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TALES OF HALLOWEEN (review)

Review by Dean Galanis
Produced by Shaked Berenson, Axelle Carolyn,
Tada Chae, Patrick Ewald, Mike Mendez
Written by Axelle Carolyn, Andrew Kasch,
Neil Marshall, Lucky McKee, Mike Mendez,
Dave Parker, Ryan Schifrin, Clint Sears, John Skipp
Directed by Neil Marshall, Darren Lynn Bousman,
 Axelle Carolyn, Lucky McKee, Andrew Kasch,
Paul Solet, Adam Gierasch and Jace Anderson,
John Skipp, Mike Mendez, Ryan Schifrin, Dave Parker
Starring Grace Phipps, Lin Shaye, Booboo Stewart,
Greg Grunberg, Barry Bostwick, John Savage,
Pat Healy, Grace Phipps, Alex Esso, Kristina Klebe

A Halloween-themed anthology film, Tales of Halloween has been receiving accolades on the festival circuit. And while the film doesn’t quite live up to the hype, it’s nevertheless an impressively consistent, fun ride.

Ten stories are told here, all taking place in the same town (and surrounding area) on Halloween night.

The big fun here is how many aspects of Halloween are brought on board. Candy, decorations, jack-o-lanterns, pranks – these holiday staples and more get their due in Tales of Halloween, some very cleverly so.

The film starts off on just the right note, with Adrienne Barbeau (in a nod to her DJ role in The Fog) introducing (and narrating) the film, which leads to a rather nifty opening credits sequence with some cool animation and a fun theme by veteran composer Lalo Schifrin (whose son, Ryan, wrote and directed one of the segments).

The first segment, “Sweet Tooth”, is a humdinger, introducing a cool (if repulsive) new horror villain and letting viewers know Tales of Halloween won’t skimp on the gore.

It inevitably gets bumpier along the way.

While, as I mentioned above, the film is impressively consistent, I’m basically stating that I enjoyed every segment to some degree, which is rare with anthology films. I certainly think some are far better than others (the hilarious and creative “Friday the 31st”, a terrific slasher riff by Mike Mendez, is probably my favorite), but there’s not a clunker in the bunch. And with ten segments here, that’s kinda great.

There’s also a slew of genre faves in cameos and small roles in the film, from John Landis to Barbara Crampton to Stuart Gordon to Lin Shaye to Joe Dante, among many others.

There are a few things that keep Tales of Halloween, for me, from being the classic it’s been heralded as.

As mentioned earlier, the opening theme is great, but the various scores (by a handful of composers) run the gamut from quite effective to annoying.  Also, the film is never really scary, something which can’t be said of Trick R Treat, the terrific Halloween anthology film from 2007.

That said, it seems that most of the stories were aiming more for “fun” and the spirit of Halloween than outright terror, and that’s just fine. (Though Lucky McKee’s entry, “Ding Dong”, while not exactly terrifying, is certainly creepy and disturbing).

Some of the entries, including the final one (another winner called “Bad Seed” by Neil Marshall), end a tad abruptly as well.

Quibbles, really, as Tales of Halloween is mostly a hoot, best watched with a few beers and some like-minded friends around the titular holiday. If the gang can keep the quality level this high, I’d welcome with open arms further Tales come next Halloween.

 Tales of Halloween is now playing in limited release and VOD
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