In recent years, anthology horror movies like V/H/S, Southbound, and Tales of Halloween have often acted as proving grounds for young genre filmmakers. But Nightmare Cinema (out June 21) features contributions from five established masters of the gory arts with segments directed by Alejandro Brugués (Juan of the Dead), Joe Dante (The Howling), Ryûhei Kitamura (The Midnight Meat Train), David Slade (30 Days of Night, Black Mirror), and Mick Garris (Sleepwalkers, The Stand miniseries). Garris is also among the film’s producers and has been shepherding the movie around the festival circuit since it premiered at Montreal’s Fantasia Festival last summer.
“It’s been fantastic,” says Garris, about the film’s reception. “We’re at 88 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. People are loving it. Everybody has different favorite [segments], which is a good sign. But the bigger the crowd, the better the reaction. I think the best screening I’ve had in my entire career was in Mexico City. We were in a former opera house that had three balconies, 1100 seats, packed to the rafters. They just went apes— for the movie.”
Garris’ other credits include creating Showtime’s Masters of Horror anthology horror TV show, whose list of directors included such genre legends as John Carpenter, Stuart Gordon, John Landis, and Dante. Who better, then, to recommend five spooktacular horror anthology movies? You’ll find his recommendations, below.
Dead of Night (1945)
Mick Garris: That is the granddaddy. Ealing Studios was known for comedies, but this was great, and the most memorable [tale] is, of course, the ventriloquist dummy, with Sir Michael Redgrave. It also uses different directors for each of the stories.
Tales from the Crypt (1972)
MG: This is the quintessential horror anthology, the one that kicked off the whole idea. It’s pulpy, beautiful, Freddie Francis directed it. The story “…And All Through the House” with Joan Collins and a killer Santa Claus is absolutely amazing. The remake by Robert Zemeckis for the TV show is also terrific, but this is amazing. And “Blind Alleys” is the absolutely terrifying final chapter with Patrick Magee as a patient at a home for the blind, run by Nigel Patrick as a real scumbag. There’s also a story called “Poetic Justice” [in which] Peter Cushing is absolutely heartbreaking.
MG: Tales from the Crypt was from the Amicus studios, which became very famous for that, and Vault of Horror, and my next one, Asylum, which is 1972 as well. This was the same kind of formula. Get a bunch of movie stars, put them in stories where they only have to work a few days, and there’s another classic. What’s special about this one was that it was written by Robert Bloch, who wrote the original novel Psycho was based on. Peter Cushing, and Britt Ekland, and Herbert Lom, and Patrick Magee are in this one and it takes place, as you might imagine, in an asylum.
MG: You can’t talk horror anthologies without Creepshow. George Romero meets Stephen King and Tom Savini doing makeup effects. It was the first original screenplay by King to be filmed. It as not [based on his] short stories. These were originals inspired by the EC Comics of the ‘50s, even down to doing comic book splash pages to open each story.
The kid reading the comic in the wraparound is played by none other than eight-year-old Joe King, now known as Joe Hill, Stephen King’s son, and a major author in his own right. The highlight, of course, is King himself playing the hayseed Jordy Verrill and his timeless line-reading of the words “Meteor s—!” I love it. The best [segment] is probably E.G. Marshall and the cockroaches but “Meteor s—!” warms my heart, just because it’s King himself and he’s the only actor in the whole story, and it’s really fun.
MG: It’s an all-women-directed anthology that kicks some butt. Karyn Kusama is one of my favorite directors. Her Invitation is just one of my favorite movies of the last several years. Her segment, “Her Only Living Son,” is like a sequel to Rosemary’s Baby. And [the film] has stop motion [sequences] by a Mexican filmmaker named Sofia Carrillo and they are spectacular.
Nightmare Cinema is released in theaters and on-demand, June 21. On June 14, Dynasty Typewriter at the Hayworth Theater in Los Angeles will host a triple bill of Sleepwalkers, Piranha, and Juan of the Dead. The event will be attended by Nightmare Cinema directors Mick Garris, Joe Dante, and Alejandro Brugués, who will participate in a Q&A after the three films are screened, moderated by yours truly.
Watch the trailer for Nightmare Cinema above.