Tales of Halloween (2015): Anthology Fun (Review)

Still from Tales of Halloween The Weak and the Wicked

Netflix celebrates Halloween rather belatedly by adding Tales of Halloween to the roster a whole year and two months late. Instead of offering up this brilliant bit of anthology fun and games back in October 2016 they popped it on when they felt like it.

It is a shame that the film did not get aired on the day, or to be more accurate the night, of traditional trick or treat antics. The movie has a impressive roster of directors, actors and producers who have made more than their fair share of horror films.

Names like Neil Marshall (Doomsday, Dog Soldiers), Mike Mendez (Big Ass Spider!, Lavalantula) and Adam Gierasch (Autopsy, Night of the Demons) directed a number of well known names in the genre for this film. There were a total of  11 directors for the 1o segments, and 10 writers all whom directed a segment with the exception of Clint Sears.

The actor’s ranks were filled by notable performers like Adrienne Barbeau who worked as emcee and tied the segments together, a’la her DJ role in John Carpenter’s The Fog. Other actor’s who frequent the halls of horror included Lin ShayeKristina Klebe and  Pat Healy.

There were splendid cameos by John SavageJoe DanteJohn LandisFelissa Rose and the late Ben Woolf (American Horror Story, Insidious) who worked in two segments. In fact, Tales of Halloween has so many familiar faces in it that one needs to watch it twice to catch them all. 

The anthology segments ranged from the sublime to the sick. Each segment had something to offer the horror and film fan. The Weak and the Wicked (directed by Paul Solet and featuring the excellent Noah Seganfor instance had a spaghetti western approach. From the stance of the players at the segment’s climax to the faint harmonica Morricone-esque music, it felt a bit like a Leone tribute with a Dario Argento flair.

Mike Mendez took on the Friday the 13th mantle for his offering “Friday the 31st.” He was clearly poking fun at the slasher sub-genre and it included a nudge and a wink to science fiction “alien” films.

Neil Marshall also headed into homage territory with his “Bad Seed” segment, clearly spoofing the 1982 horror film “Halloween III: Season of the Witch.” There were also a few more nods to other films in his offering.

Marshall’s segment also had more familiar faces than any other segment. Kristina Klebe playing a tough as nails homicide detective, John Savage as her boss and Pat Healy as Forensic Bob. It also had the brilliant director Joe Dante in the final moments of the segment.

The opening story;  Dave Parker‘s “Sweet Tooth,” was clever and fun. Gierasch’s “Trick” was almost horror perfection and included a twist that would have made O. Henry jealous.

“The Ransom of Rusty Rex” is the funniest by far (directed by Ryan Schifrin with John Landis and Ben Woolf as “Rusty Rex.”) and Darren Lynn Bousman‘s “The Night Billy Raised Hell,” starring Barry Bostwick (from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, yes that Barry Bostwick) was easily the most slyly presented segment.

“The Grim Grinning Ghost” was the biggest “tease” and featured two women who are near legends in the field; Lin Shaye and Barbara Crampton.  “This is War” (directed by Andrew Kasch and John Skipp) really felt like a tip of the hat to Rob Zombie.

There were instances where the anthology had segments which “crossed over” and featured players from the other stories.  Fans of anthology films, which have gone through a bit of a resurgence with the two ABC’s of Death films, the VHS franchise and most recently “Holidays“, will enjoy this latest offering on Netflix.

Stop by and check this one out, it is well worth the trip and good enough for repeated viewings.

The Last Heist (2016): B Movie Horror Action Fun (Review)

Kristina Klebe in The Last Heist

Director Mike Mendez gives us a film written by Guy Stevenson that is a three-way split. Horror, action and thriller genres all wrapped in one package, titled The Last Heist. Starring Henry Rollins, Kristina KlebeTorrance Coombs and Victoria Pratt the film starts off as a heist caper that goes horrifically wrong. 

A gang of bank robbers target a closing bank.  As they get ready to make their move, a stranger wearing all black and carrying a large brown satchel walks by the parked getaway van and enters the bank.

There is a nod to Aliens inside the van as one of the robbers says, “Somebody wake up Briggs,” a variation on “Somebody wake up Hicks.” A nice touch and one that shows the fun in both Mendez and Stevenson.

It could be argued that the gang’s outfits are also a nod and wink to two other heist films.  All but Tracy and Ally are wearing “Reservoir Dogs‘ suits and ties and the masks, while not actually kabuki,  are close enough to evoke images of “Sushi Girl.”

The gang in the bank end up being picked off by Rollins’ “Window’s Killer” and find themselves surrounded by the cops. (There is a good gag about texting that is quite funny.)

There are things about the film that irk. The guns are all clearly Airsoft replicas and despite the best efforts of the actors at doing weapon “recoil” the guns are using “CG blanks” as it were.   There is one scene where the detective’s gun shoots  a round after locking open, a sign that it is clearly out of ammunition.

Another scene, dealing with guns, oddly enough, has the killer’s bag shot repeatedly by an automatic rifle. A few moments later the bag is unmarked, without a single bullet hole to be seen.

While the guns were not up to par, the storyline is busy enough and the acting convincing enough that the film moves well.  In terms of actors, there could have been a lot more Klebe. Her badass character was brilliant even when coming up against Rollins’ crazy killer.

Victoria Pratt was spot on as the somewhat jaded detective who refers to the young cops sent as back up as kindergarteners.  There are enough twists and turns to keep the audience interested and enough action to insure a low boredom factor.

(Although, like the computer generated gunshots, there were other things that jarred in the film. The ties, used to  bind the hands of the hostages,  were so loose that they could have fallen off.)

Mendez keeps the plates spinning.  Cops breaching, the bank,  robbers going after the score and a serial killer that is gleefully going about his business and killing whomever he comes across.

The Last Heist has a huge body count, a creepily funny serial killer and enough blood to float a battleship.

Henry Rollins rocks it as the smiling serial killer who came to close out his safety deposit box and leaves with so much more. Aussie actress Camilla Jackson is excellent as the aggressive bank robber with no patience for the elderly.

For some reason this film has been almost universally panned.  This is good “B” movie fun, a blending of genres that works well and entertains thoroughly.  It does not take itself too seriously and neither should the audience.

The Last Heist is a 3.5 star film. It starts as a bank robbery “caper” movie  and segues into a horror film. Although it does switch back and forth between these two genres along the course of the film.

The movie  is streaming on Netflix and is well worth a look. Pop up some corn and crack open a beer and enjoy this for what it is.  It may not be “The French Connection” but it certainly is not “Death Squad, aka 2047: Sights of Death” either.  Try the film out.  If for no other reason than to check out  Rollins’ soft spoken killer.

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