You may have noticed that occasionally we like to break our Eighties remit here at T8MC and usually that’ll be when there’s a portmanteau film that needs to be watched. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, a portmanteau film is one of those movies that is comprised of individual stories or segments, usually with a some sort of linking over-arching story to tie it all together. Sometimes these are known as anthology films and we love them more than ANYTHING.
Now, as fans of Eighties films the obvious point of reference for most of us is Creepshow which is a great place to start if you want to get into the genre. It’s got it all, a thin linking story, a few great segments and a couple of rubbish ones.
Forrest Gump once said “life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get” and a good portmanteau flick is exactly like that. For your time investment you get somewhere around three or four different stories on average and at least one is bound to be great and for sure one will be terrible. But portmanteau segments aren’t to be judged like normal stories. They exist as part of an overall package which means that even if one of the stories is terrible, the overall film can still leave you with a good feeling overall.
The best example of this is Cat’s Eye. Like Creepshow, the film is based on a few Stephen King short stories. The linking story is, as per the unwritten rules of the genre, absolutely paper-thin. A cat with no backstory running around a bit. Perfect!
Then you’ve got the opening story. An absolute stormer called “Quitters, Inc.” a tale of a man who signs up for a stop smoking programme and gets a level of commitment from the organisation that means that if he cheats people he knows will be hurt and after four cigarettes he’ll face execution. It’s also played by the most intense James Woods you’ve ever seen.
Next you have “The Ledge.” Cat’s Eye’s middle story that tells the tale of a man forced to walk around the outside edge of a penthouse apartment on a tiny ledge by a ruthless millionaire. For a story set in just a few metres of space, it’s quite the most dramatic thing you’ll ever see.
And then you’ve got the final part. Some bullshit story about a gnome thing that steals breath. Complete rubbish. The thing is, you get two great stories and so the rubbish one can’t take away the fact that Cat’s Eye is dope as all hell, son.
The recipe for a good portmanteau film.
There aren’t many rules when it comes to portmanteaus these days. Sometimes you get a linking story, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes there are two stories, sometimes there are more than ten. But there are some things we do want to see.
1. We want a linking story and we don’t mind if it is super thin. Be it Cat’s Eye’s random cat nonsense, Twilight Zone’s ‘two guys in a car’ or Creepshow’s ‘mean Dad throws away a comic,’ we don’t need much. Bonus points are awarded if the linking story references the individual tales. We hate it when there is no linking story at all.
2. At least one segment needs an actor that was once in something with a lot more profile or goes on to be very famous. And a bunch of no-marks whose careers peaked at either this or as an extra in an episode of Law and Order or something.
3. There must always be one rubbish story. Not just poor but full on bullshit. The sort of thing that makes you wonder why the cast ever agreed to be filmed in it. Bonus points if the actors were the sort in #2.
4. Conversely, there must always be one part which is just completely miles ahead of the others in terms of quality and tends to be the one everyone remembers. You know, like “The Raft” in Creepshow II.
These are the standards by which all portmanteaus must stand or fall and as we continue our exploration into the greatest film genre of them all, we’ll continue to update this handy guide. Each film has been covered in more detail here at T8MC so look out of for the links to each article.
Make a cup of tea, crash down on your sofa and enjoy at least 70-80% of what is going to follow. Maybe less.
Tales From The Darkside (1990)
FX-guru Tom Savini described Tales From The Darkside as the true Creepshow III and who are we to argue? It certainly has the quality and the set pieces and is essential viewing for all anthology fans and fans of good horror films generally.
- Lot 429 – a decent ‘Mummy’ horror with a seriously good cast.
- Cat From Hell – when a hitman (David Johansen who is best known to us at least as the cabbie from Scrooged) is hired for a job, he’s not expecting the mark to be a cat. He’s also not expecting the cat to put up such a big fight.
- Lover’s Vow – a man witnesses a demon decapitating a man and is told he can keep his life if he doesn’t tell anyone what he saw. The pressure of that secret starts to affect his life though.
