ONTD Original™: Favorite Stories in 15 Horror Anthologies

The horror anthology is a perfect format for those who want a little variety when they're looking for scares. Unfortunately, sometimes you have to wade through the bad to get to the good. Here are some favorites from fifteen anthologies.

After Midnight (1989)
Directed by Jim Wheat, Ken Wheat

Plot: The professor of a course on fear holds an after hours gathering at his home. There, the students share scary stories: a couple seeks refuge inside a murder house; teenage girls are stalked by a pack of wild dogs; and an answering service operator is threatened by a madman.

This Canadian sleeper from 1989 is perfect for a stormy night alone. It has the right balance of eighties scares and cheese. None of the stories are outright bad, but many viewers consider the one with Tracy Wells (the daughter from Mr. Belvedere) the weakest.

A favorite story: "The Old Dark House"
It is difficult to say which is better: this segment or the final one, "All Night Operator." "The Old Dark House" really captures the mood with the setting, though.

Amusement (2008)
Directed by John Simpson

Plot: Three childhood friends are stalked by someone from their shared past.

Here is an unconventional anthology: the vignettes share continuity. The killer goes after each protagonist in separate, self-contained situations. It isn't until the end do you understand what's really going on. Although Amusement suffers from a weak script with some glaring problems, the production values are rather good for this indie slasher.

A favorite story: "Tabitha"
If you fear clowns, this tale will not alleviate that. Tabitha shows up at her relative's house to find her young cousins unchaperoned. Seems that the babysitter just left without notice. When Tabitha later goes to sleep in the guest room, she finds herself surrounded by a truly bizarre collection of clown toys. Including a very big one. Katheryn Winnick's performance left much to be desired, but this short manages to survive.

Black Sabbath (1963)
Directed by Mario Bava

Plot: A trio of atmospheric horror tales about: A woman terrorized in her apartment by phone calls from an escaped prisoner from her past; a Russian count in the early 1800s who stumbles upon a family in the countryside trying to destroy a particularly vicious line of vampires; and a 1900-era nurse who makes a fateful decision while preparing the corpse of one of her patients - an elderly medium who died during a seance.

Some older Italian horror is an acquired taste. A common complaint is that they focus on style than substance. That's not entirely the case here as the scripts are quite coherent. Boris Karloff plays the host in this anthology from Mario Bava.

A favorite story: "The Telephone"
The strongest stories in Black Sabbath are "The Telephone" and "The Drop of Water." The latter is best kept as a delightful surprise while the aforementioned is a tasty introduction. The telephone is a commonly used device in horror. No matter the era, the phone has been part of some iconic titles. Here, a former call girl is terrorized by a familiar voice over the phone. If you do check Black Sabbath out, be sure it's the uncut European version. American International Pictures altered the film stateside, removing references of lesbianism and prostitution. As a result, the plot was changed.

Body Bags (1993)
Directed by John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper, Larry Sulkis

Plot: A coroner shares the stories of three corpses: a student at a gas station is left alone with a serial killer; a balding man finds the strangest remedy to his hair loss; and a baseball player's eye transplant makes him homicidal.

Horror legends John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper directed two of the offerings in this early '90s collection. Nothing groundbreaking here, but it's a solid compilation.

A favorite story: "The Gas Station"
Carpenter pulled double duty as he directed this story and then starred as the coroner host. There really isn't anything too original here as it's a bit of a hodgepodge of other movies. The outcome is a well-paced cat-and-mouse segment. Pay attention or you might miss Sam Raimi and Wes Craven's cameos.

Campfire Tales (1997)
Directed by Matt Cooper, Martin Kunert, David Semel

Plot: After having a car accident, four teenagers share stories around a campfire: newlyweds are stalked by something sinister on their honeymoon; an Internet predator targets a young girl left home alone; and a traveling motorcyclist meets a mute woman caught in a ghostly time loop.

ABC Family aired an edited version of the movie several years ago. So it's not exactly the scariest of the bunch. That being said, this is still a fun anthology as the cast is full of both familiar faces and stories.

A favorite story: "People Can Lick, Too"
If you think you've seen this before, you may have just heard the urban legend it is based on. For those fortunate enough to have no idea as to what's about to happen, prepare yourself for one freaky twist.

Cat's Eye (1985)
Directed by Lewis Teague

Plot: A stray cat is the linking element of three tales of suspense and horror: a man resorts to extreme measures to quit smoking; a tennis pro is challenged to walk around the narrow ledge of a high rise penthouse; and finally, the cat finds a family where the daughter is being targeted by a troll.

This was Drew Barrymore's second time as a lead in a Stephen King adaptation (the first being Firestarter). Unlike that movie, Cat's Eye is far more lighthearted. That might be an odd way to describe a horror movie, but just watch.

A favorite story: "General"
The feline protagonist finds the girl that's been beckoning him from afar throughout the first two shorts. It isn't long before the kid is attacked by a tiny troll living in her wall. In addition to the monster, the child's mother is a major foil, and she will do whatever it takes to get rid of this cat. From an adult's perspective, the troll is both goofy and scary in its appearance. His mannerisms are weirdly endearing. So don't expect to be quivering in your shoes when you watch "General." Just sit back and have some fun.

Creepshow (1982)
Directed by George A. Romero

Plot: Inspired by the E.C. comics of the 1950s, George A.Romero and Stephen King bring five tales of terror to the screen.

This list wouldn't be complete without the two staples of horror anthology: Creepshow and Creepshow 2. You can tell this was a movie born out of love for the genre. While some of the vignettes pale in comparison to the stronger entries, the overall experience is a good one.

A favorite story: "The Crate"
This is a darkly comedic yarn about an unhappy husband that discovers a mysterious crate. Once he realizes what's inside, he learns how to get rid of the wife (played by the underrated Adrienne Barbeau) that he hates.

