Starting out as a bonus for Severin’s Blu Ray release of The Theater of the Bizarre, Tales of the Uncanny soon took on a life of its own. With everyone in COVID lockdown, the time was perfect to expand it to feature-length with video conference interviews with a wide assortment of filmmakers. The topic of those interviews? Anthology horror films, their history, appeal and the interviewee’s personal favourite films and segments.
Director David Gregory (Blood & Flesh: The Reel Life & Ghastly Death of Al Adamson, Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau) and co-host author Kier-La Janisse talk to sixty directors, including Ernest Dickerson (Tales from the Hood, 2, 3), Joko Anwar (Gundala, May the Devil Take You: Chapter 2), Roger Corman (Tales of Terror, The Fall of the House of Usher), Joe Dante (The Twilight Zone, Piranha), Brian Yuzna (Necronomicon, Society), Gary Sherman (Raw Meat, Dead & Buried), Richard Stanley (Hardware, Color Out of Space) and Brian Trenchard-Smith (Siege of Firebase Gloria, Turkey Shoot). It’s a selection that gives us a wide range of viewpoints from different eras and parts of the world.
Tales of the Uncanny takes a mostly chronological look at the anthology film. The first section begins in the silent era and covers films up until the 1970s. Naturally, a lot of time is spent on 1945’s Dead of Night and the films Amicus such as Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors, Tales from the Crypt and The House that Dripped Blood. Milton Subotsky’s post Amicus films The Uncanny and The Monster Club also get a mention.
There’s a detour into the world of television anthologies next. Movies such as the 1979 Dead of Night and Trilogy of Terror are covered as are series like The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Surprisingly Tales from the Darkside rather than Tales from the Crypt is given the bulk of the attention.
Tales of the Uncanny finishes up with coverage of the 80s up until the present. There were so many anthology films released in that time that this could easily have filled a documentary of its own. They do make an effort to cover lesser-known works like Necronomicon and Two Evil Eyes but many films such as Deadtime Stories,10/31 and The Mortuary Collection are represented by a quick shot of their poster or not mentioned at all.
A big part of the problem is that Tales of the Uncanny spends way too much time on Creepshow and Creepshow 2. I understand they’re well-loved and regarded films, but those who want to know that much about them will already have seen Just Desserts: The Making of ‘Creepshow. They could easily have cut the time devoted to it in half and given some undeservedly obscure films some attention.
I somewhat feel the same way about the filmmakers and the time allotted to them. Many of the ones I was most interested in hearing from make one brief appearance. I would have loved to have heard more from Joko Anwar and Gary Sherman for example. No offence meant to Mick Garris, but he’s been interviewed so many times he’s just repeating himself by now. The same for a few of the other big names. If they need them to help sell the film, fine. Just focus on anything new they have to offer instead of rehashed reminisces.
Overall though, Tales of the Uncanny is an interesting and enjoyable film. There are several interesting behind the scenes tales scattered through it, and I did learn about several early films I hadn’t heard of. And where else will you get to hear David McGillivray (Frightmare, Satan’s Slave) talk about Worst Fears?
Tales of the Uncanny – The Ultimate Survey of Anthology Horror is now heading to virtual cinemas in Canada, beginning with a partnership between the Fantasia International Film Festival and the Winnipeg Cinematheque from November 24th-December 15th.It will also be available as a 2 disc Blu Ray exclusively during Severin’s Black Friday sale. You can check Severin’s Facebook page and website for details.