Linking story: Debbie ‘Blondie’ Harry is preparing to cook a kid for her dinner party and he stalls by telling her some scary tales.
Most famous actor: Oh, I don’t know, how about JULIANNE MOORE? Or Steve Buscemi, James Remar or the woman out of Commando? Okay, not her but she’s great in this as well.
Worst part: “Lot 429” may be a fairly ordinary Mummy’s Curse tale but Moore and Buscemi act the shit out of it though so even that part is good..
Best part: “Cat From Hell” is a ludicrous tale of a hitman hired to kill a cat. It’s an amazing noir tale of murder, suspense and ridiculous cat puppetry. We love it so much we went mad.
Summary: It may not be the official Creepshow 3 sequel but if it was, it’d be up there with the first one for sure. A truly excellent three parter with a great linking story, a top notch cast and a great mix of comedy and horror. Essential.
Read more HERE.
More Stephen King short stories but this time with George A. Romero behind the camera. A spectacular hit and miss mix of portmanteau gems. A perfect mix of horror and comedy, Creepshow features a whopping five stories AND a pretty good linking story.
- Father’s Day – a rich but quite dead rich man crashes his wake looking for revenge against the family that hated him
- The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill – Stephen King stars as an unfortunate man who touches a meteor and ends up with a very tragic case of green fingers.
- Something to Tide You Over – Ted Danson ends up neck deep in sand after getting caught sleeping with the wife of a wealthy psychopath.
- The Crate – a dreadful creature feature redeemed slightly by Adrienne Barbeau.
- They’re Creeping Up on You – an OCD clean freak ends up being tormented by bugs that are somehow getting into his hermetically sealed apartment. He’s obviously a prick at the start, so you know this won’t be working out well for him.
Linking story: A kid buys a comic and is told off by his abusive father. The stories in the comic are the featured tales in the film. It’s a pretty thin story but one with a pay off at the end.
Most famous actor: Ted Danson at the height of his Cheers fame stars in the same segment with Leslie Nielsen. You can’t say fairer than that.
Worst part: “The Crate,” even the wonderful Adrienne Barbeau cannot save this terrible creature-horror segment.
Best part: There are three great stories that could all be contenders but director George A. Romero is on his best undead-raising form with “Something To Tide You Over” which is a fantastic zombie love revenge thriller.
Summary: Creepshow remains the go-to example that we use when trying to explain what a portmanteau is. One bad story, one pretty good one and three fantastic ones. One of the best anthologies ever.
Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)
This film takes a set of remade Twilight Zone episodes that go on several different emotional journeys, including some very iconic moments indeed. The set up is pretty simple. A man picks up a hitchhiker who starts telling him some interesting stories.
- Time Out – a racist man finds himself going back in time and getting shot at by Nazis in 1939 Germany and by American soldiers in Vietnam. A brilliant tale acted expertly by Vic Morrow who died making it. The only story on offer that wasn’t a remake of an old Twilight Zone episode.
- Kick the Can – a mystery man arrives at an old folk’s home and convinces them to play a game of Kick the Can which ends with them reverting back to childhood.
- It’s a Good Life – a woman helps a young boy after she knocks him off of his bike, the only problem is that the boy can make anything happen if he wills it and his family are terrified of him. Sort of like the guy in Jessica Jones but not played by the dreadful David Tennant.
- Nightmare at 20,000 Feet – the film’s most recognisable story. An airplane passenger’s fear of flying goes into overdrive when he spots a terrifying gremlin on the wing.
Linking story: Dan Aykroyd stars as the hitchhiker who introduces the stories but also has a pretty scary story of his own.
Most famous actor: John Lithgow take’s the William Shatner role in Nightmare at 20,000 Feet. This is long before he became a scary serial killer in the best season of Dexter.
Worst part: “Kick the Can’s” tale about residents in a care home is shmaltzy nonsense. Still fairly heartwarming though.
Best part: The Lithgow-starring remake of “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” is memorable but the sheer drama and power of film opener “Time Out,” which tells the tale of an embittered racist forced to live in the shoes of various oppressed minorities, steals the show.