Creepshow 2 (1987)
Directed by Michael Gornick

Plot: The Creep shares three new scary stories: a Native American statue exacts revenge on its owners’ murderers; four people are attacked by a carnivorous blob in a lake; and a cheating wife faces the deadly consequences after committing a hit-and-run.

Don't write Creepshow 2 off because it's a sequel. It's in the same vein as its predecessor, and all the stories are based on Stephen King shorts. One pro this movie has is that it's a lot tighter than the original. For one thing, there are only three segments so everything doesn't seem as rushed.

A favorite story: "The Raft"
This grim serial follows four young people that encounter an inexplicable and very hungry mass of black goo. You never learn the origin of the monster, which makes it more unsettling.

Dead of Night (1977)
Directed by Dan Curtis

Plot: This anthology tells three stories: a man buys a car that takes him back and forth through time; a tale of vampires; and a distraught mother asks for her drowned son to come back to life and gets more than she bargained for.

This TV movie was directed by Dan Curtis, the guy behind Trilogy of Terror (and its sequel) and Dark Shadows. All three entries here are based on Richard Matheson (The Twilight Zone, I Am Legend, The Box, Stir of Echoes) shorts.

A favorite story: "Bobby"
The last piece in this compilation was remade almost twenty years later in Curtis' Trilogy of Terror II. However, the original is slightly better. The acting is a little more refined, and the cinematography is more subdued, less amateur-looking than the remake.

Nightmares (1983)
Directed by Joseph Sargent

Plot: Four frightening tales of terror and suspense: a woman goes out to buy cigarettes despite hearing news of a killer in the area; a teenager is sucked into the world inside of an arcade game; a disillusioned priest has his faith challenged when he encounters a mysterious black pickup truck; and finally, a family is tormented by a giant rat.

The segments here were unaired episodes of the anthology TV series Darkroom. Along with some new footage, they were culled into Nightmares.

A favorite story: "Terror in Topanga"
This is one of those urban myths that everyone knows so don't let that hinder your viewing pleasure. The final story "Night of the Rat" is, despite the dated special effects, enjoyable, too. 

Terror Tract (2000)
Directed by Lance W. Dreesen, Clint Hutchison

Plot: As a real estate agent shows a couple several houses for sale, he recounts the macabre stories that accompany each home: an unfaithful housewife and her lover commit murder; a father battles a homicidal monkey; and a teenage boy experiences visions of a serial killer’s future victims.

John Ritter appeared in many random movies and television shows before he died. In Terror Tract, he played the wraparound host in this assortment of scares.

A favorite story: "Bobo"
Breaking Bad fans should check this out just to see Bryan Cranston fight a killer monkey. Yes, that's really what happens. Be sure to stick around for the next installment "Come to Granny."

Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990)
Directed by John Harrison

Plot: To avoid being a witch's dinner, a child tells her some scary stories.

The teams behind the first two Creepshow movies never got around to completing the trilogy. Yes, there is a Creepshow 3, but it is abomination to film making. Considering the fact that Stephen King's "Cat from Hell" was meant to be in Creepshow 2, many fans regard the Darkside movie to be the real Creepshow 3. Every vignette (presented by a young Matthew Lawrence to Blondie frontwoman Debbie Harry) here is enticing so it's hard to choose just one.

A favorite story: "Lover's Vow"
The Japanese folktale concerning the yuki-onna (Snow Woman) yokai inspired this ghoulish saga. After a man witnesses a horrible incident, he meets the woman of his dreams. Everything in his life changes for the better... until he breaks a promise. Talk about a bad romance.

Tales from the Hood (1995)
Directed by Rusty Cundieff

Plot: An eccentric funeral director shares four stories to three criminals: the ghost of a man killed by crooked cops returns to take revenge; a teacher confronts the abusive father of one of his students; a racist politician running for office is attacked by dolls possessed by the spirits of tortured slaves; and finally, a violent gang member is subjected to an unusual punishment for his crimes.

This is probably the heaviest anthology to date as each story touches upon some serious issues in society. That doesn't mean it's a complete chore to get through. There is a dark sense of humor to most of the narratives.

A favorite story: "Boys Do Get Bruised"
In Living Color alum David Alan Grier poses as the fearsome patriarch in this twisted take on domestic violence.

Trick 'r Treat (2007)
Directed by Michael Dougherty

Plot: Halloween serves as the backdrop to several spooky, interwoven stories: a woman suffers the consequences of taking her Halloween decorations down too early; a principal leads a secret life; some young women look for a few good men; a group of teenagers play a terrible prank; and an old man is visited by the spirit of All Hallow's Eve itself.

If you know someone who hates this movie, remove them from your life immediately. This is perfect for the Halloween season, and it has rightfully become a modern day classic in the genre.

A favorite story: "The School Bus Massacre Revisited"
The entirety of Trick 'r Treat is great so don't think this is the only good part. This just happens to be a nice example of "just desserts" storytelling.

Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)
Directed by Joe Dante, John Landis, George Miller, Steven Spielberg

Plot: Three episodes of the original Twilight Zone series are remade and then accompanied by an original segment.

It goes without saying that The Twilight Zone is one of the best, most creative shows in television history. How does the movie stand up? Not too bad. If you can get past the infamous tragedy that happened during the making of the movie, you'll probably find something here that suits your taste.


A favorite story: "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet"
John Lithgow played the role of the nervous passenger in this update of the same story that first starred William Shatner. The advancements in filming and special effects really took this flight to a higher altitude.


So, what anthology movies/stories do you like? Which do you hate? Or you can just make this a general creepy post, discuss your Halloween plans, etc. Don't be rude or Sam will getcha.