One of my favorite subgenres of horror is the anthology film. Some of my favorite fright flicks feature multiple stories: George Romero’s Creepshow and Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘R Treat are just a couple of examples. Here are three lesser known but quite fun entries.
Tales that Witness Madness (1973)—This Halloween 1973 release is directed by Freddie Francis, who made quite a niche for himself directing horror anthologies: he also helmed the original Tales from the Crypt and Asylum. The Tales here include cannibalism and a seemingly psychotic child, but the standout centers on a man who neglects his wife (Joan Collins) for an increasingly womanly looking tree (!). It’s as bizarre as it sounds, and with a cast featuring Collins, Donald Pleasence, and Vertigo’s Kim Novak, Tales makes for a potent mix of class and macabre subject matter.
The Monster Club (1981)—The anthology format gets a heady infusion of MTV with this campy, highly entertaining feature top-lined by horror legends Vincent Price and John Carradine. Carradine plays a horror novelist who gets an education in monster sub-groups from Price at the titular club, which features masked patrons and rock and roll acts. The stories themselves are surprising and fun, but the highlight comes when a singer performs “The Stripper”—and strips down into an animated skeleton!
Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990)—Fans have nicknamed this one Creepshow III, and with George Romero and Stephen King involved and the same sense of ghoulish fun, it’s a truly worthy successor. A hilariously wooden Deborah Harry (yes, that Deborah Harry) plays a suburban witch preparing to roast little Timmy (Matthew Lawrence) alive for a dinner party; to stall her, he reads her a few stories. “Lot 249” features Christian Slater, Julianne Moore, and Steve Buscemi (!) in a grisly tale of college revenge; “Cat from Hell,” King’s contribution, features a hit man tasked with offing a killer feline. But the last installment, “Lover’s Vow,” is the standout, with a fantastically realized gargoyle and an unforgettable twist. It’s all campy, frothy fun that emulates Creepshow’s laugh-to-scare ratio nicely.
Next week: a guide to some of the spookiest spots in “Boo” York City.
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