Film Reviews

Review: Tales of the Uncanny: Horror Anthology Documentary (2020)

Severin Films’ latest release is a bonus feature-turned-standalone feature that praises the unique and rich subgenre of anthology horror.

The power of Zoom cannot be undermined during the COVID-19 era, especially when the show must go on. Or rather, the film must be made. Bringing together over 60 speakers, ranging from writers to directors to scholars, Tales of the Uncanny is a lovingly done project highlighting the long history of horror anthologies and those that stand above the rest.

Co-hosts/producers David Gregory – director of the award-winning LOST SOUL: THE DOOMED JOURNEY OF RICHARD STANLEY’S ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU – and Kier-La Janisse (a Canadian filmmaker, genre expert and author of House of Psychotic Women: An Autobiographical Topography of Female Neurosis in Horror and Exploitation Films) – queried a global roster of more than 60 horror writers, directors and scholars that include Eli Roth, Joe Dante, Mark Hartley, Mick Garris, Ernest Dickerson, Joko Anwar, Ramsey Campbell, David DeCoteau, Kim Newman, Jovanka Vuckovic, Luigi Cozzi, Tom Savini, Jenn Wexler, Larry Fessenden, Richard Stanley, Brian Trenchard-Smith, Brian Yuzna, Gary Sherman, Rebekah McKendry and Peter Strickland in a candid discussion of such film/TV classics like Canadian entry THE UNCANNY, as well as international gems like DEAD OF NIGHT, BLACK SABBATH, KWAIDAN, SPIRITS OF THE DEAD, DR. TERROR’S HOUSE OF HORRORS, THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, ASYLUM, TALES FROM THE CRYPT, THE TWILIGHT ZONE, CREEPSHOW, TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE, TRILOGY OF TERROR, TWO EVIL EYES, V/H/S, XX and more.

Circumstances noted, the formatting is less than to be desired. While we’re unfortunately all used to the look of Zoom screens by now, it’s still tough to push through those with gravelly audio and blurry images. This is a very small percentage of the feature, but it has to be mentioned as a forewarning for viewers who are expecting studio lighting and professional backdrops (and not Brian Yuzna’s toilet). The graphic transitions and title cards are fine and get the job done at segueing into the next topic of discussion.

Topics discussed are the origins of the anthology, its evolution, and what the “panel of judges” all agree to be the TOP 5 best and their favorite individual segments. Some films are glossed over pretty briefly and others are discussed intently. There will be collective opinions that are repeated by the speakers (i.e. anthologies are great because you have creative freedom, you make no money from anthologies) and its affect is redundant. However, it’s still fun to see the speakers geek out about these films. Celebrities: they’re just like us!

The documentary’s main appeal is the viewer’s love of horror anthologies. You will absolutely learn new things watching this, even if it’s a simple story from a set, if not a foreign feature that escaped your IMDB list. You’ll be regaled with classic anthologies and their impact on audiences and studios alike. Yes, there will be spoilers. Lots of spoilers.

Instead of calling this the end-all authority on horror anthologies, I’d shine it to more of an outline filled with tons of foot notes. And in a world with varying schedules, work places, and lifestyles, that’s just fine.

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