5 Stand-Out Segments in Anthology Horror Films

There’s something automatically appealing about the anthology format, isn’t there? Feature length films require months and years of dedication and...

Brendan Foley

Contributor

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There’s something automatically appealing about the anthology format, isn’t there? Feature length films require months and years of dedication and craft, during which the writer, director, producers and all involved have to slave to try and maintain a consistent tone, atmosphere and pacing and make sure that each facet of the film is contributing to a greater whole.

But an anthology film? A film that, by definition, is comprised of shorts that can fluctuate wildly in story, look, feel, tone, length, purpose? Well, then you’re free to let ‘er rip and really have some fun. While this frequently results in wildly varying levels of quality from segment to segment, it ensures that each anthology will have at least one tale resonate for the audience. Whether the film is the work of one mind or a collective of filmmakers the anthology format loans itself well to visceral thrills and taboo-shattering imagery.

It’s no surprise that the anthology format has supported dozens of films and goes through the same flare up-burn out-resurgence cycle as slasher and ghost movies. While anthologies died off for a while, there has been a boom in recent years as more and more producers realize that it’s a great way to corral talent behind and in front of the camera to work quick and cheap. The filmmakers, for their part, clearly respond to the no-holds-bar approach and creative freedom that working quick and cheap provides.

So, as we wait for S-VHS to be distributed out of Sundance, and wonder what fresh new horrors have been cooked up, let’s look back at some of the finest, freakiest, most stand-out moments that horror anthologies have contained over the years.

5. Creepshow – ‘They’re Creeping up on You’

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Loving the work of Stephen King and George A. Romero can be a tricky position. While both men are indisputable masters of their respective fields, both men also have problematic tendencies that mar even the best of their work. Without writing a whole essay about that, let’s just say that both King and Romero have self-indulgent tendencies that all too often rear up.

That’s why the short format of an anthology plays so perfectly to their strengths. You get Romero’s genius for crafting nightmare imagery and King’s unerring eye for depraved scenarios and the hilariously deserving people the horrors choose for targets.

Nowhere are either man’s best qualities more evident than in the final segment of CREEPSHOW: ‘They’re Creeping Up On You’.  Featuring a fantastic, all-in performance by E.G. Marshall, ‘Creeping’ takes place in a semi-futuristic apartment, wherein lives Marshall’s Upton Pratt (God, even the name makes you root for this guy’s death). Pratt is a cruel, tyrannical businessman who regards all of humanity as little more than pests running beneath his feet. The man is an obsessive germaphobe, displaying Howard Hughes’s most off-putting tendencies taken up to eleven.

So he’s a little upset when the armies of cockroaches start crawling out of the walls.

Pratt’s descent into madness strikes the perfect balance between humor and horror, balancing out the audience’s repulsion for the cockroaches with their desire to see the 1%-er die in the most disgusting way possible. It’s the kind of gleeful social justice that the real-world so rarely provides, but the fantastical world of horror fiction can.

Added to that, the fluorescent lights and pure-white look of the apartment is a huge departure from CREEPSHOW’s none-more-over-the-top visual palette, making this segment stand out from the pack even more.

Runner-up: Not that the pack is all that bad!  Every CREEPSHOW segment deserves to be seen at least once, if only for the novelty of which famous person agreed to get slathered in Tom Savini’s goo (ewwww). Runner-up though is probably THE CRATE, featuring Adrienne Barbeau, Hal Holbrook and Fluffy. If you don’t know who Fluffy is, go rent CREEPSHOW and find out.