I love my horror anthologies because there’s always one story or another that’s going to stand out, but only one of these really delivered enough horror to actually satisfy me
DR. TERROR’S HOUSE OF HORRORS (1965)
This was the first anthology from Amicus studios, which also brought us Torture Garden, The House the Dripped Blood, Asylum, Tales from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror, and From Beyond the Grave. The five stories in this one are so tame and lame I’m shocked it spawned a bunch of follow-ups. Even the titles of each story could get any more obvious.
The wraparound seems to have inspired the Night Train to Terror anthology from 1985, but instead of a train full of new waving kids, God, and Satan, this film has five gentlemen and a Tarot card reader, played by Peter Cushing on a train. So of course, Christopher Lee is one of the men on board as well, not to mention Donald Sutherland. You have to wonder why this wasn’t called Dr. Terror’s TRAIN of Horrors! Anyway, Cushing reads each man’s cards, which leads to our gothic tales….
“Werewolf” – A man returns to his old home to discover a family curse involving a coffin in the basement. The payoff? Quick flashes of a fricking DOG and then some werewolf fingers.
“Creeping Vine” – Yeah, so there’s this vine, and it creeps. It can’t be cut off the side of a house (it actually repels garden tools), it strangles a dog (off screen, so I assume the dog tried to piss on it), and eventually it winds its way into the house to choke a human.
“Voodoo” – This story is about a musician, so it’s loaded with filler of a band performing at a club. It’s also loaded with filler of a voodoo tribal dance ritual. The musician steals the music playing during the ritual to perform at his show, so a tribal dude comes to take it back. Yawn.
“Disembodied Hand” – The feud between an artist and an art critic gets so bad that the art critic takes away the artist’s most important tool…his hand. But the hand comes back for revenge. Hey, I have a soft spot for killer hand movies, so this one has its charms. Plus, Christopher Lee stars.
“Vampire” – A doctor diagnoses Donald Sutherland’s wife as a vampire. After a plastic bat on strings chases him a few times (and even bumps into a window frame once), the doctor convinces Sutherland to stake her. The best part of this cheap story is the twist.
TWISTS OF TERROR (1997)
This made-for-TV anthology that aired on various cable channels (Showtime in the U.S.) definitely feels like it was made-for-TV. Each of the 3 stories runs about 30 minutes long, so they could easily have been episodes of a show like The Hitchhiker.
The wraparound has an agoraphobe telling us it’s a horrible world outside his doors then illustrating his claim with twisted tales of terror. They all have good twists. I’ll give them that. But the tone of the movie just feels too cheap to be truly terrifying, so you have to take it for what it’s worth.
“The People You Meet” – Driving home from a restaurant, a couple gets run off a deserted road. When they flag down help, they end up in the hands of some sleazy rednecks. This is my favorite story in the bunch thanks to the very Tales from the Crypt twist, plus it stars Jennifer Rubin (Elm Street 3, Bad Dreams).
“The Clinic” – Although it’s a little slow, this one also has a cool premise. After being attacked by a dog on a deserted road, a man makes his way to a clinic for help. He soon starts seeing creepy and grisly things going on in various rooms in the building, and eventually learns the truth about the nurse and doctor caring for him. Another good twist.
“Stolen Moments” – After being stood up by a computer date, a woman is approached by a sexy guy at a bar. He’s there with his buddy, so they agree to get together another night. When he calls her, he is hunky-shirtless-hot and remains that way when she comes over. Things get really interesting—and kind of creepy—when his buddy comes in, equally shirtless. This one is an erotic thriller with an okay twist. The sex is the best part, and there’s a weird homo vibe between the buddies.
FUN SIZE HORROR: VOLUME TWO (2015)
This sequel has about half as many stories as the first film (my blog here), and while some of them completely went either nowhere or over my head, a majority of them had some good payoff. Plus, most of these shorts are only about five minutes long, so if you don’t like one, it’s over before you know it and you’re on to a new one. Here are some of my favorites.
“Kill Them Mommy” – Hearing the voice of her dead daughter in her head, a woman grabs an axe to dispose of a bunch of people she envisions as demons drenched in 1980s horror lighting of blue and red! Awesome.
“Prey” – Four kids sneak into a nuclear plant and discover very quickly that something is living in there—and it’s hungry. You don’t actually see what gets them, but the twist makes up for it.
“Whispers” – This one gets credit simply for the grisly detail put into the special effects. A man does away with the rats in his house, pretty much by mutilating each one by hand. This is so visually nasty I wouldn’t be surprised if PETA doesn’t go after the filmmaker!
“Pillow Fright” – This is an instant campy horror comedy classic. Girls at a slumber party have a pillow fight, not expecting the pillows to strike back!
“And They Watched” – A janitor responsible for cleaning up an execution room is terrorized by visions of what it’s really like to be in the electric chair. Some macabre visuals and excellent makeup effects here.
“Play Dead” – Very brief short about ghosts that enjoy fucking with the living by repeatedly “killing” themselves in gruesome ways. One of the ghosts is a mega hottie with a furry chest.
“Pinned” – Chilling story about a guy who only sees a killer that’s approaching his house if he watches through his GPS app.
“Conventional” – Another horror comedy instant classic, this one pokes fun at horror geekdom and the misery has-been scream queens must face when making the convention rounds.