Summary: Twilight Zone: The Movie has it all. Two truly great stories, two good ones and a decent linking story too. This is a true portmanteau classic that everyone should see.
From a Whisper to a Scream (1989)
This film is notable for being Vincent Price’s last role in a horror film and for giving zero fucks about you or your sensibilities. We actually rewatched this one last night to make a final decision on what tier to put it in. As you can see, it’s essential. Regardless of what the critics thought.
- Stanley – a mild-mannered man develops an obsession with his attractive female boss but when she turns down his advances, his obsession becomes murderous. Now take that and try to imagine how to make the story darker. Well this goes further than that.
- On The Run – a con-man stumbles on the secret of eternal life and wishes he didn’t. This story has such an impossibly bleak ending.
- Lovecraft’s Traveling Amusements – a man attempts to escape from the circus that he’s working at but finds that his boss, The Snakewoman, isn’t about to write him a nice reference.
- Four Soldiers – this story takes the horrors of the American Civil War to new levels by throwing in some Children of the Corn spookiness.
Linking story: A reporter talks to a man about the history of Oldfield, a midwest town with a very dark history.
Most famous actor: Ol’ Vince takes top billing by quite some margin.
Worst part: To be honest, we can’t pick one. All the stories here are effective and all end satisfyingly. Something modern portmanteaus should take note of.
Best part: On The Run steals the show for us thanks to its great ending and solid acting.
Summary: With four very strong stories and a linking tale that holds it all together, there’s nothing bad about this film. The ’80s production values might be a let down for modern viewers but that’s not our audience.
Tales of Halloween (2015)
We weren’t expecting much from this modern day portmanteau (especially as it does that new thing of having far too many stories) but our nerves were settled thanks to it being introduced by the silky tones of Adrienne Barbeau. All the tales happen on the same Halloween night and in the same town.
- Sweet Tooth – a young boy hears the legend of ‘Sweet Tooth’ the ghost of a killer that demands sweets or else it’ll take them out of your body.
- The Night Billy Raised Hell – a young trick or treater picks the wrong neighbour to bother and ends up implicated in all sorts of Halloween chaos.
- Trick – a group of adults are tormented by a group of murderous young children. It’s not a great story but it does have a very effective conclusion.
- The Weak and the Wicked – ironically, this is one of the weak stories and focuses on a young man trying to get revenge on the gang who burned down his home.
- Grim Grinning Ghost – a woman attempts to get home in the fog while being followed just after she is told about a ghost that likes to take peoples eyes.
- Ding Dong – this take on Hansel and Gretel tells the story of a woman who appears to be obsessed with Halloween and children. It’s not great but does feature a creepy, eccentric performance from its leading lady.
- This Means War – two neighbouring houses get into a Halloween decorations arms race with dire consequences.
- Friday the 31st – a masked killer in the Jason Vorhees mode gets into the best fight since They Live with an alien.
- The Ransom of Rusty Rex – two would-be kidnappers try to ransom a wealthy man’s son but realise that they’ve actually grabbed a demon instead.
- Bad Seed – the town becomes infested with genetically-modified pumpkins with a taste for human flesh.
Linking story: While there is no linking story, all the stories happen on the same night and in the same town and has some links between the tales on offer. Fabulous.
Most famous actor: Adrienne Barbeau and Sam Witwer are recognisable. There’s plenty of faces we’ve not seen though.
Worst part: This Means War is the weakest link but still has some value and is over quickly enough to not spoil the party.
Best part: There are a few candidates but Friday the 31st was just so different to any other portmanteau story and spoke to the Jason Vorhees fan in all of us.
Summary: Putting ten stories on an anthology was always going to be a recipe for inconsistency but Tales of Halloween pulls it off. The best stories are fantastic, there are plenty of enjoyable other ones too and the weakest tales aren’t bad enough, or long enough, to kill the film’s momentum.
Cat’s Eye (1983)
Three tales based on Stephen King short stories. A sort of city-based Creepshow observed by a wandering cat.
