The film is chock full of cameos from famous genre actors and actresses spanning from Barry Bostwick (Rocky Horror Picture Show), and Adrienne Barbeau (The Mist), to Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator) and Lin Shaye (Insidious). There are also plenty of other cameos from recognizable celebrities as well as some of the directors of the segments appearing in spots of the film. The movie starts with a cool little animated sequence which sets up the small town American suburb in which the film takes place. We then get a radio broadcast being hosted by none other than the aforementioned Adrienne Barbeau in a sort of throwback role to that of hers in The Mist.
Basically what you have is ten short stories interwoven by the fact that they are each taking place somewhere within this small town American city. The film gets started right out of the gates with a segment that acts as a Halloween urban legend featuring a kid who loves his Halloween candy - perhaps a bit too much. We then bounce over to a tale where a young kid learns his lesson when he picks the wrong house to prank on Halloween. Next up is a short regarding "Child Predators", but takes quite a new spin on the theme - you'll understand when you see it. The Weak and the Wicked is the next short, directed by one of my favorite photographers - Paul Solet (who, on a sidenote, does some of the most beautiful b&w photography you'll ever see) and his take on the classic revenge tale, with some spaghetti western flair to it. Following The Weak and the Wicked is another urban legend style tale, this time featuring an infamous "grim grinning ghost". In what ended up being my favorite short within the movie, "Ding Dong" is a tale of one's desire to have children and what happens when a woman is denied that opportunity, it also features a cool spin on the Hansel and Gretel yarn. Next is a short that revolves around two neighbors who try to out-do one another in regards to their yard haunt and ends fairly predictably with them becoming part of the haunt itself. Finally coming down the stretch we have one of the more generic and yet at the same time unpredictable shorts in "Friday the 31st". Just when things look like they couldn't be more telegraphed we get not one, not two, but three big plot twists/surprises - this one is fun even if you might not think so at first. The second to last short story is a tale about two kidnappers who get more than they bargained for when they demand - "The Ransom of Rusty Rex". And finally with "Sweet Tooth" we get what amounts to an adult episode of Goosebumps, which is ok in my book!
My overall take on Tales of Halloween is that it is exactly like the pillow case full of treats you'd bring home after trick or treating. Its filled with both candy you'd rather just toss out and candy that you can't get enough of. In other words there a few of the shorts within Tales of Halloween that just didn't quite work for me and there were a few that really stood out. I have a feeling that this movie will totally be a huge topic of debate for horror/Halloween fans when it comes to picking out favorite segments. My favorite segment of the film was Ding Dong directed by Lucky Mckee both because of the imagery and the acting. I think one of the biggest strikes against the movie is the wrap around segment or at least the lack therof. Trick 'r Treat did the wrap around segment nicely and to this day I still find little easter eggs and nods to other segments during the film but Tales simply lacked that type of cohesiveness that is often found in these anthology style films. Speaking of Trick 'r Treat, there will obviously be parallels and similarities discussed when talking about the two films and I think one of those is how these movies fare with the passing of time. The first time I watched Trick 'r Treat I wasn't totally blown away, I thought to myself, "All the hype for THAT!", but as time passed I grew quite fond of the film and now it is my traditional Halloween night "must watch" film. I think that with time Tales of Halloween may move higher and higher up the seasonal Halloween viewings list.
So in general I would say that the film has a few weak segments, several decent parts, and one or two excellent shorts, with Ding Dong being my favorite once again. As far as the overall wrap-around segment, it just didn't really work for me and I didn't feel like the shorts were necessarily tied in together as tightly as they could have been. I would still definitely say that Tales of Halloween is worth a rent this season and here's to hoping that next year we get "Treated" with Tales of Halloween 2!
If you are looking for the actual list of shorts contained within Tales of Halloween, they are as follows:
Trick (Adam Gierasch)
Bad Seed (Neil Marshall)
Grimm Grinning Ghost (Axelle Carolyn)
The Weak and the Wicked (Paul Solet)
Friday the 31st (Mike Mendez)
The Ransom of Rusty Rex (Ryan Schifrin)
This Means War (Andrew Kasch & John Skipp)
The Night Billy Raised Hell (Darren Lynn Bousman)
Sweet Tooth (Dave Parker)
Ding Dong (Lucky McKee)
*Note: These are not in order of appearance in the film