Anthology horror has risen to one of the more popular subgenres of horror, and it is easy to see why. The idea of shortened, contained scares are appealing to both the binge watcher and the casual TV viewer. The subgenre has such beautiful roots too, since anthology horror found its home in the imagination of Rod Serling in 1959 with his groundbreaking series, The Twilight Zone. Since then, the subgenre has been tackled in many different ways. Some go the route of a feature film; some continue the episode-by-episode short story. Nevertheless, anthology continues to dazzle us.
These suggestions are sorted in order from least likely to suggest to most likely to suggest to someone. There are brief reviews with each in explaining why I put them here, but there will be no spoilers anywhere in this post. If you’re wondering if you’ve seen this before, this is a redux of the very first post on The Void of Celluloid–I just knew I could do it better this time. Now, onwards with the last place pick and up.
Tied for last Place: Holidays, THe ABCs Of death Series
I do understand that I stated these are watchable, and while these films cause me pain, they’re not unwatchable. While there are good individual stories in these films, their entireties are not worth your time. Holidays was especially disappointing, because Kevin Smith did the Halloween short for Holidays. Now, one of my favorite directors meets my favorite holiday should have been an easy knockout for me, and I was ready to grant it a little grace, but oh boy, it was bad.
As for The ABCs of Death, I admire the concept of a collection of international short horror films, but some of the films were either too disturbing to the point I wanted to turn it off or way too ridiculous (for example, F is for Fart) that it took me out it completely. If that intrigues you however, then definitely go show these super-indie darlings some love. If not, avoid them as their redeeming qualities don’t outweigh the bad parts for casual horror fans.
AMerican Horror Story seasons 3-11
I took a lukewarm stand two years ago–I’m ready to ream. American Horror Story‘s later seasons gradually got worse as they went on, despite recalling content from AHS: Murder House and more. Despite being Ryan Murphy’s claim to fame post-Glee, this series is obviously on the back burner of his overflowing project stove. While seasons 3, 4 and 5 have their redeeming moments–yes, I love Gaga–the first two seasons have separated themselves due to the downward trajectory of AHS and it started with those seasons. It will end whenever FX stops it.
Ryan Murphy has overstayed his welcome when it comes to horror television, and American Horror Story is tired and lethargic now when it was once so mystifying before. With most of the original cast moving on from the series, it is time to lay it to rest in these next few years. I’m pleading to Mr. Murphy to refocus his energy from retraumatizing victims of notorious serial killers to ending American Horror Story on a high note rather than the dumpster fire state it’s in now.
Twilight Zone: The Movie
Yeah, this film. This film suffered in production hell and was shadowed by the tragic, notorious helicopter accident that occurred on its set. That doesn’t stop it from being a decent film, but its history should be kept in mind when viewing–especially since the victims of this crash remain in the film and their deaths were completely unnecessary in the grand scheme of things. Due to unsafe conditions as well as other illegal activities at the fault of John Landis and careless others–Vic Morrow, Myca Dinh Le and Renee Shin-Yi Chen were killed while shooting a highly dangerous and unnecessary scene. There is a more detailed video here which goes into the other disgusting things that goes more into the nitty gritty details that was fascinating and heartbreaking all at once.
With a story from Steven Spielberg as well as memorable moments from Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow, it is a film that goes under the radar for many. However, with its heavy history and background makes it a hard watch. Despite it all, this film is a good film with genuine storytelling. It should never go without the context of what happened, and John Landis doesn’t deserve any praise due to it–what he did was monstrous and unforgivable, and his seemingly callous nature makes it worse.
While the first one is admired for its cheesiness, but this sequel doesn’t hold a candle to the first one. While its budget quadrupled from the first and the special effects seemingly improved, it is extremely campy and leans more on the comical side. This adds a layer of meta-ness to the feature which blurs out its flaws and leaves us with an adequate sequel and a second helping of the greatness Creepshow provided.
Stephen King and George A. Romero were still behind the wheel (quite literally in King’s case). Therefore, the writing is still on par. Probably the worst crime of this film is that it is too campy. Where there’s a will for camp, there’s a way to view and enjoy, so despite it laying it on thick, the film can be a fun time. Approach this one with a not-so-serious mindset and enjoy another journey with The Creep.
Awe, isn’t lil’ Drew Barrymore adorable? Cat’s Eye is a more accessible anthology film by Stephen King, in which the viewer follows a cat around through three chilling tales, which seems to be the magic number for King. I remember watching this when I was younger, around age 10, and remember it being rather tame. Its quality short stories from King and the groundbreaking for a flowing anthology film rather than broken up, separate stories is the reason it deserves a space on this list.
Keep in mind this is a PG rated 80s horror movie. It is not meant to be terrifying. It’s spooky instead, barely a degree above Goosebumps. Taking that into account will lower the expectations to make this film an enjoyable experience. Since it is so tame, I would consider this film a starter-horror for younger audiences or horror newbies looking for a chill up the spine.
