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Tales Of Halloween is a spooky fun 2015 Halloween anthology flick that has grown on me quite a lot since my initial review (see full review here) and has finally arrived on blu-ray a year later. This multi-story horror has been released by Epic pictures in a four disc special edition that is available from their website store, HERE.

As for the feature film itself, there is both a blu-ray and DVD version. As for the technical aspects of the blu-ray feature disc…

The picture is gorgeous, the colors vibrant and really represents well the visual styles of all the directors and their cinematographers on the ten tales told here. The disc is presented in the original 2.39.1 widescreen aspect ratio, preserving the film’s intended dimensions. The sound is in 5.1 surround sound with alternate 2.0 and basic stereo tracks for those without home theater sound systems. The menus are simple and easy to navigate. A nice presentation to enjoy this holiday horror!

Now on to the extensive extras which make this 4-disc set even more appealing!…

The extras start out with a production diary covering the 23 days of shooting that comes complete with interviews with cast and crew and some fun behind the scenes footage. In the bonus features, we get a behind the scenes reel…which does repeat a lot of what we saw in the production diaries…and an examination of the filming of one of the scenes from Mike Mendez’s gruesomely comic Friday The 31st, complete with storyboards. We also get a deleted scene from one of the best stories, Grim Grinning Ghost and are treated to replays of the segments Sweet Tooth, Trick, Ding Dong and This Means War all with additional bonus commentary, aside from the commentary track that accompanies the movie on the feature film discs. We also get eight short films from a few of the filmmakers involved, some of which are definitely worth checking out. There are also storyboards, a photo gallery, trailers and some pop-up video commentary that can be activated on certain stories on the feature blu-ray. A nice selection of extras.

The fourth and final disc is a CD featuring the film’s soundtrack which includes all the music from the segments and wraparound by artists like Lalo Schifrin, Christopher Drake, Joseph Bishara and more.

All of the discs are region free and can be played anywhere and the set also comes with two trading cards, too!

I really have come to appreciate and enjoy this flick beyond what my initial review reflects. It is now part of my traditional Halloween viewing, as it is loaded with Halloween spirit and imagery and I would love to see a follow-up with yet more filmmakers creating Halloween tales as in this film. If you liked this movie and have become endeared to it like I have, this 4-disc set is a must!

-MonsterZero NJ




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tales of halloween



(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Tales Of Halloween is an amusing anthology flick that has ten stories told by ten different directors with the obvious reoccurring theme of Halloween. The stories are loosely connected by the presence of Adrienne Barbeau as a DJ, much like her Stevie Wayne character from The Fog and some shared characters.

Created by filmmaker Axelle Carolyn, this is a good idea that disappointingly has only four out of the ten stories really being successful. The tone of the stories vary with some being goofy like Mike Mendez’ fun Friday The 31st, which has a Jason-like killer squaring off with an alien who possesses the body of one of his victim’s and Carolyn’s own creepy Grim Grinning Ghost, which has a woman crossing paths with an urban legend. Those two hit their marks, though the best stories are the opening and closing tales. Dave Parker’s Sweet Tooth, begins the anthology and is another urban legend centric story of a boy that took his love for Halloween candy to a ghoulish level. The closer, Neil Marshall’s Bad Seed, is a fun and gruesome story about a murderous jack-o-lantern. Darren Lynn Bousman’s self-explanatory The Night Billy Raised Hell is moderately amusing, as is Lucky McKee’s Ding Dong, about a strange couple. With unsettling Hansel and Gretel overtones and uncomfortable themes of spousal abuse and infertility, McKee’s tale is the most bizarre one. Ryan Schifrin’s The Ransom Of Rusty Rex is also somewhat amusing in it’s tale of a Halloween kidnapping gone very wrong. On the epic fail side, we have Adam Gierasch’s tale of murderous trick-or-treaters with a twist, Trick. It’s crude and violent without being scary or funny. Paul Solet’s tale of demonic revenge with a spaghetti western slant, The Weak and the Wicked, is just dull and has the least Halloween spirit while John Skipp and Andrew Kasch’s tale of neighbors battling over competitive Halloween displays, This Means War, is just boring and predictable. Add that up and we have four stories that work really well, three that are pretty decent and three that basically fall flat. There are some nice homages along the way, the SPFX and make-up FX are pretty good and the visual style varies from filmmaker to filmmaker. It always has the look of Halloween, with jack-o-lanterns everywhere, even if the spirit isn’t quite captured by the tale being told. This anthology’s heart is in the ghoulish right place, though, if not completely successful in accomplishing it’s overall goals.

