List of Best Horror Anthology Movies
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With its range of stories packed into a limited time frame, the anthology is one of the most fun types of horror movies; plus, it’s great for viewers with ADD. Here are 20 (or so) of the best anthology horror movies that have been made to date.
This is a budget, made-for-TV effort, but it’s effective thanks to solid acting (including a young Ed Begley, Jr.) and writing from the legendary Richard Matheson (I Am Legend, Stir of Echoes), plus direction from Dan Curtis (Dark Shadows, Burnt Offerings). Stories include:
- A man buys a vintage car that transports him back in time.
- A doctor tries to prove that the marks on his wife’s neck aren’t from a vampire
- The highlight, about a distraught mother who attempts to bring her son back from the dead, would later be remade in Trilogy of Terror II.
Although it doesn’t live up to the potential that the teaming of directors John Carpenter (Halloween) and Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) promises (also, Wes Craven, Roger Corman and Sam Raimi make cameos), this cable TV movie still proves entertaining, alternately chilling and fun. Stories include:
- A young female gas station attendant works alone on the graveyard shift as a crazed killer roams around town.
- A balding man (Stacey Keach) receives an experimental hair transplant.
- A baseball player (Mark Hamill) receives an eye transplant from a killer and begins to see what the killer saw (predating The Eye by a decade).
Based on the ’80s TV show produced by George Romero, this semi-continuation of the Creepshow films features a darkly humorous wraparound story of a woman holding a boy captive, fattening him up for dinner. He tells her three stories to delay his “evisceration.” Co-written by Romero and Stephen King, it’s worth watching just to see a man swallow a live cat. Stories include:
- A college student (Steve Buscemi) cheated out of a fellowship gains revenge by raising a mummy.
- A rich old man hires a hitman to kill an elusive cat.
- A man who witnesses a gargoyle kill someone in an alley promises to never speak of it in exchange for his life.
Strange Frequency (2001)
This horror-comedy movie aired on VH1 and thus incorporates an inventive musical theme in each story. It’s fun and lighthearted with good production value and a solid cast that includes Judd Nelson, Eric Roberts, John Taylor (of Duran Duran) and Danny and Christopher Masterson. Stories include:
- A pair of rockers find themselves in a hellish disco.
- An ex-hippy preys on Gen X hitchhikers whose musical tastes turn his stomach.
- A prima dona rocker who trashes his hotel room meets his match in the world’s cleanest maid.
- A musical talent scout has an otherworldly ability to discover the next big thing
This TV movie served as the pilot for the television show Night Gallery, written and hosted by The Twilight Zone‘s Rod Serling. It features acting greats like Roddy McDowall, Ossie Davis and Joan Crawford, not to mention the directorial debut of Steven Spielberg. Stories include:
- A greedy heir who kills his uncle is haunted by visions of him returning from the grave.
- A rich blind woman pays a down-on-his-luck gambler for his eyes.
- A Nazi war criminal hiding in South America yearns to escape into a mystical painting in a museum.
These well-made, tense tales — featuring early roles from Emilio Estevez and Lance Henriksen — were originally scheduled to air on TV but were deemed strong enough for the big screen, and justifiably so. Stories include:
- A chain-smoking woman goes out for a pack of cigarettes while a serial killer is on the loose.
- A teen addicted to a mysterious video game finds out what happens when he gets to the end.
- A supernatural take on the Steven Spielberg movie Duel with a disillusioned priest engaging in a game of cat and mouse with a sinister pickup truck.
- A man-versus-giant rat tale that predates the similar Of Unknown Origin…by two months.
Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)
Horror, science fiction, fantasy, and comedy combine in this enjoyable series of stories that channel the tone of the classic ’60s TV show — in part because three of the four tales are remakes of Twilight Zone episodes. Big-name directors like Steven Spielberg, John Landis, and Joe Dante lend their talents. Stories include:
- A racist gets a taste of his own medicine when he’s mysteriously transported in time and space.
- A magical old man visits a nursing home claiming to have discovered the power of eternal youth.
