Movie review of “Tales of Halloween”: This collection of 10 horror-comedy vignettes, all built around the theme of Halloween night, has high and low points and some fun cameos by familiar actors and horror directors. Star rating: 2 stars out of 4.
“Tales of Halloween” is full of great fodder for urban legends, and that’s about as sophisticated as most of the film’s 10 scary vignettes — all set in a suburb on Halloween night — get.
If you’re not expecting too much, this collection of one-note, gag-driven, horror-comedy stories is an amusing pastime with a few high points and fun cameo appearances by familiar actors (Barry Bostwick, John Savage) and genre directors (“Gremlins’ ” Joe Dante, “Re-Animator’s” Stuart Gordon).
At its best, “Tales” employs a wicked sense of humor that demands a viewer’s preference for irony over good taste. The opening piece, David Parker’s “Sweet Tooth,” is a bloody variation on the old cliché about a baby-sitter’s boyfriend frightening a young kid into compliance. Darren Lynn Bousman’s “The Night Billy Raised Hell” is a fun lark through unadulterated nastiness as a ghoulish fellow appears to mentor a child in the real meaning of the “trick” in “trick or treat.”
Movie Review ★★
‘Tales of Halloween,’ with Adrienne Barbeau (voice only), Barry Bostwick, John Savage, Joe Dante, John Landis, Stuart Gordon. Various directors and writers. 97 minutes. Rated R for gore and violence. SIFF Film Center.
There are scattered tributes in “Tales” to the films of John Carpenter (“Prince of Darkness,” “The Fog”), including narration by his former wife and muse Adrienne Barbeau, and a short work (Axelle Carolyn’s “Grim Grinning Ghost”) that echoes the look and feel of his masterpiece, “Halloween.”
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Strong on cleverness but less interesting and more obvious are John Skipp and Andrew Kasch’s “This Means War” (about neighbors with competing yard displays), and Mike Mendez’s “Friday the 31st” (a serial killer meets his match).
A sentimental favorite is Ryan Schifrin’s “The Ransom of Rusty Rex,” an amusing update on the classic O. Henry story about kidnappers terrorized by their hostage. It’s nice to see an unexpected nod to a literary touchstone in this party movie.