Horror anthologies then and now

Digging through my DVD collection and Amazon Prime, I made it a quadruple feature of anthology films. That adds up to a whole lot of tales, so there’s a good chance I’m going to find something to get under my skin.

BLACK SABBATH (1963)

While it really took hold in the 1980s, the horror anthology craze was ignited in the 1960s, and very often there was some serious horror power involved. Mario Bava directs this one and Boris Karloff hosts in dubbed Italian. He also stars in one.

1st story – this is a pretty good template for future stalker films to come, and it even dares to feature a nonconventional (for its time) relationship. A young woman is terrorized by a prank phone caller who seems to be watching every move she makes in her house.

2nd story – bad enough this is a period piece, but Boris Karloff just stands around posing with a “scary” face after kidnapping a child. This leads the whole family to eventually enter some sort of catacombs, where they encounter Karloff’s ghoul friends—who are much creeper than him.

3rd story – this is the one unforgettable aspect of this anthology—much like the Zuni doll story in Trilogy of Terror. A woman dressing a corpse steals its ring and is then terrorized by the freaky as fuck dead bitch.

To this day, I don’t know if it’s a corpse prop or an actual woman in makeup. And I don’t want to know, because that alone makes this damn bitch the stuff of nightmares.

TORTURE GARDEN (1967)

Torture Garden was made by big time British horror production company Amicus, written by Robert Bloch of Psycho fame, and directed by horror veteran Freddie Francis.

It also features horror staple Burgess Meredith as the “carnival host” in the wraparound. He introduces a handful of people to a gypsy statue holding shears of fate. They look into them to learn their future.

1st story – greedy guy who wants his dying relative’s fortune stumbles on a cat that promises all he wishes for if he does its evil bidding. The gothic atmosphere is the best part of this one.

2nd story – a young woman hoping for fame gets mixed up with a sort of vampire acting cult, but this feels more like a bad mob movie.

3rd story – a woman’s new husband is a renowned pianist…and has a bizarre relationship with his grand piano, which seems to be haunted.

4th – Jack Palance is an Edgar Allan Poe fanatic who gets invited by Peter Cushing to stay at his home, which is basically a Poe museum.

Despite all the big horror talent involved, this is a really lame collection of stories. Only the piano tale came close to giving me the warm and fuzzy horror feels.

SLEEPLESS NIGHTS (2016)

Underground horror director Todd Sheets has been making horror films since the 80s. Great thing about that is, he doesn’t have to try to make movies look like they were made in the 80s. He just has to do what he’s been doing since the 80s and he nails it. That definitely makes this a fun watch for me…despite the 2-hour run time.

While the stories aren’t Halloween themed, the wraparound is. A young girl carves a pumpkin with her babysitter and tells scary stories.

1st story – my absolute favorite of the bunch, this one is like an homage to Night of the Demons. When kids go to spend the night at “He’ll House,” they are stalked by a masked killer…and all start turning into demons! It doesn’t need to make sense, because as with the rest of the film, the makeup and practical gore effects rule, there’s tons of neon light, and the score is totally 80s.

2nd story – eh. This is a kind of campy tale of a couple that can’t get anyone to stick around long enough to perform an exorcism.

3 – another pretty simple tale, this is about a player who drugs girls so he can easily get them to have sex on camera. But then he meets his match. No surprises in this one.

4 – Teleporting back to 1970s grindhouse flix, this one also has a jive couple teleporting back in time to take on zombies! The lead guy drops one-liners left and right in this goofy segment that actually has cool classic zombies.

5 – This one is just nasty good. A woman is already having a really bad day at work before a nasty slug thing crawls up her cootch in the restroom.

6 –This is a tale of a guy being chased while in his car on a dark, deserted road. I guess the zinger ending is the whole point, which explain why it’s such a short tale.

7 – a creep who kidnaps a girl from a park gets more than he bargained for. The guy’s icky performance sells this one.

Finally, the film ends on a fun note with a scary wraparound conclusion and twist.

WATCH IF YOU DARE (2018)

Cool title, but I think it does this anthology a bit of a disservice. These are essentially 4 gory body horror stories, and I think the title should have reflected that since it’s a fresh angle for an anthology.

Despite it being a practical effects gorefest, the film is also predominantly tongue-in-cheek, making most of the stories easy to watch.

1st story – how far would a girl to have hair as beautiful as that of another?

2nd story – this is straight up self-torture porn! A guy systematically mutilates himself. Made grisly good, but not my thing.

3rd story – I feel like I’ve seen this tale before, so maybe it was on the Internet as a standalone short at some point. A foodie is invited to a very secret, very underground restaurant. He’s warned not to tell anyone about it. He should have followed the rules…

4th story – this one gets right to the simple point, and it’s my kind of point. A guy whose brother was mutilated and had his penis removed returns to the scene of the crime to…um…find the penis.

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES. I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.
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