With Magnolia Pictures’ new horror anthology movie “V/H/S” hitting theaters on October 5, 2012, just in time for Halloween, it is time to look back at some of the other great horror anthologies throughout film history. From 1954’s “Dead of Night” to 2011’s “The Theatre Bizarre,” we are counting down the Top 10 Horror Anthology Movies of all time. While they might not always be terribly scary, you can usually count on horror anthologies to be a lot of fun.
The following list highlights the spookiest portmanteau films which I have enjoyed the most, listed in ascending order. Follow along with the slideshow above for a visual companion, beginning with our runner up and working our way towards the cream of the crop.
Runner Up: Tales From the Darkside: The Movie (1990)
Loosely based on the “Tales From the Darkside” TV series, this film is often referred to as “The Real Creepshow 3.” The movie is about a little boy who tells three stories to avoid being eaten by a witch, and features several early performances from well known actors such as Steve Buscemi. Steven King and George A. Romero collaborated on the movie’s most amusing segment about an evil cat.
Best Segment: “The Cat From Hell” (Directed by John Harrison)
10. The Theatre Bizarre (2011)
An ensemble of directors, including special effects legend Tom Savini, bring us this six part horror anthology set in an abandoned theater run by creepy life-sized puppets. The host puppet, Peg Poett, is played by Udo Kier. While the seemingly random stories are hit or miss, the final segment “Sweets” is the gory icing on the cake.
Best Segment: “Sweets” (Directed by David Gregory)
9. Body Bags (1993)
This tongue-in-cheek collaboration between John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper may have been overshadowed by some of their scarier works, but this three part anthology provides some amusing performances. Stacy Keach is worried about losing his hair, and John Carpenter himself stars as The Coroner, the movie’s kooky host.
Best Segment: “Hair” (Directed by John Carpenter)
8. Tales From the Crypt (1972)
Featuring a not-yet decomposed Crypt Keeper, this British film is one of the first to depict the spooky stories of E.C. Comics. Five strangers are told of the bizarre, often sinister ways in which they die. With a couple shocking moments and updated variations of classic folktales, “Tales From the Crypt” remains one of film’s most popular horror anthology franchises.
Best Segment: “Blind Alleys” (Directed by Freddie Francis)
7. Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)
This strange adaptation of the classic sci-fi TV series not only frightened audience members, but also suffered a freak occurrence during production when a helicopter accident lead to three tragic deaths. Dan Akroyd and John Lithgow’s performances as frightened (or frightening) passengers might still make you afraid to travel.
Best Segment: “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” (Directed by George Miller)
6. Tales From the Hood (1995)
This urban tribute to comic-based horror anthologies features an eccentric funeral director (Clarence Williams III) who tells four strange tales of horror to three drug dealers who may be trapped inside his mortuary… forever. The movie’s most memorable story features a clan of possessed dolls.
Best Segment: “KKK Comeuppance” (Directed by Rusty Cundieff)
5. Black Sabbath (1963)
Mario Bava’s “Black Sabbath” is a classic work of Italian horror cinema. It is a truly frightening trio of atmospheric horror tales, hosted by Boris Karloff, who also stars in the film’s final segment, “The Wurdalak.” This is one of the more overlooked horror anthology films, and is absolutely worth seeking out.
Best Segment: “The Wurdalak” (directed by Mario Brava)
4. Creepshow (1982)
One of the more original films inspired by the E.C. comics of the 1950s was this classic horror anthology collaboration from genre masters George A. Romero and Stephen King. The movie features great stories that are strange, scary, and funny, perfecting the pulpy comic book aesthetic for a fun and memorable fright fest. The sequels, however, didn’t quite make the cut.
Best Segment: “The Crate” (directed by George A. Romero)
3. Kwaidan (1964)
Masaki Kobayashi’s “Kwaidan” (which means ‘ghost story’) is a Japanese anthology, or portmanteau film, from 1964. Based on Lafcadio Hearn’s collections of Japanese folk tales, the film consists of four separate and unrelated ghost stories. While more of a creepy and dramatic parable than a horror movie, “Kwaidan” is a visual masterpiece with strange, original storytelling to boot.
Best Segment: “The Black Hair” (Directed by Masaki Kobayashi)
2. Dead of Night (1945)
Perhaps the grandaddy of all horror anthology films, “Dead of Night” set the standard for the genre in 1945 with its tale of an architect who feels uneasy as his half-remembered recurring dream turns into reality, while guests at a country house take turns telling supernatural tales. A game of hide and seek, a strange mirror, and a Ventriloquist’s dummy turn out to be things of nightmares.
Best Sequence: “Ventriloquist’s Dummy” (Directed by Alberto Cavalcanti)
1. Trick ‘r Treat (2007)
Michael Dougherty’s masterful horror anthology movie “Trick ‘r Treat” tells four interwoven stories that all occur on one frightful Halloween night. With a perfect blend of horror, humor, suspense, and Halloween fun, “Trick ‘r Treat” is stylishly filmed and maintains a thrilling pace throughout. You never quite know what you are going to get… Monsters? Vampires? Zombies? Werewolves? Your high school principal? Featuring Anna Paquin and other familiar faces, the movie is based on Dougherty’s first short film “Season’s Greetings” which you can watch here.
Best Sequence: “The Principal” (Directed by Michael Dougherty)
Tales of Terror (1962), Twice-Told Tales (1963), Night Gallery (1970), The House that Dripped Blood (1971), Asylum (1972), From Beyond the Grave (1974), Trilogy of Terror (1975), Screams of a Winter Night (1979), Nightmares (1983), Cat’s Eye (1985), Deadtime Stories (1986), Creepshow 2 (1987), From a Whisper to a Scream (1987), After Midnight (1989), Two Evil Eyes (1990), The Willies (1991)