- Quitters, Inc. – James Woods rather unwisely enlists the help of ex-mobsters to help him quit smoking.
- The Ledge – a mob boss coerces his love rival into a wager where he has to walk around the ledge of a penthouse apartment.
- General – a young Drew Barrymore has her breath stolen at night by a goblin.
Linking story: A cat wanders around a bit observing humans being pricks. This works though as the cat has a small role to play in each story.
Most famous actor: James Woods in arguably his finest role.
Worst part: The titular cat battles a not very convincing, and even less scary, goblin thing that wants to kill Drew Barrymore.
Best part: James Woods trying to sneak a crafty smoke while the mob keep him under surveillance. One of the best portmanteau segments of all time.
Summary: Cat’s Eye’s first two stories are brilliant. Thrilling, scary and often hilarious, they set the template for perfect portmanteau storytelling. Unfortunately, the final story is a big bag of shit. But that kind of adds to Cat’s Eye’s legend as one of the great anthologies of our time.
The Vault of Horror (1973)
Now, we may avoid the Seventies given that it is a Savile-infested hell-era but the original masters of the portmanteau were arguably Amicus and this powerful anthology is well worth seeking out.
- Midnight Mess – a memorable tale of a man that murders his family but ends up in a restaurant that apparently only serves vampires.
- The Neat Job – a put-upon housewife grows increasingly tired of her husband’s ridiculous OCD.
- This Trick’ll Kill You – a magician and his horrible wife try to steal a magic trick from a young Indian girl but it turns out there’s no trick, only magic.
- Bargain in Death – a man agrees to help his friend fake his death for the insurance money but his plans to double-cross him go awry in a big way.
- Drawn and Quartered – an artist gains voodoo powers that make themselves evident when he paints portraits of the men who wronged him.
Linking story: Five men in a lift are taken to the basement where a table of food and drink awaits. They decide to take advantage of that and start telling each other about the strange dreams they’ve been having.
Most famous actor: Vincent Price and Denholm Elliott lead a heavyweight cast.
Worst part: The slightly-comedic buried alive caper “Bargain in Death” lacks focus and is basically a lot of rubbery old bollocks.
Best part: Tom Baker steals the whole film as an artist with voodoo-powered painting abilities out for revenge.
Summary: We’re not about to suggest that this isn’t a classic but it is certainly let down by terrible vampire make up in the first story and two fairly weak stories. However, “Drawn and Quartered” is fantastic and the linking story pulls it all together well.
Nightmare Cinema (2018)
A masterful modern portmanteau that has five stories each linked by a story that sees a girl rather unwisely going into a creepy cinema because she’s clearly never seen Demons. Definitely one of the best modern anthologies out there.
- The Thing in the Woods – this take on the standard Cabin in the Woods setup has just enough charm and ideas to get this anthology off to a good start.
- Mirare – a very solid body horror story that combines some good acting with some very effective horror.
- Mashit – a supernatural tale set in a catholic boarding school. This one is full of religious dread and powerful horror.
- This Way to Egress – the black and white visuals here exist only to make this already creepy story feel even more claustrophobic as it follows the story of a mother trapped in a creepy Silent Hill style hospital.
- Dead – a straight riff on The Sixth Sense, this story would be creepier if the main threat was supernatural and not human. But it does round off a solid collection of stories in style.
Linking story: Five strangers arrive at a cinema and before finding that their deepest fears are being screened in front of them by a shadowy figure known as The Projectionist.
Most famous actor: Micky Rourke (The Projectionist) gets top billing but your nan will definitely recognise Richard Chamberlain.
Worst part: This Way to Egress lingers a little too long without really explaining itself. It’s still pretty solid though.
Best part: Mirare’s mix of humour and gore would fit into any good Creepshow film.
Summary: Nightmare Cinema is solid throughout and doesn’t really have any bad stories although none of its tales are completely essential. This is a great way to spend a movie night.
Creepshow 2 (1987)
This slightly disappointing follow-up to the original Creepshow has actually improved with age but with fewer tales on offer, and missing the Romero factor, it was always going to struggle in comparison. With just three stories on offer, Creepshow 2 feels a little miserly but this trio of tales isn’t too bad at all.