Fear Street Series
It was exciting to see R.L. Stine’s name attached to a modern production, especially one that was promising some gory, grown-up scares. These movies are fun and have a few creative tricks of its sleeve (yes, THAT misfortune in the bakery) but overall, it is an homage to the ones that came before. It’s campy and predictable, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a fun romp for sure. It’s a surprisingly brutal installment to the seasoned anthology horror genre.
The second part is a very good horror film and homage to the slashers that came before, the first part had a Scream vibe and the third one fell flat as a The VVitch wannabe, finally picking up in its last twenty minutes. I am curious to see what else the creators plan on dishing out in the rumored future installments. Also, it is the only film on this list to have LGBTQ representation–something the horror genre struggles with–so major props to them as there are quite a few modern anthology horrors that do not have any,
The Mortuary COllection
Theis the only one tied to an exclusive subscription just for horror. This is a fun and creative–though predictable–horror film through the subscription Shudder. Shudder recently did a revamp on Creepshow, and while it is not on this list, it is a worthy revival that I cannot recommend more. The Morturary Collection has a very smooth blend of gore, scares and chuckles throughout the film, being sure to not let up until the credits roll.
It has a lot of good twists and turns and is the gorier one on the list, so if you’re into more intense horror, especially body horror, this one should be on your watchlist. It is a treat with spectacular performances from new and familiar faces alike. Euphoria fans, if you ever wanted to watch Nate Jacobs go through hell, the story with Jacob Elordi should provide the catharsis you crave.
American Horror Story Seasons 1 & 2
Finally, here is the beginning of the series. I absolutely adore these first two seasons and their re-watchability factor is extremely high. I’ve seen the first season multiple times, so much so that it has become a comfort show of mine. As far as critical acclaim goes, the second season is the best of the whole series–even with its wacky tangents. These seasons are impressive and caused a splash back in the day. They also stand strong enough to be separated from the rest of the series–when I talk about AHS being a good show, I’m talking about these two seasons.
There is also a complexity in characters in both seasons, brilliantly acted by Zachary Quinto, Jessica Lange, Lily Rabe and Evan Peters. It has its touch of cheesiness, but that can be expected from a horror series made the same creator that made Glee. Nevertheless, this was and still remains to be highly influential horror television, and it’s sad that creators have dropped the ball on its latest iterations. Sometimes it is not the best to juggle multiple projects at one time.
This film started the reign of Brad Miska in regard to horror anthology of the 2010s. Miska served as producer of this iconic found-footage anthology film and with the involvement of Bloody Disgusting, this film was met with wide acclaim from horror audiences. With the most notable segment of the first iteration “Amateur’s Night” being the launchpad of director David Bruckner, it is one of the more disturbing films on this list and definitely doesn’t fall into a “starter-horror” situation. Instead, this is catered to the commonly desensitized horror fan that is looking for a good scare–V/H/S 2 specifically.
V/H/S spawned several sequels which has brought forth some amazing filmmakers and has entertained us both in the past and the future with future installments. It’s a clever way to compile short films into something that is accessible, and it has remained independent which allows for independent filmmakers to helm a segment–which has led to debut feature films, like Chloe Okuno’s Watcher. Yes, she is the one that gave us the blessed Raatma.
As I mentioned in the previous segment, the films from this team are not for the faint of heart. Southbound is more of a flowing cinematic anthology rather than the found-footage format that Miska started out with. It brings back most of the directors from the first V/H/S as they tell ghastly stories centered around a wild batch of characters. In describing the impact of this film, I have only watched once, which was about five years ago.
The visuals and stories were so impactful, that it skyrocketed to the top of my mental list when brainstorming for the topic. I am still patiently waiting for this film’s spotlight, as it is a dark but memorable watch that really shows what these seasoned filmmakers can do. Southbound is hauntingly beautiful at times and grotesque at others–which is what makes it so high on this list.
Goosebumps/Are You Afraid of the Dark?
This is legendary anthology horror that everyone and their moms can recognize. Are You Afraid of the Dark? dominated Nickelodeon. Goosebumps lurked on Fox Kids. The child-oriented scares were unavoidable, and legacies were born. While it is seemingly controversial today to have scary things on kids’ networks, it was not an uncommon sight for the 90s to the early 2000s and inducted a lot into the genre.
This is as “starter-horror” as it gets. Both Goosebumps and Are You Afraid of the Dark? established whether or not millennials liked to be scared or not. Both mild yet creepy, it is no coincidence that both have experienced reboots in one form or another to enlighten today’s younger audience. They offer nostalgia to many audiences and most people under the age of 35 can say that one of these series got them into horror.
Tales from the Crypt
A classic serving us an icon that was The Cryptkeeper. Horror fans and 90s kids alike remember Tales from the Crypt fondly. It was an anthology series based on the same comics that inspired other works such as Creepshow. Therefore, it was a quick classic that found its home on HBO for over seven years. It remains a staple for horror television and delivered spooky and cooky tales…from the crypt.
