Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Horror anthologies: feel free to skip around

Anthologies are a staple of both horror literature and cinema. Every fan owns at least one (usually centered on a favorite monster) and has seen at least one (generally much less focused than their literary brethren).

At this moment, I am watching "Trapped Ashes," a 2006 anthology with stories directed by Ken Russell, Joe Dante, Sean S. Cunningham, John Gaeta, and Monte Hellman. It's not bad, so far. Henry Gibson (who was absolutely frightening in "The 'Burbs") is in the wraparound story. You know, the part of the movie used to tie all the stories together. Like the cat in "Stephen King's Cat's Eye."

Wraparound stories aren't really used in the anthology books. Those often have a theme to bring everything together. On of my favorites is "October Dreams: A Celebration of Halloween," edited by Richard Chizmar and Robert Morrish. With great stories such as "Heavy Set" by Ray Bradbury, the book includes favorite Halloween memories from the authors.

Halloween is a natural setting for horror anthologies. Michael Dougherty's "Trick 'R Treat" managed to only be an anthology, but tied the separate stories together, almost Tarantino style. Delays in its release pushed the movie from something that could have dominated the holiday box office to a direct-to-DVD pariah. If you are a "True Blood" fan, check it out just to watch Anna Paquin wolf out. Scary and sexy.

Horror anthologies are like sitting around the campfire, telling ghost stories. You get multiple quick tales, some better than others, each trying to outdo the story before. The best part, of course, is that you don't have to watch the whole movie or read the whole book if some of it isn't up to par.

Book or film, what's your favorite anthology?

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