- Old Chief Woodn’head – a wooden statue goes on a murderous revenge trip.
- The Raft – four teenagers get marooned on a raft thanks to a blob of carnivorous oil.
- The Hitchhiker – a lady is tormented by the hitchhiker she killed in a hit and run accident.
Linking story: A kid has a comic delivered. That’s basically it.
Most famous actor: Er… George Harris Kennedy, Jr. He was in Dallas apparently.
Worst part: With just three stories, Creepshow 2 doesn’t really have a bad one. It’s just never as much fun as the first film.
Best part: The Raft. While not being as shocking as the book this tale of a man-eating oil slick is still pretty horrifying
Summary: While Creepshow 2 still feels disappointing, it’s actually one of the better portmanteaus out there. I mean who hasn’t shouted ‘THANKS FOR THE RIDE, LADY’ at their mates? And “The Raft” made us way more scared to go in the water than Jaws ever did.
A curious mix of creature horror (giant rat), sci-fi (killer computer game), urban myths (woman stalked by an escaped mental patient) and vehicular terror (our favourite sort). We’ve been massive fans of this collection ever since the ’80s.
- Terror in Topanga – this story sees a lady trying to get her late night cigarette fix but running into an escaped killer. Much like the similar story in Body Bags above, it’s pretty predictable but is okay for a portmanteau segment. A whole movie of just this would suck though.
- The Bishop of Battle – the film’s best known story (in so far that I’ve seen it mentioned in a videogame once) sees Emilio Estevez playing a similar suburban punk role to the one he’d have a year later in Repo Man. In this, he’s obsessed with beating a video game in his local arcade but the game’s got different ideas.
- The Benediction – this story, the best on offer, is a compact little take on The Car. Lance Henriksen plays a disillusioned priest who is stalked on the road by the devil’s own car. We loved it. But we always like that sort of thing.
- Night of the Rat – A silly creature feature where Alien’s Veronica Cartwright is terrorised in her home by a giant rat (which is actually a normal sized rat blown up on the screen to look big with dismal results).
Linking story: There isn’t one. This should disqualify the movie entirely but the portmanteau action is good so we’ll let it off.
Most famous actor: Lance Henriksen in righteous form.
Worst part: Night of the Rat. Seeing the whiny woman out of Alien getting harrassed by a rat should be good but the terrible rat special effect utterly ruins this part.
Best part: We love anything where cars kill people so “The Benediction” assuredly delivers.
Summary: Nightmares is entirely worth watching for The Benediction and the film’s decent cast gives it some extra appeal but with two average stories and one poor one, you have to be a real portmanteau fan to appreciate this one overall.
Two Evil Eyes (1990)
When George A. Romero gets together with Italian horror legend Dario Argento, you’ll expect quality and that’s what you get from this set of two terrifying tales based on Edgar Allen Poe’s work.
- The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar – this tale of two greedy lovers who come a cropper at the hands of vengeful spirits, this is played entirely for scares and completely succeeds.
- Black Cat – Harvey Keitel stars as a masochistic camera man who likes torturing cats. Throw in a weird dream sequence about witches and some nude gore and it’s easy to guess which segment was directed by Dario Argento.
Linking story: A total con! Two Evil Eyes has no linking story and each tale has a seperate entry on the DVD menu. Bah!
Most famous actor: Harvey Keitel is the film’s biggest success but given that now he just seems to do car insurance adverts, we’re not so sure.
Worst part: Black Cat is definitely the weaker story on offer thanks to the excesses of Dario Argento but Keitel puts in a great performance and this is by no means a bad story.
Best part: George A. Romero’s fantastic The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar completely steals the show. It’s genuinely scary.
Summary: Okay, it’s not really a portmanteau but both stories here benefit from the shorter running times that come from being in an anthology. Romero’s half of the package is worth the asking price alone but Argento doesn’t disappoint either.
