Let’s take a horror movie and, in keeping with tradition, tear it apart, reducing it into more convenient and tasty anthology slices to swallow separately.
This type of cinema is no longer as popular today as it was in the ’60s and ’70s, yet every now and then, something strange still pops up, like those monsters peeping out from under our beds when we were kids.
Yet, with the flourishing of every type of series, it should be a much more in-vogue genre, considering that this branch of movies divided into episodes is something close to what many like to call marathons or Binge-watching of their favorite series.
So, at this point, a question arises: do people even know these movies exist? Or does the general public literally know nothing but those four or five big titles pumped out by distribution marketing every month?
I’ll tell you what, let me grab these little monsters by the tail and drag them out of the dark…then it will be up to you to tell me what you might think, eventually.
Table of contents
Galaxy of Horrors (2017)
On the starting lines for the top recent anthology movie recommendations, we have this small and original Canadian production consisting of eight horror/sci-fi oriented episodes.
The protagonist and common thread among these segments is poor Adam, an astronaut awakening from his long space sleep in a cryogenic capsule.
However, a computer voice says he is not allowed to open the capsule; so to entertain and amuse him, while his air supply slowly runs out, it projects a series of sci-fi horror movies on screen.
These stories move from countries to the most unlikely and dystopian times, such as a future civil war where pollution-choked rebels attempt to assassinate an obtuse and idiotic U.S. president or an assassin who sees his smartphone trying to sabotage his attempts to get away with murder in every way.
A variety of absurd situations that parody the nightmarish extremes of our world, ranging from English to German to a magnificent all-Italian episode featuring a world so devoted to capitalism that even our senses have become pay-as-you-go, via an automated system that makes us blind, dumb and deaf if we don’t have the remaining credit to pay.
Although they are all stories with no ties between the various characters, disconnected in that indefinite space-time of the screen where poor Adam watches helplessly as his life fades away, one breath at a time, painful even for us as if we were prisoners along with him in the great capsule of our modern society.
Twelve directors working perfectly in tandem, though each with his autonomy, among whom I reiterate, with all due respect to others as well, but out of Italian pride, I would like to mention the promising Marcello Ercole and Fabio Prati.
A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio (2019)
From deep space, we return to earth with an anthology horror movie bringing the classic horror anthology aesthetic of the 1980s to the big screen.
Instead of an astronaut lost in the great cosmic nowhere, we follow a radio DJ during a long night of eerie phone calls that intersperse the reading of supernatural tales.
Director Oliver Park oversees his nine colleagues in a nostalgic style and a narrative as lucid as it is chilling; Nightmare Radio pays homage to every stereotype of the classics while offering chilling new modern perspectives.
In its fragmented narrative, where humor and horror come together in a tasty amalgam, red as blood and dark as night, this horror rubric led by the DJ’s dark, monotone voice doesn’t get a moment’s peace.
How to sleep when around the corner are vengeful ghosts to unnameable creatures who won’t die, convicts and prisoners on whom the state rages beyond the inhuman, and a mad barber who does more than just cut hair?
Although, at times, the acting of the DJ (James Wright) is not very convincing, the atmosphere squeezes to perfection into grim impenetrability, accentuated by the power of the ideas and the effectiveness of the on-screen execution, with excellent cinematographic skill in creating suspense.
The unease constantly exacerbates and, in each episode, reaches the highest level of tension without breaking, like a string stretched to the limit by a skilled violinist who can torture his notes for the pleasure of the melody.
A melody that keeps viewers on the edge of their seats as the truth behind these short stories is revealed, accompanied by an engaging soundtrack and a style that fortunately focuses more on pervasive and palpable menace rather than easy jumpscares or unnecessary bursts of violence.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)
The upcoming movie is actually a single story in narrative but interspersed with a few episodes that make it practically a horror anthology in unfolding.
It all begins with a group of teenagers, among the most abused by the town’s bullies, who, on Halloween night, run away from the usual harassment and mistreatment during the masquerade festivities.
Together, they find refuge in an abandoned house, where they find a manuscript containing stories written by the youngest daughter of what was once a wealthy family, a girl so unstable that she ended up in an asylum at a very young age.
Although, at first, all the pages of this novel/diary are blank, soon blood-red words begin to appear, recounting in real time the murders that are about to happen to each of them at the hands of supernatural beings born from the sick mind of the writer’s ghost.
Their only hope for survival is to uncover the family’s mysterious past while trying to appease the vengeful spirit author of those horror tales come true.
André Øvredal proves again that he is one of Norway’s most exciting filmmakers and screenwriters with this mix of classic horror slasher for kids and an old-fashioned anthology movie, transforming folktales for children into ruthless moments of adult gore and fear.
Each page turned in this haunted diary becomes a new monster that enters the scene, complete with its episode and a brief genesis and introduction before the inevitable truculent conclusion for the unfortunate victim.
The protagonists, Zoe Margaret Colletti and Michael Garza, head a stereotypical but not stupid crew of outsiders fighting monsters whose existence is always denied, even before their eyes, by adults like the sheriff who holds them captive.
But why don’t grown-ups ever believe it?
Tiny Cinema (2022)
We end on a high note with a final anthology that almost seems to be the sillier but funnier younger brother of the celebrated Twilight Zone series.
There are a lot of different themes in this menu: trips through parallel universes where having sex with yourself is necessary to save the world, dead boys who are better partners than living ones, obsession turning a single word into a spiral to ruin, robbers looking for easy erections, and finally a weird mutation to brings back an old father and daughter love affair.
It is an unpredictable journey, full of over-the-top and surreal humor, divided into six episodes of varying lengths, each packed with excellent ideas with just the right amount of disdain and awkwardness of the genre, without ever descending into the unacceptable stupidity of gratuitous violence.
Director Tyler Cornack (whom I had already admired for the absurd Butt Boy, in which a serial killer sucked victims into his butt) rewrites the textbook of modern frustration by loading it with strange pathologies that emerge in the various characters’ tumultuous physical and mental transformations.
Each story has a particular flavor and reveals a small flawed piece of humanity’s chessboard, making the apparent metaphor not a hindrance but rather the beating heart of the entertainment.
Not everyone might appreciate this sociopathic/schizophrenic journey into an irreverent parody of our society; that much is obvious.
However, each story is completely standalone and pays homage to a distinct cinematic inspiration, ranging from romantic comedy to frontier science fiction to “sex crime mafia family”… sorry, I have no words for it.
Even with the conclusion, it remains uncertain what will happen, but the one thing I am sure of is that none of these episodes disappointed me.