The cast is rather large and even in the weaker episodes they seem to get the tone of the material and are having a good time. We have genre favorites like Lin Shaye, Adrienne Barbeau, Barbara Crampton, Lisa Marie, Caroline Williams and Clare Kramer. There are some veteran actors like Barry Bostwick and John Savage and director cameos such as John Landis, Stuart Gordon, Adam Green and Joe Dante. Then there are also familiar faces like Some Kind Of Hate’s Grace Phipps, Cabin Fever’s Cerina Vincent, Starry Eyes’ Alex Essoe, scream queen Tiffany Shepis and Adrienne Curry as herself, to name a few. Overall a good cast that helps the stories a lot, even when they don’t make the grade.

Tales Of Halloween is far from perfect and doesn’t succeed as much as we’d like. The stories that work are worth watching for and the middle ground stories are amusing enough to check out, too. Even the failures aren’t a complete waste of time and are short enough to be over mercifully quick. While not totally successful, it is a really good idea and hopefully next year, we get another and that one hits the ghoulish mark far more often. Not quite the Halloween classic hoped for, but when it hits it’s stride it’s ghoulish Halloween fun.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 jack-o-lanterns as the stories I liked, I really liked.

tales of halloween rating




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THE WOODS (2006)

Lucky McKee followed up his devious and gruesomely fun May with this David Ross written story of supernatural goings on at at all girls boarding school set deep in the woods. The story is set in 1965 and centers on troubled and trouble-making teen Heather (Agnes Bruckner) who is sent to the strict Falburn Academy by her mother and father (Emma Campbell and horror icon Bruce Campbell, who are not related.) and put under the guidance of the dean Ms. Traverse (Patricia Clarkson). Upon entering, the rebellious Heather not only befriends the lonely and picked-on Marcy (Lauren Birkell) and meets the reigning mean girl Samantha (Rachel Nichols),but, also beings to have strange dreams of something terrifying deep in the woods. Heather hears tales of three witches who once entered the academy and brought carnage and death along with them. As her dreams become more and more ominous and girls begin to disappear, Heather may soon find out that there may be some truth behind the bedtime ghost stories and the fate of she and her schoolmates may have already been sealed.

The Woods is an atmospheric chiller that seems to be influenced by Dario Argento and his classic Suspiria, which dealt with a coven of witches in a dance academy. DIrector Lucky McKee gives the film a nice feeling of dread but, also gives it a touch of fairy tale whimsy in it’s story of school girls encountering supernatural forces in their school in the woods. His visual style is less flashy then Argento but, the earthy colors are rich and the production design not only evokes the era it takes place but, aids in adding that dark fairy tale element as well. The film was also a refreshing return to a more old-fashioned gothic style horror in the tradition of films like Horror Hotel or some of the Hammer horrors by taking it’s time to establish that something is very wrong and unnatural going on and relying more on atmosphere then gore, though, when the time comes, we get a good helping of that. The film moves well but, saves it’s big reveals and most horrific moments for it’s last act and it works and McKee delivers a final showdown between our heroine and the dark forces that is suspenseful, chilling and very spooky. The FX presenting the supernatural are very well orchestrated in both the visual and make-up departments and the sparingly used gore is quite effective. Add to that a very atmospheric score by John Frizzell…with some Lesley Gore tunes added in to give the film some added embiance of not only the time period, but, of teen girl angst…and you have a well crafted and satisfying supernatural horror that entertains and holds ones interest for it’s 90 minutes.

There is a good cast here, too and McKee gets good work from them. Agnes Bruckner is very strong as rebellious teen and resourceful heroine and creates a likable and tough girl who we believe can put up a fight against greater odds when needed. Clarkson is solid, as always, as the strict and yet caring Ms. Traverse but, also imbues her with an air of mystery to keep us guessing as to her true intentions. Campbell is effective as well, in a role that is far less comic then we are used to seeing him and his restraint makes the role work as Heather’s harried and concerned father. Rounding out is an also solid supporting cast of students and teachers that give the film a good helping of it’s atmosphere with their performances. A good cast that help make this old school supernatural horror work.

