Hello, and welcome to the return of Netflix Dumpster Dive. This, our third installment, marks the beginning of the new year of the series, and if all goes well, a consistent writing schedule. I’m aiming to do this at the end of every month, with maybe extra posts sprinkled throughout if a movie really catches my fancy.
Our return to the series takes place in the same spot we left off: in the realm of horror. I have expressed my desire to bring diversity to Netflix Dumpster Dive, due to horror movies being such easy targets to mark as “dumpster” films, but I have been in a pretty spooky mood as of late, and horror movies are just fun in general. I will be attempting, in an effort to keep from oversaturating the series, to explore different niches of the horror genre. Hopefully, if I go on a streak of scary movies like I am now, this policy will keep the series from becoming too stale.
The feature in this post comes from a horror sub-genre infamous for being hit-or-miss and being a breeding ground for ameteur directors to add credits to their names. Horror anthologies are littered across Netflix, from the V/H/S Trilogy, to ABCs of Death, to A Christmas Horror Story. Their aforementioned nature of being hit-or-miss makes it easy to tell which are good, and which are not so good. Even then, none stand out as shining spectacles in horror, because they are not a mainstream sub-genre, and are often several mediocre short films loosely tied together with a good one. These points, however, are not the case with our feature, the 2015-released film, Tales of Halloween.
Now, before I step into the actual review portion, I want to inform past readers that I will be exempting the spoiler section from this review due to the sheer amount of stories within Tales of Halloween. I am not sure if I will continue to simply write Netflix Dumpster Dive as a normal review series, or if I will bring back the spoiler section, or do something separate with the spoilers. For now, we’ll simply examine the movie at its surface. Delving into the plot of Tales of Halloween’s individual segments would lead to a 30+ page document, and a review should be to the point in most cases.
Tales of Halloween is a confusing little bundle of horror-comedy films, all of which are done in a distinct style. It is not an ordinary horror anthology, in that it is heavily reliant on its comedy aspect to both parody and criticize horror tropes. The choices made, from sound to writing to direction, all come together in an odd, yet fascinating way, and for this reason, I separate it from the films I previously mentioned. Twice I have gone through this ride of a movie, and in all honesty, I can’t decide if this was a hit or a miss. Is it good? Is it bad? If it’s somewhere in the middle, does it lean toward one side? I don’t know.
While I cannot put an objective label of good or bad on Tales of Halloween, I can say that I did, for the most part, enjoy it. Some of the short films fell flat, some were pretty good, and some were flat out awful. However, being as there are ten films, all with merits, and the wraparound plot is terrifically done, I cannot discount the entire movie as a whole. I was annoyed and disappointed at times, but at others, I genuinely was pleased with what I was seeing. And, at some points, I was just confused. There are so many ups and downs in Tales of Halloween that it almost feels impossible to pick any one side, because the journey is so dynamic. In spite of that, I’m going to try.
Tales of Halloween has a number of positive aspects, ones that I believe could be adopted by mainstream horror films to improve the overall genre. First and foremost, every single film, goofy or not, felt like there was heart put into it, like they genuinely cared about the movie. It did not seem at all like a cash-grab anthology mess that I am so used to seeing on Netflix. All cinematography and direction were well done. Despite a low budget and low runtime for each film present, the people involved gave their all to put out a quality piece, even if other aspects kept that from coming to fruition. Most of the writing is organic in each presented situation, and despite the movie being one storyline, it is important to note that each piece of the story heavily differs from the last, and each writing style will feel different. The acting was solid, especially for a film of this nature, with each actor fitting their part exactly as I felt they should. In times where a scene called for real, horror movie tension, it almost always was nailed. The wraparound plot is also one of the most interesting in any anthology I’ve previously watched, and part of that is because it doesn’t need to be overly dire or serious to work. It also cleverly weaves footage of Night of the Living Dead, shown to be watched on TV, to give hints that everything really is connected before the final reveal. Furthermore, the underlying satire on modern horror and Halloween in general is brilliant, and I found this part to be my favorite, due to the criticisms being so subtly and adequately presented.
Despite our good aspects of Tales of Halloween, I’d be lying if I said there isn’t bad to go around. Let’s get the obvious part out of the way first: jump scares. I counted at least six in the first short film alone, and several of the more-horror-less-comedy segments of the movie could have had excellent tension throughout, to a genuine, earned scare at the end, but they were mutilated by false scares sprinkled all across them. The comedy in this movie, while often funny, gets out of hand with its quirkiness too much. Often raunchy humor and out-of-place sound effects mess with an established, interesting tone, and pull the viewer out of their immersion. Taking notes during my first viewing led to many confused lines where the movie did a strange 180 on me. On top of that, the movie often suffers from this inconsistent, awkward pacing, where suddenly a twist will happen with little gravity in a matter of moments, or several events will rapidly occur and the movie will slow back down. This may be a symptom of the anthology format forcing the directors to make certain events much faster in order to fit their individual runtime, but it could also be strange stylistic choice as well. In addition, a lot of unexplained events happen in certain plot points throughout a few films, where the lack of “why” dampened my enjoyment of the experience.
As I said, there’s a fairly large list of both good and bad aspects of Tales of Halloween. On one hand, the movie is generally well put together from beginning to end. On the other hand, there’s so many subtle wrongdoings and blatant inconsistencies throughout that I want to say the movie is bad on principle. The writers and directors so often showed me that they are capable filmmakers and deserve to be praised, and that Hollywood should take a page from them. However, they are so capable that I feel I should judge them more harshly based on their potential being wasted on jump scares and cliches (some of the same they lampooned). As I enjoyed the movie, however, I can’t fault it on structure. Many of the confusing or off-putting parts of the movie and be construed to be intentional or stylistic choices, and some of the pacing and silly writing can be attributed to fitting the time constraint for the film to be included in the anthology. And, being a comedy, it’s harder to slam horror movie “don’t”s because they very well could have been there as a parody all on their own.
What I mean to get across is this: I am blatantly aware of the flaws in Tales of Halloween, and to call it a good “film” to me means something different than it would to say, a professional critic. With a Hollywood release, I’d be more critical and analytic, but here, I want to find movies you can toss on to enjoy, regardless of if they’re good, or bad. I lean toward Tales of Halloween being good, for the main reason of its comedic value separating it from the anthology genre.
Would I recommend Tales of Halloween? Yes, but I have a few conditions. If you hate quirky humor, don’t watch this movie. If you hate anthologies as a whole, don’t watch this movie. If you want a serious, straightfaced horror film, definitely do not watch this movie. If you’re into a few laughs, eccentric gore, and a plethora of raised eyebrows, definitely give Tales of Halloween a watch, especially when October rolls around.
Personal Rating: 6.5/10 (rounded to 3 Stars on Netflix)
Thank you for reading! If you’d like to hear more, make sure to follow the site for future installments, as well as reviews on other movies and shows I take a liking to, and for other posts. Also, feel free to check out my book in the link at the top of the page.
©2017 Vincent C. Russo. All Rights Reserved.
I claim no rights to any film mentioned here. All rights to these films go to their respective owners. This post is intended for review only, and constitutes fair use. Image used was created by Drew Struzan.