Sunday, July 26, 2015

FANTASIA 2015—TALES OF HALLOWEEN

Tales of Halloween (2015, USA, Multiple Directors)—Eleven filmmakers (who call themselves the “October Society”), 10 tales, and 80+ actors made the Fantasia World Premiere of horror anthology Tales of Halloween (2015) a veritable bag of treats. There is so much to snack on here. For starters, Tales of Halloween imaginatively captures the nostalgia for a holiday that’s lost traction in recent years. It only took one urban myth of a razor blade hidden in an apple to ruin it for everybody. Nowadays, to be safe, parents take their children to circumscribed, chaperoned Halloween events held in school or church parking lots, if the kids aren’t already hopelessly distracted by their cell phones and tablets and can’t be bothered. Three years running, I’ve sat patiently in my living room with a bowl full of candies waiting for the doorbell to ring and not a single kid has shown up, let alone in costume. One year, I even made homemade popcorn balls because—when I was a kid and going through my bag full of treasure on the kitchen table—popcorn balls were always the best, among bite-size pieces of Snickers, Tootsie Rolls and Butterfingers. That was the year I overdosed on popcorn balls and sadly realized Halloween was a holiday that had seen its day. Kudos to Epic Pictures Group and all of the talent involved in this anthology for limning my memories with the smiles of childhood.

What could have come across as a patchwork affair has, instead, been thoughtfully reined into a tightly structured mise en scène—suburban twilight through nightfall in Anywhere, America—with crossover casting providing an interstitial cohesion, as characters from one story show up in another (let alone that each filmmaker makes cameos in each others’ segments). Technical marks—set design, costuming, period detail, lighting, sound—are pleasingly even and consistent. The final result: a fun evening pulled together by a winning collaboration between the best and brightest of L.A.’s genre filmmaking community.

Taking my cue from the kickoff segment “Sweet Tooth” (a cautionary tale to not eat all your candy at once), and to keep this review brief, I’ll single out two of my favorite segments, though all warrant due praise. Mike Mendez (who thrilled me with Big Ass Spider a couple of Fantasias back) offers a hilarious mash-up of Leatherface and alien visitation. Even with chainsaw in hand, Leatherface is no match for a trick-or-treating stop action animated creature from another planet And the popcorn ball of this bag of treats? Neil Marshall’s “Bad Seed” where a genetically-modified pumpkin carved into a jack-o-lantern comes to life and wreaks murderous revenge. This mash-up mocks police procedurals with (literally) biting wit.

The brainchild of Axelle Carolyn (Soulmate), fellow October Society contributors include Darren Lynn Bousman (Repo: The Genetic Opera; Saw II), Mike Mendez (Big Ass Spider), Paul Soulet (Grace), Adam Gierasch (Night of the Demons), Neil Marshall (The Descent; Centurion), Dave Parker (The Hills Run Red), Andrew Kasch (Never Sleep Again), Lucky McKee (May), John Skipp (splatterpunk actor turned director), and Ryan Schifrin (Abominable). Schifrin deserves an added shout-out for convincing his father Lalo Schifrin (famous for the Mission Impossible theme) to compose an eerie piece for the film.

In front of the camera are the likes of everyone you’ve ever enjoyed being victimized or victimizing others (including, to name just a few, Joe Dante, John Landis, Stuart Gordon, Barry Bostwick, Lin Shaye, Noah Segan, James Duval, Booboo Stewart, Barbara Crampton, John Savage, and—in an especially inspired piece of casting—Adrienne Barbeau reprising her role as the radio DJ from John Carpenter’s The Fog). Out of sheer fear, I leave the rest of this wicked, smart and fun bag of tricks and treats to Sweet Tooth. World Premiere. IMDb. Facebook.

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