I like The Woods. It is charmingly old-fashioned at times and relies heavily on atmosphere which director McKee gives it plenty of. It saves it’s most shocking moments till it’s last act, thus making them more effective, and is supported by a good cast and some very good FX on a modest budget. Despite heavily evoking Dario Argento’s Suspiria at times, the film has it’s own style and gives us some unique moments and ideas within it’s more traditional story. No classic but, an effective and entertaining tale of schoolgirls and dark forces.

3 resourceful heroines.

woods rating




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MAY (2002)

“If you can’t find a friend, make one.”

May is the feature film debut of writer/director Lucky McKee and tells the story of eccentric, strange and shy May (Angela Bettis) who works at a veterinary clinic, who likes people only for certain parts of them and has an old doll in a glass display box as her only friend. But May starts to try and come out of her shell when she happens upon handsome mechanic and wannabe filmmaker Adam (Jeremy Sisto) and starts getting hit upon by the sexy receptionist at work, Polly (Anna Faris). May starts to see Adam and has an affair with Polly, but her odd behavior and interest in morbid things pushes both of them away and as the emotionally troubled May tries to deal with all the rejection, she remembers the words of her mother…”If you can’t find a friend, make one.”…and with gruesome results.

Lucky Mckee creates a film that is both disturbing and whimsical at the same time. Despite being a very emotionally awkward and troubled young woman, we like May and feel bad for her when she scares people away with her bizarre behavior and over-eagerness to get attached to someone. When her behavior turns violent, it’s shocking, yet, she still comes across as sympathetic, as the people she encounters appear shallow and self centered and don’t evoke our sympathy when May turns to her gruesome solution to her social isolation. Even Adam, who seems like a nice guy who legitimately likes May, has a jerk side to him that comes out when May doesn’t get that it’s over and he says some very mean and insensitive things about her. After all, she just wants to be loved. And this is where Mckee shows some real promise with his first feature as he takes a character who is well within Norman Bates territory, but makes her the most likable character in the film and tells her blood soaked story as an almost modern day urban fairy tale, with our princess being emotionally scarred and homicidal. After all, while she doesn’t have a magic mirror to talk to, she does have her doll “Suzie”. And McKee mixes the more whimsical elements perfectly with the more disturbing elements and we never truly see May as a monster, but more sad and tragic. She evokes our sympathy even after all the blood is shed and she has unleashed her inner Frankenstein. We still want her to have a happy ending.

Obviously McKee would not have been as successful without a subtle tour de force performance by Angela Bettis as May. She’s awkward and yet adorable, creepy and yet likable and sympathetic. The actress really gives this bizarre character life with her ability to present the facial expressions and body language of a young woman who has little clue on how to express her emotions to other people. She truly gives the appearance of someone who is in social circles for the first time and the frustration of coming across as weird to those she wishes to like her. And of course she remains sweet and innocent even when she is exacting bloody revenge on those who reject her…as if this is how it’s done normally. An understated and overlooked performance. Sisto is also good as the apple of May’s lazy eye and he comes across as likable until we get to meet the inner jerk, when he gets mean concerning May’s bizarre behavior. But he does try to do the right thing and make peace with May and we are left wondering what he really feels about her. Sisto and McKee give Adam an appearance of conflicting emotions when it comes to May which give the character an interesting dynamic. When they are together there seems to be legitimate feelings in play, when apart, he dismisses her as a weirdo to friends. Rounding out the main players, Anna Faris plays Polly as a ditzy woman with a sexual appetite and it’s something Faris plays well and does a good job as the sexually promiscuous woman who unintentionally only confuses May further. A good cast that handles the disturbing material very well.

I recommend May to those who like a little variety and originality in their horror. McKee has a talent for mixing disturbing and whimsical elements…no more evident then in a scene involving a classroom of blind children and some broken glass, that is horrifying yet, almost makes you giggle…It’s got a really strong performance by it’s leading lady and good work by the supporting cast and the director gives his ultimately gruesome story a twisted fairy tale-like atmosphere that works and well. A interesting debut from an interesting filmmaker.

