20 Awesome Horror Anthology Movies

By Patrick Cooper in Daily Lists, Movies
Tuesday, October 26, 2010 at 8:02 am
10) Tales from the Hood
This 1995 urban horror anthology helmed by Rusty Cundieff (Chapelle's Show) hemorrhages social commentary (especially in the last story). No surprise then that its executive producer was Spike Lee. But despite the heavy-handed racial rhetoric, it's a really fun film. The storyteller here is Clarence Williams III as Mr. Simms, the owner of a funeral parlor three men attempt to rob in the frame story. What they get instead are four stories concerning crooked cops, domestic abuse, a white supremacist politician meeting his fate, and a crash course in self-fulfilling stereotypes. That final tale leaves the audience pretty winded, so the awesome and campy ending of the frame story is well-deserved.

9) Tales from the Crypt
Before the classic HBO series, there was this film featuring a bunch of limeys sitting around while the Crypt Keeper makes them reveal their dark secrets. But this isn't the pun-savvy Crypt Keeper we all know and love. This is Shakespearean actor Sir Ralph Richardson wearing a hooded burlap sack. Not as fun. But the stories are great, especially the classic first segment containing almost no dialogue, "...And All Through the House." Starring foxy Joan Collins, the story would also serve as the basis for the second episode of the HBO series. Peter Cushing stars in the third segment, "Poetic Justice," as a sympathetic animal lover driven to suicide by his snobbish neighbors. Fans of the series, be sure to check this out.

8) Trick 'R Treat
Michael Dougherty (writer of X2 and Superman Returns) unfortunately never saw a theatrical release for Trick 'r Treat, but it swiftly gained immense popularity through word-of-mouth, blogs, and its long-coming DVD release in 2009. To put it bluntly, it's the perfect Halloween film. It contains no hard frame story, but all of the stories are linked by the presence of Sam, a trick-or-treater sporting a shoddy burlap sack and something resembling orange footy-pajamas. Sam eerily weaves in and out of the stories until his spotlight in the tale with Brian Cox, "Meet Sam." It's really fun, gross, scary and happened to come out at a perfect time for 20-somethings feeling nostalgic for Are You Afraid of the Dark. Dougherty first introduced the character of Sam in his animated short "Season's Greetings," so check that out if you're a film of this film.

7) Trilogy of Terror
They don't make TV movies like this anymore... mainly because censors are wimps. Trilogy of Terror aired in 1975 as the ABC "Movie of the Week" and people have been having nightmares of fanged Zuni fetish dolls ever since. All of the segments are based on short stories by Richard Matheson (I Am Legend, Twilight Zone) and star Karen Black before she looked like Clayface. Each of the three stories features Black in a different role, including a murderous school teacher, polar-opposite twin sisters, and a anthropology enthusiast who gets a crash course in Zuni culture. The third segment, "Amelia," is the most iconic and celebrated of the trilogy, but the second, "Millicent and Therese," plays to fans of psychological horror and IMO is the best.

6) Asylum
Another Amicus Production, another screenplay by Robert Bloch. 1972's Asylum does, however, feature one of the best frame stories. At an asylum for the "incurably insane," a Dr. Martin arrives for an interview to become head doctor. In order to be considered for the post, Martin has to interview four inmates and deduce which one is the former head doctor, Dr. Starr. The first three segments are great and feature voodoo and a suit that can animate the dead. But it's the fourth feature, "Mannequins of Horror," that delivers the goods. Small, murderous automatons with human heads? Yes, please.

5) Body Bags
This 1993 flick is a lot of fun and unites two American masters: John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper. Carpenter not only directs two of the three segments, he also stars in the frame as an engaging corpse who introduces each tale by opening a body bag and goofing on the corpses. The first tale, "The Gas Station," is a tightly-packed murder story that features Sam Raimi and Robert Carradine (Lewis Skolnick from Revenge of the Nerds). This is followed by "Hair," which is pretty boring. The final segment, "Eye," directed by Hooper, is the best of the three and stars Mr. Mark Hamill in one of his few good post-Star Wars roles. Hamill is a pro-baseball player who loses his left eye in a car accident. He's given a replacement eye from a recently executed serial killer! Dun DUN!

4) Tales from the Darkside: The Movie
Allegedly, this here is the "real" Creepshow 3. But following the popularity of the Tales from the Darkside TV series (1983-1988), the producers decided to attach the show's name to the movie. Either way, it's awesome. The frame story features Deborah Harry (always lookin' good) preparing to cook a young boy for a dinner party. The film also features Steve Buscemi, Wlliam Hickey, Julianne Moore, and Christian Slater. George Romero directs the second tale, "The Cat Fom Hell," adapted from a short story by Stephen King. King either hates or loves cats, I can't tell. They're always killing people and battling jester trolls in his work.

3) Creepshow
Stephen King didn't mind having his own child, Joe King, slapped around in Creepshow's frame story. Written by King and directed by George Romero as an homage to old E.C. horror comics like Tales from the Crypt, the film has spawned two sequels and become a classic in its own right. Since its release in '82, every Father's Day, some father somewhere in the world gets drunk and repeatedly screams "Where's my cake, you bitch!" Then his wife probably kills him with an ashtray. And since its release in '82, every time there's a meteor shower, some horror-nerd somewhere in the world looks up at the sky and screams "Jordy Verrill, you lunk-head!" Well, maybe not, but the movie is highly quotable. A formidable sequel was released in '87 and was directed by Romero's cinematographer, Michael Gornick. An unofficial, bullshit third Creepshow was released in 2006 but has nothing to do with E.C. or the original films.

2) Dead of Night
The Brits have always done horror extremely well -- one of the earliest movie examples is Dead of Night, made in 1945, and the grandaddy of the horror anthology genre. It's so good, it was previously mentioned in TR's The 10 Creepiest Ventriloquist Tales of All Time. The frame involves a brooding architect who starts creeping out guests at a house party by predicting random events in the house before they happen. He also reveals that he's been having recurring nightmares in which some of the strangers at the party appear in. There's always one at every party, am I right? The guests then tell stories of the supernatural which they've experienced. These include stories concerning golfing ghosts, a haunted mirror, a Christmas ghost, a bus crash, and an insane ventriloquist. The only one that sucks is the one about the golfers, which was penned by H.G. Wells. It was thrown in just for laughs. But the others rely on subtlety and let the audience's imaginations do a lot of the work. The ending of the frame contains one of the great twists of early horror that is forever being recycled. British horror was sadly flatlined after this film until the Amicus and Hammer Horror revival in the mid-'50s.

1) Black Sabbath
Directed by Italian genre maestro Mario Bava and hosted by Boris Karloff (who also stars in the segment titled "The Wurdalak"), Black Sabbath is the most horrific of the horror anthologies; Bava already had 20 years of experience as a sought-after cinematographer under his belt when he made this in 1963. Each of the three segments alone are scarier than most of the films on this list, especially the final one, "The Drop of Water." The first segment, "The Telephone," will make anyone with a jilted ex change their number. The middle segment, the aforementioned "Wurdalak," is gothic vampire horror at its best. Packaged all together, Black Sabbath is the Citizen Kane of horror anthologies. Oh, some old metal band named themselves after this movie.
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