The famous Howard Hawks line that good movies need “three good scenes, no bad ones” is especially true with horror anthologies, where one sour segment can spoil the rest. Thank goodness then that the ominous omnibus “Tales of Halloween” has a negligible “ugh” factor and is so consistently entertaining — enough to make it a favorite among genre fans.
Set mostly in and around one small town on Oct. 31, “Tales of Halloween” runs the fear gamut: primal boogeyman tales, evil children stories, post-apocalyptic hell-scapes, even an hommage to the legend of Hansel and Gretel.
The overall tone is more tongue-in-cheek than terrifying. Though some of the directors involved — like Lucky McKee (“May”) and Neil Marshall (“The Descent”) — have a hard horror pedigree, the emphasis here is on slickness. The film sports high production values, impressive special effects, smooth transitions between stories and a recognizable cast that includes Barry Bostwick, John Savage and Pat Healy.
Gore-hounds might be disappointed by the timidity, but it’s clear “Tales of Halloween” was made by people who love the canon. Nods to “Night of the Living Dead” and John Carpenter sit side by side with uncredited cameos by Adrienne Barbeau, John Landis and Joe Dante.
Although none of these 10 shorts is a must-see mini-classic, some are good, including a redneck slasher riff with a twist ending, and a citywide rampage by a sentient, people-eating jack-o'-lantern. Hawks’ ghost would surely approve.
“Tales of Halloween”
MPAA rating: R for strong bloody horror violence, language, brief drug use.
Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes.
Playing: Plant 16, Van Nuys; Frida Cinema, Santa Ana.