There’s something very appealing about short stories — they’re to-the-point, filled with twists, and you can get through a bunch of them in one sitting. Yet when it comes to movies, only horror films seem to consistently warrant the anthology treatment. Oh, sure you’ll find a few comedic anthologies like New York Stories, The Ten, and the cult classics Kentucky Fried Movie and Amazon Women on the Moon. But for the most part the “cinematic omnibus” is the domain of the scary storytellers, and genre fans certainly seem to enjoy the format – doubly so when one or two of the terror tales stand out as something truly special.
With that in mind, we’ve cooked up a sort of Frankenstein’s Monster of horror anthologies; a collection of the best segments from much-loved horror compendiums, curated scream-by-scream and featuring established classics along with more recent frights. We’ve created this list partly because IFC Midnight’s kick-ass import Ghost Stories is about to hit theater screens and VOD — trust us, it’s great, and currently sits at 88% on the Tomatometer — but also because, well, there’s just something very appealing about scary-AF short stories.
So enjoy this massive anthology menu composed of the best of the best horror anthology segments. And, yes, we had enough left over for a Volume 2.
Arguably the Casablanca of horror anthology films, Dead of Night showcases a strong handful of creepy and darkly amusing tales, but it’s probably best remembered for its masterful story about a ventriloquist who is convinced that his dummy is not only alive but incredibly malicious. Fans of flicks like Magic (1978) and Dead Silence (2007) will certainly enjoy this mini-movie.
Mario Bava kicks of his celebrated anthology with a simple yet enjoyably twisty tale of two women, a mysterious phone caller, and a stalker who may or may not actually exist.
Amicus Productions released seven anthology horror films between 1965 and 1974 (most of them quite entertaining), but this is the one my parents rented as a kid, and it scared the living hell out of me – particularly this simple story of murder, voodoo, and a bunch of dismembered body parts. The stories in this anthology get weirder as the film progresses, and then, of course, it all ends on a nifty little twist. If you enjoy this one, check out Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965), Tales from the Crypt (1972), and Vault of Horror (1973).
The first two stories in this TV movie – based on the works of the great Richard Matheson – are passable, if a bit forgettable, but the third tale absolutely terrified an entire generation. Basically, a woman gets attacked, chased, and terrorized by what’s referred to as a “Zuni fetish doll,” and if you thought Chucky was a nasty plaything, wait until you get a load of this tiny monster.
(Photo by Warner Bros. courtesy Everett Collection)
The collaboration between Stephen King and George Romero would, not surprisingly, lead to one of the finest horror anthologies of all time, but if we’re picking the best of this fantastic crop, we’re going with this story about a ravenous crate-bound monster who leaps out and devours anyone who gets too close. It’s a wonderful blend of jolts, dark comedy, and gruesome bits of gore.
This uneven adaptation features at least two fantastic tales: Joe Dante’s “It’s a Good Life,” about a spoiled kid who has godlike powers, and this simple story of a man, an airplane, and a horrible monster that nobody else can see. William Shatner played the troubled passenger in the original Twlight Zone episode, but here he’s played by the great John Lithgow.
On the whole, this King-penned anthology is a fairly slight affair, but it does feature a cat (which I love) and it does have a segment in which the ever-sleazy James Woods is stalked by the employees of a very ominous anti-smoking group. We mainly included this one for the cat.
This sequel may lack the polish, cast, and budget of its predecessor, but it does deliver at least one very memorable tale. It’s a simple story about a bunch of horny teenagers who find themselves trapped on a raft when a giant slimy… something surrounds them. The rest of the story is just a bunch of shocks, gore, and random devourings. Fun stuff.
George Romero adapts a Stephen King story, which makes this a Creepshow reunion of sorts. The story follows an old man who hires an “exterminator” because he is convinced his kitty cat is a ruthless killer… and let’s just say it: he’s right.
(Photo by Savoy Pictures courtesy Everett Collection)
A kind of darker take on the “magical kid” story from the Twilight Zone movie, this one’s about a boy who can seemingly injure people by destroying pictures of them. His abusive stepfather is about to discover this dark power.
A vain woman desperately wants to cling to her youth, so she acquires some very suspect “dumplings” from a mysterious old lady. And things get very ugly from there. There’s also a feature-length version of this disturbing story from the same director. Neither are for the faint of heart.
In some anthologies, the best chapters jump straight out at you. In the case of the fan favorite Trick ‘r Treat, it is a very tough call to just pick one. This short earns the nod for being both legitimately disturbing and creepily amusing – like an old horror comic. It’s about a bunch of kids who tell a campfire tale to play a prank, but, of course, things backfire in the most ironic fashion.
Three guys show up to the wrong house, expecting a Halloween party but stumbling across some freaky occult rites, and then do all they can to get the hell out while the cult members (and the house itself) start freaking out in highly unexpected ways. Not much in the story department here, true, but there’s a lot of clever filmmaking going on.
(Photo by Magnolia Pictures)
This miniature masterpiece may just be the finest “found footage” horror movie you’ll ever see. It begins as an investigation into a creepy Indonesian cult and quickly devolves into a nightmare that feels like a cross between Clive Barker and H.P. Lovecraft.
This twisted little tale is light on plot, but makes up for it by tapping deeply into the fear of being little and seeing a creature that should be really cute… but really isn’t. Plus, let’s be honest: The Easter Bunny is only slightly less disturbing than clowns and ventriloquist dummies.
No good horror anthology is complete without a fitting “wrap-around” segment that ties all the short stories together, and this great indie flick has a very creepy one indeed. It’s about two guys who are being chased across the desert by some freaky floating creatures, and it’s pretty nifty how this prologue and epilogue manage to add an extra layer of eerie fun to an already very impressive collection.