Tales From The Hood (1995)
This mid-nineties four-parter is thematically linked with an African American focus but manages to leverage four very different tales from that setting.
- Rogue Cop Revelation – three corrupt white cops kill a black civil rights activist who then goes on to haunt the black rookie cop who did nothing to stop them.
- Boys Do Get Bruised – this tale of domestic abuse mixes some gritty household drama with a spooky voodoo subtext to great effect.
- KKK Comeuppance – a racist senator decides to set up his office in an old slave plantation and ends up angering the spirits of dead slaves that haunt the place.
- Hard-core Convert – a murderous thug survives a shoot out but ends up getting arrested, eventually ending up in a strange facility where a doctor uses some dubious methods to get him to accept his guilt.
Linking story: Three drug-dealers run into a rather eccentric mortuary owner who has a few scary tales for them. The story has a good conclusion too.
Most famous actor: Michael Massee from Warriors and The Crow. Don’t expect many Oscars from this cast.
Worst part: Hard-core Convert thinks it is cleverer than it is and is mostly just spliced gang-footage and KKK nonsense.
Best part: Rogue Cop Revelation is hard-hitting, rather terrifying and more relevant than ever.
Summary: This collection of tales is so varied and well-presented that we can’t help but like it despite some inconsistency in quality. The final story is rubbish but the linking story makes up for it and overall this is easy to recommend.
This modern portmanteau offers up four stories that offer a female-perspective on the anthology genre with all the segments being written and directed by women.
- The Box – a mother struggles to cope when her son looks in a box and then completely loses his appetite. That might sound rubbish but the premise is used really well but unfortunately completely botches the ending.
- The Birthday Party – a woman attempts to pull of a kid’s birthday party while trying to hide the body of her recently dead husband.
- Don’t Fall – an effective story about some friends who get terrorised when one of them becomes a monster. This one is let down by its short running time.
- Her Only Living Son – a woman and her son move constantly from town to town avoiding some sort of threat that suddenly becomes evident on the boy’s 18th birthday. A scary tale but again one that is let down by a terrible ending.
Linking story: Some random stop-motion nonsense that’s quite creepy but ultimately doesn’t really have much merit.
Most famous actor: Natalie Brown (The Strain, Being Human) leads a fairly lightweight cast.
Worst part: Her Only Living Son is a bit of a mess.
Best part: The Birthday Party throws in some comedy but is expertly led by Melanie Lynskey who is in incredible form throughout.
Summary: The problem with XX is that half of its stories are ruined by weak endings. There’s a lot of promise here but it really would have benefitted from better writing and a slightly longer runtime.
After Midnight (1989)
This late Eighties portmanteau may be lacking in star power (in so far as it has absolutely none) but it does a good job with its three tales and it’s wraparound story.
- The Old Dark House – a standard haunted house kind of tale but a strong opener thanks to its its two lead actors doing a great job with the script.
- A Night on the Town – four ladies go out looking for a good time and end up cornered by a rapey Mexican with an angry dog.
- All Night Operator – the film’s only successful(ish) actor stars as the victim of a stalker who has been plaguing clients who use the telephone answering service she works for.
Linking story: Fake Chris Sarandon (Ramy Zada) is a professor with a dark side who has a few scary tales for his students. The story has a solid conclusion though and really adds to the overall film.
Most famous actor: Marg Helgenberger (she’s a main character in one of the CSIs). So, no. It’s not exactly a breeding ground for Oscar nominees.
Worst part: “The Old Dark House.” A car breaks down near a creepy as fuck mansion? What do you think happens?
Best part: “A Night on the Town.” Four girls head out for a night out and end up in this proto-Death Proof nightmare tale. It’s pretty dramatic and doesn’t resort to supernatural elements. It also has a Club Tech Noir scene.
Summary: After Midnight is better than the sum of its parts. Maybe that’s because of its satisfying wraparound tale but somehow the film succeeds against the odds. Definitely worth a watch.
Body Bags (1993)
John Carpenter introduces this portmanteau-by-the-numbers three-parter and directed the film along with his buddy Tobe Hooper (of Texas Chainsaw fame). Originally conceived as a TV series, they pulled the plug early on the project and shoehorned the completed stories into this straight to video anthology and it shows.
