Horror anthologies are all over the place these days thanks to streaming services. Chances are loads of them are going to be crap, but there’s always the possibility of finding a good story here and there. So I blasted through a handful of anthologies looking for the best tales.
THE THREE FACES OF TERROR (2004)
As I watched The Three Faces of Terror, I knew I needed to own it on DVD…and was devastated to discover there is no U.S. release. You know how so many movies these days try so hard to pull off that 80s feel? Well, you would never know that this Italian anthology film was made in 2004. The music, the visuals, the tone, and the good old-fashioned special effects are straight out of the mid-80s. And that is most likely because director Sergio Stivaletti is a special effects man who worked with the likes of Argento and Bava.
Interestingly, The Three Faces of Terror has wraparound much like that of Night Train to Terror—without the awesome new wave band, sadly. Two men and a woman in a train car are approached by a hypnotist who allows each of them to look into his magical sphere to witness themselves in three stories of death and horror.
There’s an amazing werewolf tale with a fantastic transformation, a gruesome tale of plastic surgery that manages to make you squirm without actually showing anything, and finally, a tale of a slug like creature preying on campers.
In a unique twist, the stories seem to abruptly end in cliffhangers. And that’s because the conclusions are revealed during a final tie-in at the end of the film. One of my favorite anthologies EVER!
DRIVE-IN HORRORSHOW (2009)
The Drive-In Horrorshow wraparound, with its ghoulish theater staff, perfectly captures the spirit of classic macabre horror hosting segments while looking like something straight out of direct-to-video favorites from the 1980s. It sets the ideal tone for the stories that follow, which feel very much like episodes of Tales from the Darkside.
The first story, about a chick’s revenge on a college bad boy, is absolutely heinous, bringing a very unique torture technique to the screen in grisly detail. The second story is a classic theme of a monster in a child’s closet and the downside of giving in to the monster’s demands. The third story deals with a good doctor who cares so much about his patients’ health that he neglects his own. In the fourth story, two brothers become convinced their father is the urban legend known as “The Meat Man.” And the final story is a straight up backwoods cannibal slasher!
While some of the tales are so straightforward they don’t bother to deliver a good zinger ending, which leaves you feeling slightly disappointed, I love the retro horror vibe of this film. Plus, the gore (which is pretty gnarly) is delivered with purely old school practical effects. Streaming this one isn’t enough for me; I need the DVD in my collection.
TALES OF THE SUPERNATURAL (2014)
There’s really no old school horror anthology fun to be had in this film, which has much loftier goals and takes itself very seriously. The wraparound involves a priest, a demon man looking to collect 666 souls, and a book from which the tales come—tales that have a much larger, ominous, apocalyptic connection to the wraparound.
The first story is pretty average anthology stuff; a young writer accompanies her publisher to his house, where she learns of his dark past thanks to a vengeful zombie/corpse. The second tale is very Paranormal Activity, with a young girl acting weird at night after the death of her father. By the third tale, the movie starts to get surreal, with a hiker on a spiritual journey being chased through the woods by creepy villagers. In the fourth story, a woman is becoming chronically stuck in her sleeping body while she’s awake. In the fifth story, a woman suffers from dreams of being naked in public. And in the final tale, a couple’s dead daughter comes back to life.
The look and feel of the film is fantastic, but the writers have constructed a very complex and grandiose concept that is planned to continue in two more films, so it’s clearly not your typical anthology. It requires viewers to focus on the overarching, long-term plot instead of expecting just quick bites of scary fun as we’ve come to expect from our horror anthologies—which makes the whole experience rather convoluted and confusing, at least for me. If someone with an attention span watches it and finds it makes perfect sense, let me know.
And finally, I wouldn’t be surprised if each film will feature 6 stories, each focusing on one soul. 6-6-6. Get it?
DEAD GIRLS (2014)
Dead Girls has one bizarre wraparound. A chick being chased by a scary guy runs into a house to hide. She starts examining items around the house—child’s art, a book, etc.—and that’s how we get the stories.
Each story is about a girl who dies and comes back for revenge. In the first story, a guy accidentally kills his jealous girlfriend, who comes back from the dead for revenge, giving us a short we’ve seen dozens of times on shows like Tales from the Crypt. The second story is my favorite, despite being a copycat of the general plot of the movie Tamara—actually because of that. This time, a bunch of bitchy sorority girls accidentally kills a geeky pledge, who then comes back to life as a hot, murderous babe. It’s the catty diva behaviors and funny goofball male character that make this one feel like a good old teen horror flick. And the “dead girl” is absolutely delicious in her role when she comes back for revenge.
The last story shifts tones to give us an exploitative, anti-religion, rape/revenge flick about a young Catholic schoolgirl turned whore who gets revenge on a vile priest. All I’ll say is that my favorite part involves testicles (doesn’t it always?).
With three stories featuring unwavering point A to point B plots we’ve seen before, the only unique thing about Dead Girls is that its an oddly “feminist” themed horror anthology that ends on some sort of bizarre female empowerment/high priestess/new age note.