5. “Quitters Inc” (Cat’s Eye, 1985)
Look, I’ll be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of anthology horror movies. I’m happy for the people that love them. But, generally speaking, most aren’t for me. This means that when I say that this one absolutely rules, I don’t say it lightly. “Quitter’s Inc” is inventive, clever, and wonderfully dark. James Woods plays Dick, a smoker determined to kick the habit. When he signs up for a system that has a uniquely persuasive method, he thinks he might be able to succeed. Surely when the company threatens Dick and his family, they’re just trying to coax him into going cold turkey… but they’re not actually going to do anything? Well, Dick is certainly about to find out how serious they are. (Anna Swanson)
4. “Safe Haven” (V/H/S/2, 2013)
POV: You’re part of a small documentary crew dead-set on infiltrating a mysterious Indonesian cult known as Paradise Gates. POV: After a suspiciously slim amount of prodding, “Father” allows you and your crew to enter the remote compound. (This doesn’t feel like a good idea …) POV: ignoring the sea of red flags, you descend into the labyrinth just as the “time of reckoning” kicks off. POV: it turns out your best friend knocked up your producer/fiancée, which is bad news because the cultists seem super jazzed about the pregnancy.
“Safe Haven” is for folks who thought The Sadness was for babies. Wait, poor choice of words… but my point stands! Directed by Timo Tjahjanto (May The Devil Take You) and renegade Welshman Gareth Evans (The Raid), “Safe Haven” is less of a descent than a sprint into Hell. It has a “carnival atmosphere,” as Evans, a madman, puts it. Indeed, “Safe Haven” is a gore-slicked rollercoaster with (get this) a punchline. Brava, boys, you’ve created a monster. (Meg Shields)
3. “Boys Do Get Bruised” (Tales from the Hood, 1995)
My parents weren’t exactly strict with letting us watch horror movies as kids. Sure, they kept us away from the darker, grosser sides of the genre for a while – I’m looking at you, American Psycho – but they never hesitated in exposing us to the eye-popping practical effects horror cinema churned out as I was growing up in the early 1990s.
With this segment from Rusty Cundieff’s Tales from the Hood, my folks likely wanted me to marvel at the effect used to create a crumpled-up version of David Alan Grier – a household favorite for his work on In Living Color. The effect itself is stupendous, if cartoonish and lacking in visceral gore, which muted the true horror of the segment to seven-year-old Jacob. But it was an image that stayed with me until I revisited it well over a decade later and realized that the effects were far from the true horror of the segment. “Boys Do Get Bruised” perfectly exemplifies just what EC Comics was all about: enacting stunning revenge on anyone who abuses power. (Jacob Trussell)
2. “The Black Cat” (Tales of Terror, 1962)
In 1962, Roger Corman and Vincent Price teamed up for their third Edgar Allen Poe adaptation, Tales of Terror. “The Black Cat” follows town drunkard Montresor Herringbone (Peter Lorre) as he spends his days hating his wife Annabelle (Joyce Jameson) and her charming cat — and his nights stumbling around on booze. After discovering Annabelle has begun an affair with Fortunato Luchresi (Price), Herringbone vows to get revenge on the new lovers and that darn cat! This dark gothic tale of jealousy and paranoia is largely played up for laughs, with Lorre and Price relying on over-the-top line deliveries and bizarre facial expressions. The segment’s highlight comes during a wine-tasting event where Herringbone and Luchresi each attempt to prove they are the world’s foremost wine taster. Price and Lorre both ham it up while chewing every bit of scenery. (Chris Coffel)
1. “Hoichi the Earless” (Kwaidan, 1964)
I have a pet theory that horror anthologies have a deep connection with folk tales. There’s an obsessive focus on comeuppance and cause and effect that reeks of a certain old-world moralism. Stay out of the woods. Be careful what you wish for. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. That kind of thing.
So it makes sense, then, that one of the best horror anthologies is explicitly tied to folk legends and ghost stories. Masaki Kobayashi’s 1965 masterpiece Kwaidan is nothing but back-to-back bangers. And yet, “Hoichi the Earless” shines not only as the best segment in Kwaidan but the best segment in horror anthology history. Based on the folk tale of the same name, the film’s penultimate segment tells of a young blind monk (Katsuo Nakamura) who specializes in singing a chant that recalls the Battle of Dan-no-ura. One evening, a ghostly samurai appears and informs Hoichi that his master requests a performance of the chant. Hoichi obliges, unaware that he is performing for the court of Emperor Antoku, who was slain during Dan-no-ura.
I won’t give away the segment’s twist in case the uninitiated are reading. But suffice it to say, you’ll want to cover your ears for this one. Simultaneously operatic and intimate, “Hoichi the Earless” is a ghostly gem in a class of its own, boasting the art design and spine-tingling atmosphere that places Kwaidan a step above the rest. (Meg Shields)
As appreciators of horror anthology segments, we bet you like things delivered in neat little chunks. Lucky you: we’ve got plenty of top ten lists just like the one above in our 31 Days of Horror Lists archives. Check ’em out!
Related Topics: 31 Days of Horror Lists