Scary movies and anthology stories go hand in hand. For every feature script or book out there, plenty of others are great ideas, but can’t hold up to the rigors of a full-length story. So how do you get these excellent stories out there without sacrificing quality for a feature? You make an anthology.
Across the history of horror, from Edgar Allan Poe to Stephen King, all the way to today, we’ve had some great anthology movies grace our movie screens. Some of these are comedic, some are straight horror, but they’re all great in their own ways. Getting to just put 20-30 minutes into a story instead of having to stretch to fit 90 minutes really works for some of the frights here as well.
Anthology series like Black Mirror, The Twilight Zone, and Tales From The Crypt made it trendy and possible for anthology movies to shine. Here are the five best horror anthology movies.
5. Body Bags (1993)
This one is cheating. Body Bags originally aired as a TV movie on Showtime. It was supposed to be a pilot episode for a prospective TV anthology in a similar vein to Tales From The Crypt. Showtime pulled the plug, so we ended up with the movie version. John Carpenter stars and directs two of the three segments with “Hair” and “The Gas Station”. Tobe Hooper directed “Eye”. The three stories all hit various sub-genres of horror with “The Gas Station” being a slasher, “Hair” being the ‘be careful what you wish for’-type, and “Eye” hitting audiences with a psychological thriller.
It also features horror legends in the cast like Wes Craven, Sam Raimi, David Naughton, David Warner, Greg Nicotero, Debbie Harry, Mark Hamill, Robert Carradine, Tobe Hooper, Roger Corman, and Stacy Keach. John Carpenter pulls double duty and plays the host, The Coroner. It’s a shame that nothing more came out of this because his character is great and fits the horror-host vibe perfectly.
4. V/H/S/99 (2022)
We’re getting V/H/S/85 later this Halloween season, so this might be early, but V/H/S is the longest-running anthology series with six entries. Each movie features up-and-coming horror directors telling stories around a frame story. V/H/S/99 brings the stories to the turn of the millennium with an aesthetic around that time and the era’s horror movies. The stories range from fun to absolutely terrifying. ’99 doesn’t have a frame segment, but the shots in between the stories are from the “The Gawkers” segment.
It all culminates in “To Hell And Back” and the calendar turning from 1999 to 2000. This story gets a bit more time to work with than the other ones, and it’s well worth the extra effort. You can’t go wrong with any of the stories here though, they’re all fantastic in their own twisted ways.
3. Scare Package/Scare Package II: Rad Chad’s Revenge (2019/2022)
This is also slightly cheating because we have two entries, but I can’t split these two movies up. Scare Package and Scare Package II both take what we all know and love from horror movies and serves it up with a side of nostalgia and plenty of tongue-in-cheek humor about the genre. Director and Scare Package steward Aaron B. Koontz frames the film around a horror movie afficianado named Chad Buckley who runs a struggling video store. All the stories on display are films in the actual video store surrounding the tales.
The difference between Scare Package and other anthologies comes in the humor. It’s subverting horror tropes but never makes fun of the genre just to make fun of it. Everything is done with a love of the genre. It continues with the second film, which ups the ante and brings even more horror tropes. These are both excellent recent examples of how horror movies should be done. They both stream on Shudder.
2. Creepshow (1982)
Upset alert: the anthology to end all anthologies gets second place on this list. This is what happens when you combine the horror minds of George Romero and Stephen King and add a dash of Tom Savini. The aesthetic and stories are based around the old horror comics of the ’50s and ’60s with pulpy stories of gruesome murder, ghosts, monsters, and other ‘be careful what you wish for’ stories. At its heart, that is what Creepshow is, and the excellent TV follow-up on Shudder is the same way.
Romero directs all the stories with a script written by King. If you love his short stories from collections like Night Shift, you’ll love this movie. Same for the effects, the performances, the cast, and everything else. It just bleeds ’80s horror in the best way. It’s hard to say new things, because people have been singing Creepshow‘s praises since 1982. Just watch it.
1. Trick ‘r Treat (2007)
This is it, the anthology movie that doesn’t really feel like an anthology movie, but still gives the goods. Michael Dougherty sculpted one of the greatest cult horror movies ever in 2007. The one thing putting all the different stories on display here is Sam, the trick-or-treating demon in orange footie pajamas. But you know he’s showing up in any of the stories when a character breaks a Halloween tradition. He’s the arbiter and gatekeeper for the holiday.
The film has four main stories crisscrossing and an opening and conclusion segment. There’s plenty for any kind of horror fan here, but it’s really how the movie captures the essence of Halloween and the holiday that makes this a genre classic. That, and Spirit Halloween keeping the IP alive through plenty of merchandise over the years. If you haven’t watched this one, don’t spoil yourself, get to it.
So, that’s it for the list! Did any of your favorite anthologies not make it? There’s always time for another list later in Fright-A-Thon.
For more on Halloween, check out THS Fright-A-Thon.