- A boy with special powers terrorizes his family.
- A reworking of the famed “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” in which a nervous airline passenger (John Lithgow) sees a gremlin on the wing of the plane.
A psychology professor teaching a class on fear offers his students an opportunity to “experience real fear” at his home one night. They tell each other scary stories and eventually become involved in their own personal nightmare. Stories include:
- A stranded couple takes refuge in a creepy old house where five people were murdered.
- Four teenage girls out on the town late one night end up at a run-down gas station with a deranged attendant and his vicious dogs.
- A woman working the night shift for a telephone messaging service is stalked by a caller.
What could be a campy concept — an African American horror anthology centered on life (and death) in “the hood” — is treated with a surprisingly effective straight face. Dripping with social commentary, it touches upon issues of police brutality, child abuse, gang crime and the legacy of racism, anchored by a wraparound story propelled by the delirious performance by Clarence Williams III as a loony mortician dealing with three troublemaking gang members. Stories include:
- A victim of police abuse returns from the grave for revenge.
- A young boy is visited nightly by a vicious monster.
- A racist senator is tormented by a doll possessed by the soul of a former slave.
- A violent gang member endures a radical rehabilitation process.
Twisted and gory, this film features one of the last roles of Vincent Price’s career, starring as a librarian who explains to a reporter, via four stories, the evil nature of the town of Oldfield, Tennessee. Stories include:
- A man begins to live out his violent fantasies of murder and (eek) necrophilia until his past comes back to haunt him.
- A criminal discovers that an old swamp dweller possesses the secret to immortality and tries to steal it from him.
- Sideshow carnival performers toil under the iron fist of a witch who promises them pain and suffering if they ever leave.
- During the Civil War, three murderous Union soldiers get their comeuppance from a group of Southern orphans whose parents were killed by Northern soldiers.
Future stars (of varying degree) James Marsden, Christine Taylor, Christopher Masterson, Amy Smart, Ron Livingstone and Jacinda Barrett star in this impressive, genuinely scary little film, about teens stranded in the woods by a car accident who occupy their time telling each other scary stories that explore some familiar urban legends with interesting twists. Stories include:
- Teen lovers parked in a car encounter a hook-handed killer.
- Newlyweds in an RV end up camping in an area frequented by nocturnal creatures.
- A 12-year-old girl befriends someone on the Internet who turns out not to be who she said he was.
- A biker seeks refuge at a house occupied by a mute woman and ghosts.
Crooked House (2008)
This centuries-spanning British anthology aired on BBC as a miniseries in three 30-minute episodes, each telling a ghost story from a different era set in and around the same cursed house and each creepier than the one before it. This is classic, old-fashioned haunted house stuff. Stories include:
- The new owner of the spooky Geap Manor begins to hear strange noises behind the walls.
- A costume ball at the Manor has an uninvited guest.
- A museum creator finds that the demolished manor has a deadly legacy that’s still alive today.
In this British film boasting devious twists (including one that foreshadows A Tale of Two Sisters and The Uninvited), an applicant for the head doctor position in an insane asylum is given a test: determine which of the patients is actually the former head doctor, who’s now gone insane and assumed a new identity. Stories include:
- A man murders his wife and cuts her up into pieces but doesn’t count on her knowledge of voodoo.
- A man orders a tailor to make a suit from a mystical fabric with supernatural powers.
- A woman returning from a stay in a mental facility is greeted by her mischievous best friend, who’s willing to resort to murder to help her recover.
- A doctor transfers his soul into a mannequin in order to get revenge.
Four gorgeous, dreamlike ghost stories adapted from traditional Japanese folk tales, told at a slow, surreal pace. Includes early representations of the ghostly female with long black hair that has become so prevalent in modern Japanese horror movies like Ringu and Ju-on: The Grudge. Stories include:
- A man lives to regret divorcing his wife in order to gain social status.
- Two woodcutters take refuge in a hut inhabited by a ghostly woman who kills one of them and makes the other promise never to speak of the incident. (Later adapted in Tales from the Darkside: The Movie.)
