Zombies are the middle children of the otherworldly family. Vampires are the oldest brother who gets to have a room in the attic, all tripped out with a disco ball and shag carpet. Werewolves are the youngest, the babies, always getting pinched and told they're cute. With all that attention stolen away from the middle child zombie, no wonder she shuffles off grumbling, "Marsha, Marsha, Marsha."

- Kevin James Breaux

Saturday, April 25, 2015

"Rants & Ravings About Horror" - Week 16: “Giving a Little Love to the Anthology Film”

Week 16: “Giving a Little Love to the Anthology Film”

Like many horror fans we all have a love-hate relationship with the anthology film.  Films which are made up of shorter films which are sometimes interconnected but for the most part are unrelated and can stand on their own.  Since I generally like the genre I wanted to take a few moments to speak about them especially since they’ve come back in style with the popularity of the V/H/S and ABCs of Death franchises.

A lot of the times anthology films are a showcase for several directors to tackle short material as is the case with Tales From the Darkside: The Movie (1990), Two Evil Eyes (1991), Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983) and more recently V/H/S 2 (2013).  I love the idea of letting directors of all walks of life contribute to a disturbing vision of horror.  Three…Extremes (2004) had three directors from all over the world contribute or the massive undertaking of The ABCs of Death (2013) which is probably the largest collaboration of directors from all over the world assembled with 26 in all.  It was not always like this though.

Anthology films were originally a way for established directors to be able to tell multiple stories like George A. Romero’s collaboration with Stephen King in Creepshow (1982).  The name Stephen King is also associated with the anthology Cat’s Eye (1985) and Creepshow 2 (1987) and even Quicksilver Highway (1997), which included a short story from Clive Barker.  Mario Bava’s Black Sabbath (1963) is a gothic classic that showcases some of the director’s best work as is Freddie Francis’ Tales from the Crypt (1972) and Roy Ward Baker’s Vault of Horror (1973).

Many times you just can’t beat a good anthology film that just wants to have fun like Grindhouse (2007),  Nightmares (1983)and 4bia (2008).  I love a great fun anthology which is why I’m a huge fan on Dan Curtis’ Trilogy of Terror (1975) and its sequel Trilogy of Terror II (1996) which were both made for TV films but transcended its meager TV trappings.  The same can be said for John Carpenter’s Body Bags (1993) and Terror Tract (2000).  These may not have been given the luxury of being able to go to the extremes (a hindrance of broadcast cable standards) but they make up for it with strong storytelling and great performances.

Sequels also play a hand with anthology films.  It’s a rare occurrence when an anthology gets a sequel but it does happen.  Creepshow 3 (2006) is an in name only infamous sequel to the popular King-Romero collaborations but there is also 3 Extremes II (2002), ABCs of Death 2 (2014), and V/H/S: Viral (2014) in addition to the ones previously mentioned.

For the independent filmmakers there are the two George A. Romero presents Deadtime Stories films (part 1 in 2009 and part 2 in 2011) in addition to Hi-8 (Horror Independent 8) (2013), in addition to a plethora more.  I love the spirit of the independent film maker and there are a lot of short film collections out there that help get the word out on rising talents (so be on the lookout for them).

I have a lot of guilty pleasure anthology films that not only include Grindhouse and V/H/S 2 but also Tales from the Hood (1995), Torture Garden (1967), Grim Prairie Tales (1990) and The Offspring (1987).  There are also those films I think are classics like Dead of Night (1945), Kwaidan (1964) and most recently the surprise hit Trick ‘r Treat (2008).

Anthology horror films are not an easy thing to succeed at.  There are more unsuccessful films then there are successful ones and unfortunately there are more that succeed on a small level  (meaning that maybe one out of all the other stories are any good) than on the whole.  We should not forget the contributions that this genre has in the horror genre and that without it we may not have had those few amazing displays of genius.  I’ve mentioned a lot of different films and hopefully there are a few that will have you searching them out.

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