Top anthology horror movie picks for your Halloweekend

For those who like their horror films in small bites, or love to binge watch, we suggest classic anthology horror movies to watch this Halloween.

Everyone celebrates Halloween differently. But, whether you’re passing out candy to trick-or-treaters or dancing away your responsibilities in a sexy Donald Trump costume, it’s likely that you’ll find yourself watching a scary movie at least once this weekend — either in its entirety with a group of friends, or on cable in between rings of the doorbell. No matter your viewing habits, might I suggest a horror anthology film this year?

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If you’re unfamiliar with what I’m referring to, an anthology movie is its own feature-length entity — but it’s made up of several shorter films, and usually has a frame story which ties everything together. The form is prevalent in horror, perhaps known best in TV shows like The Twilight Zone, Tales from the Crypt, and today’s American Horror Story. But there’s also a slew of great horror anthology films out there.

Usually, an anthology horror has something for everybody; if you’re the type of person who can’t sit through a whole horror film, you can just catch a couple of quick vignettes. But if you love the stuff, an anthology could mean a satisfying smorgasbord of the spooky. Everybody wins! Here’s my mixed candy bag of ideal horror anthology films to watch this Halloweekend.

Dead of Night (1945) 

It’s only appropriate to start here because this film is widely considered Western culture’s first horror anthology feature. In fact, Dead of Night”has a lot of historical significance. It was one of the few horror films produced in Britain in the 1940s, an era tainted by war and censorship. Fresh from the ‘30s, which saw the genesis of the popular American horror film in Universal Studios fare like Frankenstein, Dracula and White Zombie, this movie adheres to the conservative conventions of most old horror — less scares, more intrigue — , and employs a clever frame narrative. In Dead of Night, a man arrives at a house party only to discover that he has seen every stranger in attendance in his dreams. And things get really weird. So weird that by the end of the film, you just might forget you’re watching a cute little black-and-white film from the ‘40s and start biting your knuckles. I’ll give you a hint: If you don’t like ventriloquist dummies, get ready to see a formative scene in the history of your phobia.

Trilogy of Terror (1975) 

While it was made for TV, this little anthology doesn’t pull any punches. It has, like many of the films on this list, achieved cult status arguably because of its unrelenting final short, “Amelia,” which is one of horror cinema’s first forays into the “killer doll” story 13 years before the world met Chucky.The trilogy features retro scream queen Karen Black in each lead role, and is penned by Richard Matheson,a household name in his own right as the author of many horror and sci-fi novels that would eventually make it to the screen — namely The Shrinking Man, I Am Legend and Hell House. The first two installments in the trilogy, "Julie" and "Millicient and Therese", are ideal for the psychological thriller crowd, but "Amelia" truly is the stuff of nightmares and an ideal quick watch.

Creepshow (1982) & Creepshow 2 (1987) 

I couldn’t resist a double feature. Sure, maybe I’m cheating. But both Creepshow films are just too difficult to separate. They come from horror royalty Stephen King and George A. Romero, in a writer/director partnership of insurmountable proportions. In these cult anthology flicks, King and Romero are less concerned with sticking strictly to a frame narrative and more interested in evoking the darkly comedic spirit of 1950s comics like Tales from the Crypt. There are even colorful animated transitions.

Some memorable “panels” in the first Creepshow: a celebration of the undead in "Father’s Day," and a solid B-movie performance from King himself as a doomed farmer in the agro-horror "The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill." Best-in-show from Creepshow 2: "The Raft," which might ruin lakes for you for good. It did for me at least.

Trick ‘ r Treat (2007)

Ask any horror buff about Trick ‘r Treat and he or she will probably swoon. That’s because, at less than a decade old, this film from writer-director Michael Dougherty has arguably already made it into the ranks of the genre’s best. At the very least, it has given us Sam, a tiny masked figure who makes an ominous appearance in each of the five interwoven stories of this Halloween-set anthology. Sam is Halloween’s ultimate guardian. If you’re one to cry “Humbug!” every October, a screening of Trick ‘r Treat just might make you bite your tongue this year.

When it isn’t really scary, Trick ‘r Treat is just downright fun. It has ghouls and werewolves and a high school principal with a gruesome secret. And with its cleverly crafted timeline and autumnal atmosphere, it’s a cinematic love letter to Halloween night. Required viewing, I’d say.

V/H/S (2012)

Here’s an anthology from the minds of six of contemporary indie horror’s brightest, including Adam Wingard (You’re Next) and Ti West (The House of the Devil). Wingard’s frame story, Tape 56, sees a band of criminals breaking into a house to steal a mysterious VHS tape. When they get there, they come upon a corpse and a mountain of unmarked videotapes, a few of which play out as installments in the larger film. V/H/S is a gritty found-footage tour de force not for the faint of heart. But if you’re looking for something truly scary to screen this weekend, it’s a good pick. Memorable shorts include David Bruckner’s “Amateur Night” about a one-night stand gone horribly wrong, and West’s “Second Honeymoon,” which will remind you to keep your doors locked at night. Outside of these two, V/H/S has something for everyone, from aliens to haunted houses.

Tales of Halloween (2015)

Picking up where Trick ‘r Treat left off, this brand-spanking-new anthology feature is comprised of ten — count ‘em, ten! — short films set in the same small American suburb on a particularly eventful Halloween night. This anthology’s biggest strength is its own universe with seamless character connections and a spooky radio broadcast, “The Witching Hour”, which plays throughout the film’s duration and acts as an unseen emcee introducing each short. Tales of Halloween plays on the age-old off-kilter whimsy of All Hallow’s Eve, where small town bullies get their comeuppance at the hands of demons, ghosts, and vengeful trick-or-treaters. It’s also a who’s who in horror today with performances from Keir Gilchrist (It Follows), Alex Essoe (Starry Eyes), Pat Healy (Cheap Thrills), Lin Shaye (Insidious) and the late Ben Woolf of American Horror Story fame. Plus, it’s got a killer pumpkin. For that alone, I’d suggest you rent and stream it this weekend.

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