- A blind musician must perform for ghosts while covered in tattoos to prevent them from harming him.
- A samurai is haunted by the reflection of a man in his cup of tea.
This groundbreaking and surprisingly trippy British film set the stage for the plethora of British anthologies that would follow in the ’60s and ’70s, helping to establish the now-standard anthology format, with a wraparound story and a twist ending to each tale. In it, a man tells to a group of strangers that he’s dreamt about them all, which spurs them to relate their own experiences with the unexplained. Stories include:
- A race car driver has an eerie premonition.
- A young woman encounters a ghostly child at a Christmas party.
- A man is haunted by the ghost of his golfing partner.
- A man sees an alternate reality in an antique mirror.
- A ventriloquist believes his brazen dummy is alive.
Three renowned directors from Hong Kong (Fruit Chan), Korea (Chan-Wook Park) and Japan (Takashi Miike) team for a trio of artistic, thoughtful, yet profoundly disturbings stories, evidence that “extreme” horror doesn’t have to involve backwoods serial killers torturing victims for 90 minutes. Stories include:
- An aging actress tries a mysterious food rumored to keep people young.
- A successful movie director and his wife are held captive by a man with a grudge.
- Young twin circus performers encounter tragedy when jealousy tears them apart.
Trilogy of Terror (1975)
They don’t make network TV movies like they did in the ’70s. This deliciously dark entry aired on ABC and features three tales written by Richard Matheson whose only tie to each other is that each stars Karen Black in a distinctly different role. Stories include:
- A reclusive teacher is seduced by a student with evil intentions
- A prudish twin plots her free-spirited sister’s demise.
- In the most famous story, a woman fights for her life against a murderous “Zuni fetish doll” that comes to life.
Combining the talents of horror masters George Romero (who directed) and Stephen King (who wrote), this fun and frightening movie captures the essence of the ’50s horror comic books that inspired it. Stories include:
- A murdered man returns from the grave to get revenge on his money-grubbing relatives.
- A hillbilly is infected by an organism from a meteorite that lands near his home.
- A wealthy man kills his cheating wife and her lover, but they don’t stay dead for long.
- A monster in a crate provides a henpecked man with an opportunity to get rid of his wife.
- A germophobic man encounters roaches in his apartment.
This scary and atmospheric Italian film features director Mario Bava’s bold, colorful direction and contains one of the most nightmare-inducing scenes of all time in the tale “The Drop of Water.” Stories include:
- A woman receives mysterious threatening telephone calls. (The storyline was changed for the American release to eliminate a lesbian subplot and to turn it into a less sensical ghost story.)
- A traveler takes refuge with a family whose patriarch may be a vampire.
- A nurse learns the repercussions of stealing from a deceased medium.
A prototype for horror anthology movies, this British film inspired the ’90s HBO TV show and embodied the devilish anthology success of Amicus Studios during the ’60s and ’70s. Stories include:
- A woman (Joan Collins) murders her husband on Christmas Eve, but as she tries to dispose of the body, she must deal with a maniac dressed as Santa.
- A man who left his wife for another woman gets into a car accident with his mistress.
- A man responsible for his neighbor’s suicide receives a nasty Valentine’s Day gift.
- A variation on the classic “Monkey’s Paw” tale in which a woman uses a magical figurine to make wishes that don’t turn out as she’d planned.
- Residents in a home for the blind take revenge on their new hard-nosed director.
Trick ‘r Treat (2009)
A near-perfect blend of horror and dark humor, with a series of tales that take place in a small town one Halloween night and intertwine back and forth rather than playing out as separate stories:
- A young couple breaks the rule about not blowing out a jack-o-lantern before midnight and suffers the consequences.
- A high school principal tries to conceal a dark secret buried in his backyard.
- A crabby old man discovers the perils of refusing to give candy to trick-or-treaters.
- A group of trick-or-treaters explores the local legend of the Halloween School Bus Massacre and find out that on Halloween, the dead don’t always stay that way.
- A young lady searching for Mr. Right comes across a tall, dark and dangerous stranger.