Why watch one horror movie when there are split anthologies with multiple stories?
This type of cinema has faded over the years, yet that past is still here to admire.
These movies often involve several directors at once, combining their talents into a shared vision.
Each of them had its style and narrative, but all the stories always revolved around a recurring theme.
Yet despite being a past kind of cinema, perhaps today’s series fans will love it precisely because of its episodic structure.
So don’t be frightened by the dates these horror movies were released in theaters and enjoy these anthologies.
Table of contents
1- Black Sabbath (1963)
We begin with an anthology of three horror stories that the superb Mario Bava transforms into excellent little movies.
In the first episode, a mysterious stranger harasses a woman alone at home on the phone.
With the passing of the hours, she realizes the unknown man may do more than threaten her, perhaps arriving at killing her.
A friend of hers will be her only help when everyone else thinks she’s having a nervous breakdown.
This story perfectly chambers the thriller, with omnipresent tension and thrilling twists and turns.
In the second, we have a great Boris Karloff as the father of a cursed family.
A family haunted by some vampire-like monsters called the Wurdulak, who are eager for more than just their blood.
Indeed, the monsters will pass their curse to the humans, who will begin to kill each other.
Another horror takes place all inside a house and some brilliant, scary moments in the woods.
Finally, in the last story, a woman steals a cursed ring from the corpse of an old lady.
Unfortunately, the deceased was a powerful medium, who died in a trance-like state during a séance.
Therefore, her spirit is outraged by the theft and begins to torment the thief relentlessly.
A relentless and frightening episode that perfectly concludes this unforgettable horror movie anthology.
The best Italian director ever
I’m probably not objective, being a fanatic of his movies, but I consider Mario Bava the greatest master of Italian cinema ever.
Indeed this director has always worked with very poor budgets, compared to many of his colleagues like Sergio Leone or Federico Fellini.
But despite this, his films have had a cultural influence on generations of filmmakers around the world.
We could cite Ridley Scott, who built Alien on the basis of The Demon Planet.
One of Mario Bava‘s many cult titles that even a director like Nicolas Winding Refn revived with a 4k edition.
Or the beautiful crime movie Rabid Dogs, which Quentin Tarantino paid homage to with Reservoir Dogs, his great cinematographic debut.
This horror anthology movie was equally important, even influencing the world of music.
Some young musicians came out of the cinema enthusiastic after seeing it in those days.
Their passion was such that they named their band Black Sabbath, eventually becoming world-famous.
For all those who are not used to the past cinema, this can certainly be a good starting point.
Maybe the special effects are not as computerized as the modern ones, but the imagination and creativity remain unquestionable.
In short, it’s a directing and staging masterclass that anyone can’t miss in the daily classes of film schools.
2- Spirits Of The Dead (1968)
We move to a more American style with an anthology movie freely inspired by Edgar Allan Poe‘s stories.
In the first, the protagonist is a beautiful and sensual Jane Fonda is a countess who lives in the luxury and ease of her social rank.
An old blood feud against a poorer but politically influential family will plunge the situation into tragedy.
One of the men of this family refuses the advances of the countess, triggering her tremendous revenge.
The woman will send some of her henchmen to burn their stables, but the rivals’ response will not wait long in coming.
In the second episode, Alain Delon excellently plays the dual role of the protagonists, twin enemies identical in appearance.
One of them is a sadistic bully whose friends constantly incite him to commit the most heinous vileness.
But with each act of cruelty, the twin arrives on time to ruin everything until the inevitable final duel.
Finally, we even have Federico Fellini directing the last episode, almost a horror version of his famous 8 1/2.
Instead of the identity crisis of a director, in this case, we have a famous actor played by the great Terence Stamp.
The man arrives in Rome as a guest of honor at a party hosted by a Spaghetti Western production.
The actor, however, is indifferent to the honors received, getting drunk without restraint during the festivities.
But a demonic spirit begins to haunt him in the form of a scary little girl from his past.
Horror Anthology Movies with the signature of great authors
In addition to Federico Fellini, the other two episodes were originally to have directors, even Orson Welles and Luis Bunuel.
Indeed, the Italian filmmaker’s episode is the finest, taking inspiration from Mario Bava‘s famous Kill, Baby, Kill.
But Roger Vadim and Louis Malle also defend their craft with honor, proposing two excellent little horror films.
Their mistake is perhaps to worry more about the aesthetics of classic style than taking care of the characters’ psychological side.
Unfortunately, a choice that visually satisfies but loses some of its strength in the original madness of Poe’s tales.
However, the moral of men and women who fall into ruin, not knowing how to resist their primal urges, remains intact.
Incredibly, they all find those who follow them and even push them in their spiral towards the abyss.
Take, for example, the henchmen of the beautiful countess, the friends of the cruel twin, and the actor’s sycophantic journalists.
They are essentially different faces of the same character, the weak coward who unhesitatingly follows the stronger, crueler one.
But at least in fiction, the villain always pays the check, which is always higher than what he earned.
3- Cat’s Eye (1989)
After Edgar Allan Poe‘s short stories, we move on to a horror movie from an anthology by another famous writer, Stephen King.
Although independent, each episode begins with a cat entering and exiting the various stories.
The excellent James Woods is the first protagonist, accepting a secret program to stop smoking.
But he soon realizes that the program is more determined than he thought to get him off the habit.
Constantly under surveillance and punished with every cigarette, he will eventually see even his family threatened.
A story as disturbing as it is funny, perfectly portrayed with the hilarious nervousness of the protagonist.
In the second episode, we have a powerful businessman who discovers the affair with his wife, kidnapping and blackmailing her lover.
The man offers him a bet as a simple way out: walk along the ledge of the top floor of his building.
If he succeeds, the boss will spare their lives by giving him enough money to run away together.
In the writer’s usual cruel and mocking tone, this gambling metaphor blends jealousy and betrayal.
Finally, we come to the last episode, where the cat becomes an absolute protagonist of the story.
A family finds the animal and, to the delight of their little girl, brings it to live in their small suburban home.
The little girl is Drew Barrymore, still very young but already famous for E.T. and Firestarter.
Every night, the cat will have to fight against an evil gnome who wants to steal the little girl’s soul.
After repeated attempts to kill her in her sleep, the two pets will inevitably come to a delirious final confrontation.
A beautiful little horror that borders on fantasy, relegating the story to a context familiar to every child.
Let the cat out of the bag
Lewis Teague combines these micro-stories from the Stephen King universe well into a good horror movie anthology.
The director had already brought the terrifying big dog Cujo to theaters a few years earlier, enjoying success at the box office.
This carousel of different situations lies in the shadow of the brilliant writer’s ideas, always exciting and original.
Obviously, in this case, we are not talking about a director who is a master of cinema as the previous ones.
But Teague defends his flag with honor by working with respectable knowledge and skill of the craft.
Cat’s Eye succeeds in bringing King’s spirit to the big screen, something in which many of the more recent films fail miserably.
For example, I didn’t much enjoy the cinematic repurposing of It, even though it was a worldwide blockbuster.
Being one of the horror genre’s greatest literary examples, the two movies about it had very little tension or real scary moments.
In this case, the direction keeps the suspense up at the right moments due to a tremendous overall cast.
Besides the promising little Drew Barrymore, we have the superb all-around actor James Woods in the first episode.
To sum up, this little horror has even more than what is needed to entertain King lovers, working perfectly still today as yesterday.