I’ve always been a fan of anthologies. A little more bang for your buck and hopefully more than one monster is a definite win in my book. Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965), Tales From the Crypt (1972), From Beyond the Grave (1974) and The House That Dripped Blood (1971) were all given a steady rotation in my VCR growing up. Short stories and horror are a wonderful mix. No padding, snappy progression, something that goes right for the jugular. Recently, it would seem independent filmmakers have figured out that the collected story approach is a die way to get your name out there without sinking a shit ton of money into a full length feature. It’s a great way to give the horror community an idea of what your bringing to the table. I recently watched The Witching Season (2015) and am now eagerly awaiting whatever comes from the creators. It works…sometimes. 10/31 is comprised of 5 tales of terror. One of them is a masterpiece, two of them are pretty good, one is a complete mess and I’ve already forgotten the other one.
Malvolia is your sultry host for the collection of horrific tales (although she only bookends the film and I admit to completely forgetting about her until she popped back up the end) which two candy munching brats are watching on television.
The first tale of terror is The Old Hag and it has a satisfying Tales From the Darkside (1983 – 1988) vibe about it. Two wannabe filmmakers respond to a Craigslist add to shoot a commercial for a Bed & Breakfast at Montgomery Mansion. Tyler keeps witnessing a creepy old woman but his partner Kevin and the B&B owner have no idea what he’s talking about. Well, the inexperienced duo is going to become well acquainted with The Old Hag Syndrome when they are forced to spend the night. Cheap thrills and a bit of familiarity make this a nice little opening to the collection. The old hag is rubbery but to all of us who loved budget horror and television terrors its a nostalgic nightmare.
Trespassers follows a couple having a first date adventure on Halloween night. After walking out of a crappy horror flick the cute townie convinces her new boy toy to go with her and check out an infamous piece of land. Gypsy curses, a massacred family and a sinister scarecrow all come into play. Another fun tale has some braindead character motivations and an incredibly useless “hero” but I still had fun with it. I love Evil scarecrows and the practical beastie underneath just further warmed my heart.
Jason Turner’s Killing the Dance is up next and it steals the damn show. A teenage girl takes her awesome monster mask wearing little brother with her to her Halloween night shift at a roller rink. Her creepy (and much older) about to be ex boyfriend is there as well as her new crush a sexy roller skating chickadee who is feeling the tunes. When a cheapjack and horrifying masked cowboy appears shit begins to go south. Drawn out scenes of the foggy roller rink embed the whole thing with a solid Jess Franco vibe and is hypnotizing through and through. It’s populated with great characters and a genuinely unsettling killer. I loved this one and it’s the gem of the anthology.
Sadly the opening trio of success does not hold and The Halloween Blizzard of ’91 fails at keeping the streak going. It has plenty of ideas but very little substance to bring those ideas to life in a satisfying way. Stilted acting (something that never bothers me but it almost seemed intentional here and instead of adding to the weirdness it just kind of annoyed) some evil kids in eerie Halloween masks, and Santa himself are all there to add to the mishmash of ideas that never takes off in any enjoyable direction. It’s weird, I’ll give it that but without substance it just feels like a waste of time.
Finally, The Samhain Slasher wraps up our anthology with a whimper. I may have enjoyed this more if it opened up the flick but here at the end it doesn’t do much. An escaped psychopath in a pretty cool mask ruins Halloween night for a few people by doing what escaped homicidal maniacs in masks excel at. There’s a subplot about a nightmare plagued father and his wife’s suicide but it never felt that important to anything. Pretty standard and kind of a bummer way to end things.
10/31 is a decent way to spend your time but stumbles following a strong opening. There’s fun to be had but just don’t go in looking for a classic and you may come out on the other end in one piece. 6/10