3 Suzie’s.

may rating




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all cheerleaders die



All Cheerleaders Die is a somewhat fun, if not schizophrenic horror/comedy from Chris Sivertson and Lucky Mckee that is a remake of a low budget film they made together back in 2001. Despite having a good time here, I still feel that McKee, who showed so much promise with May and The Woodshas seemed to have lost his way a bit with this and his last film The Woman. His films usually come with an offbeat sense of humor, but lately they are less deftly mixed in, though at least here this is supposed to be a comedy whereas in The Woman, it was just off-putting. But I digress…

The story opens with pretty high school student Maddy (Caitlin Stasey) reviewing footage from a video project on friend and queen bee cheerleader Alexis (Felisha Cooper). It’s revealed the Alexis died during a botched pyramid move and now Maddy seeks revenge on Alexis’ boyfriend, star athlete Terry (Tom Williamson) for immediately shacking up with another cheerleader, Tracy (Brooke Butler). So she joins the squad to set her plan in motion. During the enactment of her plot, things go awry and Maddy, Tracy and the Popkin sisters Hanna (Amanda Grace Cooper) and Martha (Reanin Johannink) wind up dead in a car crash instigated by an angry Terry and his boys, whom are chasing them. But, Maddy is being crushed on by witch Leena (Sianoa Smit-McPhee) who witnesses the crash and uses her supernatural powers to raise the four cheerleaders from the dead. Now back from their watery grave, the four have an appetite for blood and an agenda of vengeance against the jocks that caused their initial demise…but a bizarre turn of events may have the four sexy succubi fighting for their undead lives.

As you can tell by the plot description, McKee and Sivertson’s tale of cheerleaders and revenge is a goofy one and that works both for and against it. The film’s tone is all over the place with it being silly one minute and attempting serious horror the next. The schizophrenic story takes our undead girls from victim’s to villains and back to victim’s and evokes the similar Jennifer’s Body, though without the smug, self awareness…at least Jennifer mixed it’s horror and comedy elements a bit smoother and never reached the degrees of silliness this does. It doesn’t mean the film isn’t fun at times, as it has a good time with the high school horror conventions and proudly uses it’s camera POV to ogle our shapely, scantily clad heroines as they strut around in cheerleading outfits that took like they were designed by a fetish clothier. Again, it’s obvious McKee and Sivertson know their influences and are are having fun with their subject matter, especially when the film goes all The Craft in it’s final act. But, it just never really solidifies to make it the fun treat it should have been. The abruptly shifting tone and the shifting roles of victim’s and villains makes the film more of a series of amusing vignettes loosely fit together than a solid tale. It just needed some consistency. Sometimes it was like watching a high school slasher and sometimes it was like watching an episode of Charmed. Not all the story angles even make sense, such as one where the two sister’s swap bodies upon their return from the dead. It seems only to exist to initiate a comic seduction scene with a mutual male interest. It goes nowhere. All the pieces don’t quite fit together, when all is said and done, and I still haven’t decided if where the film leaves off was cool or crass. I enjoyed this as a light diversion, but expected a lot more from the guy who gave us the deviously fun May and the atmospheric The Woods.

As for our leading ladies, all five actresses are having a blast unleashing their inner vixens, especially Stasey, Butler, Cooper and Johannink as the four spirit squad succubi. They get to tease and terrorize the boys and the audience and once the tables are turned, get to play heroines/victims against a far greater evil and have a good time doing it. Smit-McPhee seems to be enjoying her role as the awkward and lovelorn witch who is both pleased with and a little scared of the results of her spell casting. Her character is kind of a typical ‘school witch’ character, but she gives Leena some nice personality. As the overall villain, Tom Williamson takes Terry from arrogant and self-centered jock to all out demon by the time the credits role and he is very effectively detestable as such. The supporting players also seem to be enjoying their stereotypical high school horror characters and it helps this film a lot to have a cast that get the material and went with it. It adds to the fun.

So, I had a relatively good time with All Cheerleaders Die and certainly enjoyed the exploitation aspects such as making very good use of the leading ladies’ natural assets and the use of the classic fetishistic fantasy elements, as well as, the generous bloodletting and gore…though it could have done without the cheesy CGI blood. I just wish the film had a bit more of a cohesive storyline, even if it remained a silly one and the tone wasn’t so all over the place. It’s an entertaining and titillating diversion, but one that sadly implies that writer/director McKee may have shown us all he has to offer already, which is disappointing for those of us who expected big things after May and The Woods got our attention. Bloody, sexy fun, but could have been much more memorable.

3 sexy succubi.

all cheerleaders die rating