- The Gas Station – a decent but predictable horror tale that’s so generic that it is indistinguishable from a similar story from the 1983 anthology ‘Nightmares’ (see below).
- Hair – a balding man has a fabulous hair transplant but is shocked to find out that the hair is alive and oddly evil.
- The Eye – Mark Hamill stars as a pro baseball player who loses an eye in a car accident. His eye transplant goes quite well until it turns out that the eye’s previous owner was a psychopath and apparently murderous intentions are kept in peoples’ eyes now. Who knew?
Linking story: John Carpenter as a hammy crypt keeper with three stories to tell.
Most famous actor: Use the force, Mark, and call your agent. Admittedly this was in that long stretch where Mark couldn’t get much post-Star Wars work.
Worst part: Stacy Keach being attacked by his own hair. Stupid story, ridiculous ending but still actually pretty entertaining in a terrible, terrible way.
Best part: Probably Stacy Keach being attacked by his own hair also. Although Mark Hamill’s mental descent in “The Eye” is something to behold.
Summary: Carpenter and Hooper deliver three entertaining stories here but they are poorly put together, especially for a ’90s film.
Creepshow III (2006)
The official third film in the series but missing both Romero and King’s input, this ends up missing the mark somewhat thanks to some dreadful acting and poor writing. The film has five stories which vary wildly in entertainment value.
- Alice – a weird take on Alice in Wonderland (like really weird) where a girl finds herself being controlled by her family’s TV remote. This was, at the time of reviewing it, the worst portmanteau segment we had ever seen. We’ve suffered for our art a lot since then though.
- The Radio – life gets very strange for a security guard when his radio starts talking him into killing people.
- Call Girl – a murderous prostitute makes a home visit, unfortunately it’s the home of a sadistic vampire. Not a great story but it’s quite brutal and effective visually.
- The Professor’s Wife – a brilliantly comedic and bloody tale. Two ex-students visit their old professor before his wedding but are so shocked by his strange bride that they think she must be a robot.
- Haunted Dog – a morality tale about a fucking hot dog.
Linking story: The linking story ends up being Creepshow III’s cleverest feature in that there isn’t one but that elements from each tale appear in other ones. It’s all rather well done.
Most famous actor: This was the film where careers went to die.
Worst part: “Alice” is a baffling reality-jumping story that is so poorly executed that it makes you want to turn the film off.
Best part: “The Professor’s Wife.” Two ex-students visit their old professor and are surprised to meet his attractive but weird wife. They decide she must be a robot and go about trying to prove it with ridiculous results. This segment is the only one to really tap into the comedy of the previous Creepshows.
Summary: While being far from worthy of bearing the Creepshow name, this collection of tales does at least have one high point and the cleverness of the film’s structure does give it all a cohesiveness that many portmanteaus don’t have. It’s not good though.
The Willies (1990)
With just two main stories (and three very short extra tales), there’s not a whole lot to get your teeth into here. Which is a shame if you like willies in your mouth I guess.
This film is odd in that it features three very short introductory tales that are too quick to count as real stories and then it settles down into two main tales.
- Bad Apples – a bullied kid is helped out by the school janitor who, surprisingly, isn’t a sex offender. However, when he finds a scary monster living in the toilets, the kid uses it to turn the tables on his tormentors.
- Flyboy – a mean, fat kid (called Gordy Belcher, just to hammer the point home) is obsessed with flies and attempts to grow his collection with a mysterious substance that he steals from the local weirdo.
Linking story: Standard campfire setting!
Most famous actor: Sean Astin. Former-Goonie, now bit part player in The Strain and Stranger Things.
Worst part: The film only has two main parts and the worst of these is Fly Boy which isn’t great.
Best part: Marginally better is Bad Apples which at least has one likeable character and is a bit more immediate with the scares.
Summary: The Willies isn’t good. The structure is odd. It starts off too fast but then ends up being far too slow because it only has two main stories and these stories aren’t brilliantly executed. This is very skippable.
