.
This Means War – A man is putting together his usual annual Halloween display when he notices his new neighbour doing the same. The problem is his decent but twee display isn’t going to match the full on heavy metal display being put on by his neighbour.
After unsuccessfully going over to ask him to turn down the music, he starts smashing up the new display, causing his heavy metaller neighbour to do the same. This eventually escalates until they kill each other.
This story is the weakest of the bunch unfortunately.
Friday the 31st – Now this is a gem. A Jason Vorhees rip off serial killer is chasing a young lady through the woods. As she runs into an old building, she finds plenty of his victims there. She fights him off for a while but is eventually taken down when he throws a spear at her. So far, so Friday.
However, this story amps up when a UFO appears overhead and drops off a tiny alien who asks him those three little words. ‘Trick or treat?’
After patting down his pockets, he tries to tell the alien he has nothing but after the seventh ‘trick or treat?’ he steps on the tiny alien.
As the killer walks away, the alien’s blobby remains shloop into the dead teenager, causing her to reanimate. The film then goes full ‘Evil Dead 2’ as she floats towards the killer screaming with glowing green eyes.
The ensuing fight is fantastically funny and violent, turning this into one of the best stories in this whole collection.
The Ransom of Rusty Rex – Two criminals target the son of a millionaire for kidnapping and eventually capture him. They take him back to an abandoned building, tie him up and tell him they are going to phone his father.
At this point, one of them (played by the brilliant Sam Witwer) makes call. It doesn’t go quite to plan though as the man tells him they’ve made a terrible mistake and that he doesn’t want to hear from them again. Confused, they call him back with the same result.
It turns out the boy is actually a weird little demon that absolutely will not leave you alone no matter what. You can’t lose him, you can’t kill him.
They realise this as the boy, Rex, attacks them. After burying him in a swamp, they go back home and find Rex is already there. They call his Dad (John fucking Landis!) again and it turns out it showed up five years ago Trick or Treating and wouldn’t leave.
The rest of the story plays out just as you might expect but is a great little tale. Witwer’s performance is absolutely top notch with some exceptional comic timing and it really makes the story. Certainly one of the best on offer here.
Bad Seed – This curious little tale of a species of killer genetically-modified pumpkins is ridiculous but rather well put together. After a man is killed (head eaten!) by one, it escapes and starts terrorising the neighbourhood.
After it eats a child, the police get onto chasing it and as silly as this all is, the hard-bitten female police detective and her angry captain , along with the rip-off Halloween soundtrack give it some weight. It’s all ridiculous but played straight, a’la Police Squad, which actually makes it a lot of fun.
The Detective eventually finds the killer pumpkin, and blows it away. She then goes to the lab where it came from, revealing thousands of them as deep horror synth notes play us out.
It’s a fun, if inconsequential, story but it wraps up the film nicely.
Overall, the quality on offer is pretty good and with ten stories, any weak ones pass by quickly enough. The highlights (Sweet Tooth, Friday the 31st and Rusty Rex) are worth the price of admission alone.
We weren’t expecting much from this modern portmanteau but it really delivers. It smartly references other films and horror cliches while showing some reverence (casting Adrienne Barbeau was a very welcome choice) and it does our favourite portmanteau thing, which is linking the stories directly by having one story occasionally reference another.
Yep, Tales of Halloween is a banger and a new favourite.