When Creepshow hit theaters in 1982, it made an unexpected splash, raking in more than $20 million in sweet ‘80s coinage and going on to become Warner Brothers’ top-grossing horror film of the year. Of course, Creepshow wasn’t doing anything new — the horror anthology had been a part of cinema since the 1920s — but it definitely reinvigorated moviegoers’ interest in the form. As a result, a deluge of horror anthologies were released in the years immediately following Creepshow’s success.
The 1980s became the heyday for modern horror movie anthologies, but by the time the ‘90s rolled around, public interest was waning — at least at the theaters. Though only a handful of notable anthologies were released on the silver screen during the next two decades, horror fiends could still get their fix on television, where shows such as Tales from the Crypt, Are You Afraid of the Dark?, and Masters of Horror prospered.
However, within the past five years, the horror movie anthology has undergone a bit of a renaissance. A new group of directors has latched onto the genre, releasing modest hits such as V/H/S and The ABCs of Death. Perhaps they were buoyed by the form’s ability to showcase multiple voices on a low budget, or maybe they were just inspired by the anthologies of their youth. Either way, we’ve decided to trace the trajectory of the modern horror movie anthology from the 1980s until today. So buckle up and enjoy the strange, hypersegmented journey.
Number of Chapters: 5
Theme: Two horror maestros, Stephen King and George A. Romero, join forces for the first time to tell this quintet of creepy, comic book-style tales. The theme is established in the film’s wraparound, where a boy is being punished by his father for reading too many trashy comics. As the kid sulks in his room, his favorite comic book character, The Creep, materializes at his window, ready to lead both the boy and the audience on a spooky journey.
Best of the Bunch: “Father’s Day” is a gruesome story about a spinster who commits patricide on Father’s Day, only to have her maggot-infested dad come back from the grave for revenge. While most of Creepshow’s segments combine equal parts horror and comedy, “Father’s Day” plays its scares with the straightest face. Romero does a bang-up job of creating a comic book aesthetic, punctuating shadowy cinematography with bursts of bright, saturated color. Plus, ol’ Georgey gets to direct another story about zombies, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Biggest Dud: Zilch. Horror nerds are no match for the one-two punch of Romero and King. —Adriane Neuenschwander
Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)
Number of Chapters: 4
Theme: You’re about to enter another dimension. A dimension not only of sound and sight, but of mind … and the decapitation of two illegally hired child actors. A journey into the wondrous land of an imagination produced by Spielberg and Landis. You get it.
Best of the Bunch: The kickoff with Albert Brooks and Dan Aykroyd is hilarious, scary, and over way too soon. But the final story of this omnibus, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” kicks the most ass. In a role made sweaty by William Shatner, John Lithgow panics away 20 pounds in water weight as the only guy on the plane who sees a malicious gremlin on the wing. And with George Miller directing with his Road Warrior hard-on at full mast, it’s a blast to watch.
Biggest Dud: Everything you’ve ever hated about Steven Spielberg comes concentrated in “Kick the Can”. Unless you’re that guy who really, really likes Hook, you’ll be repelled by this saccharine segment, in which the elderly become children for a night. Oh, it’s sweet, alright, and those child actors have cheeks made for pinchin’. But in a movie with such an enjoyable mean streak, “Kick the Can” is the wimp of the bunch. The kinda wimp you wanna bully. —Roy Ivy