The Monster Club (1980)
Heavily influenced by the Amicus portmanteaus of the ’70s, this early ’80s effort is a mix of bad acting and even worse visual effects. Despite being one of the better known titles in the genre (thanks to Vincent Price starring in the linking story), it’s easily one of the worst examples of the genre.
- The Shadmock – a creepy loner who is part ghoul, vampire and werewolf falls in love with his new assistant. Unfortunately, she’s a bit of a twat and is trying to fleece him for everything he’s got.
- The Vampires – a bullied kid with a vampire dad runs into a bunch of vampire hunters. We say vampire, but the 1930s style Dracula styled dad is as generic as this segment is shit.
- The Ghouls – village. Ghouls. Trapped people. Blah blah blah. Reasonably good ending aside, everything about this story is awful.
Linking story: Vincent Price vamps out and bites a guy but then apologises and invites him back to his club and tells him some stories.
Most famous actor: Vincent Price and Donald Pleasance both feature. It’s hard to tell who is creepier. Actually no it isn’t. Pleasance is always creepier.
Worst part: “The Vampires” is really bad. It’d be funny if it wasn’t actually trying to be funny. The acting is awful and for it to be bottom of this trio of trash, you know it must be bad.
Best part: It’s basically all shit but the final story “The Ghouls” at least has a half-decent ending.
Summary: Monster Club is awful. The three stories seem at least twenty years out of date and the weird music performance sequences are completely out of place too. This is as bad as the genre gets.
Grim Prairie Tales (1990)
Where most portmanteaus lack a cohesive theme, Grim Prairie Tales cleverly sets its four cautionary tales in the Old West which gives the overall package some nice consistency. The other consistent element though is that all the stories are disappointingly poor. Which is odd given that this anthology has quite a few fans.
There are four stories but these don’t have individual names.
- #1 – an Indian tribe get their revenge on a moody old bastard by burying him alive. A rubbish story. Even Brad Dourif’s character agrees.
- #2 – a good samaritan helps out a lady and gets more than he bargained for
- #3 – a young girl witnesses her father lynching a guy.
- #4 – a flashy hitman is tormented by the ghost of one of his victims.
Linking story: James Earl Jones and Brad Dourif irritate the hell out of each other at a campfire.
Most famous actor: James Earl Jones probably. Not sure he managed to get much done after this though.
Worst part: Grim Prairie Tales is a pretty dismal movie but an utterly pointless story about a man whose daughter sees him take part in a lynching is really badly executed. It does have the dickless guy from Ghostbusters in it though.
Best part: Another rubbish story is one about a man who is seduced by a woman that he helps while riding home along the plains of the Old West. The ending is shocking enough to make it worth sitting through.
Summary: While we appreciate the setting and the fact that it has a proper linking story, Grim Prairie Tales is dreadful. Thankfully, it’s quite a difficult film to get a good copy of.
Deadtime Stories AKA Freaky Fairytales (1986)
This absolutely piss-poor portmanteau took the title of the worst we’d seen when we reviewed it back in the day. It brings together three tales that link to classic fairytales. Poorly.
- #1 – two witches eventually push their young male helper too far when they kidnap a young woman in an effort to resurrect their dead sister.
- #2 – a young college student goes to the chemist’s for medication for her grandmother and is pursued by a wolf in this riff on Little Red Riding Hood.
- #3 – a ridiculous murder-farce that takes the Goldilocks story and takes all the subtlety out of it. And all of the potential entertainment.
Linking story: A man tells his young nephew some scary stories.
Most famous actor: Melissa Leo seems to be in everything these days according to IMDB. Not that we recognise her.
Worst part: It’s all terrible but the Goldilocks story was the worst thing we’d ever seen at the time.
Best part: The opening story about witches has a couple of moments, even if the whole thing is a complete train wreck.
Summary: A truly dreadful horror anthology that we barely remember from watching it three years ago. We remember we hated it though.
Volumes of Blood
Dark Whispers – Volume 1