It also brought in a multitude of talent to tell different stories each week. Always hosted by the iconic puppet host The Cryptkeeper, Tales from the Crypt is a delightful trip down memory lane back to Jim Henson-style stories of the late 80s. Every episode holds up brilliantly because it never took itself too seriously and embraced the cheesefest that was its content. Therefore, I consider it a delight to watch as a horror fan, young and old.
The Haunting Series
The only horror series that I will ever advise to have tissues with you at all times is The Haunting series. Mike Flanagan–our modern horror saint–takes the chilling classic tales of The Haunting of Hill House and The Turn of the Screw and–with his careful personal touches–crafts terrifying, melancholic masterpieces. Bending through time with stories that span decades, these series are poised and will go down as some of the best horror television of all time, if they aren’t already considered that.
The Haunting series have loveable characters, terrifying ghosts and is also one of the most diverse casts in the horror scene as of late, including a beautiful Sapphic love story in The Haunting of Bly Manor. Much like Ryan Murphy and his ragtag regulars, Flanagan has his Flanafam, which always deliver the best performances in anything they do, making each of his projects a delight to watch time after time. Again, bring tissues with you, especially for Bly Manor.
Tales from the Hood
This film has been and is currently seeping with social relevance. Tales from the Hood is a storyteller-based anthology flick, which tells four stories. The first story is particularly disturbing following the recent events that occurred in 2020. Sadly, this classic seems to be swept under the rug. More people need to take note on its impacts in film–particularly the horror genre in which stereotypes and violent tropes have been in use for several years.
It speaks on generational trauma, police brutality and many more social topics by using the conventions of horror to showcase how the reality of things is much more horrifying than the fiction. Tales from the Hood recently got a sequel from its original creators in 2018 and both films were produced by Spike Lee’s film production company, 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks. It delivers horror as well as it delivers its metaphors and commentary, therefore it deserves the higher spot on this list.
A-ha, the blueprint of anthology horror as a singular film makes its appearance in the top three, of course. This lovely brainchild of Stephen King and George A. Romero is a cheesy delight and remains the posterchild of anthology horror. The use of original storytelling in the height of Stephen King adaptations paid off well for the movie’s success and budget. In pair with the original stories, the film takes inspiration from the classic horror comics of the 1950s–most notably Tales from the Crypt.
While you’ll giggle at times, it remains one of those cult classics that will stand the test of time, which its sequel and its very recent reboot through Shudder proved. The visuals are impressive despite its B-movie budget and this film knows to not take itself too seriously, so it has aged like a fine wine over the years. You can’t wear your horror badge too proudly if you haven’t sat through this one.
Trick ‘r’ Treat
This film has a very special place in my heart and the fact I’ve seen a rapid increase of merchandise come Halloween time proves it has found its footing in more mainstream horror. This is one of those films that survives the phenomenon of straight-to-DVD due to its creative storytelling, format and aesthetic. Michael Dougherty is responsible for this film, with it being a precursor to his more well-known holiday horror Krampus (though that is debatable given the rising interest in this film). Trick ‘r’ Treat focuses on the urban legends of Halloween as we follow several stories that are in observance of Samhain himself–in the most adorably sadistic get up we’ve ever seen a horror figure have.
Upon my discovery of this movie in 2009, there is not a Halloween that goes by that I do not watch this movie at least once. Sure, it can be a little messy in its storytelling at times, but it is a perfect anthology that braids into each other, notes its inspirations and improves upon it. Please watch it if you haven’t, and for those that have made it tradition like me, rock on. Now let’s hope that sequel comes out soon.
The twilight Zone
If mentioned in the introduction, it needs to top this list. This is the only suitable place for this revolutionary TV show to go, as we would not have the formatting for anthology horror without it. Rod Serling was a master storyteller, providing nearly every story for the show in its 150-plus episode run. It has inspired countless others and changed the way people approached television. The Twilight Zone was not a show that you needed to watch every time to keep up, but you would kick yourself if you missed an episode.
It goes without a doubt that Rod Serling will be one of the greatest on the small screen. His craft proved brilliant by the generations that The Twilight Zone crosses, whether it be copious amounts of reboots trying to revive that original charm or a kid recognizing the theme song from Disneyland, The Twilight Zone will forever remain a classic as well as the golden standard on how to put short story to screen.
That is my redux on anthology horror. Obviously, I can’t get all of them in here, or we’d be here forever. These are ones that I personally experienced. Therefore, I would love to hear what your favorite anthology horror film or show is out there and if you agree with the ones already mentioned. As for what’s next on TVOC, stay tuned for updates on The Last of Us, reviews of recent horror films and other fun tidbits. We’re here three times a week and every day on Instagram and TikTok.
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