Today, we’re talking about some of the anthology films we love.
Let's start with the obvious one. The big one:
HEAVY METAL is weird. It’s violent. It’s juvenile on almost profound level. And it's utterly awesome. It crosses genres and art styles. It feels underground and beautifully strange. It is a one of a kind movie.
Often, when describing The Spine of Night, Heavy Metal gets referenced as its key forebear. The anxiety of its influence is something our film is constantly grappling with. Our hope is to fulfill the promise made by Heavy Metal: that an adult themed animated anthology can be as mature in its storytelling as it is in its content.
When, I asked Morgan to pick another anthology for this post, he chose DUNGEON MASTER. Or, as he points out, “ungeon Maste” if you’re watching the improperly cropped 4:3 version.
Check out the trailer to that masterpiece:
Not really an influence on The Spine of Night. But, possibly, the only other fantasy anthology film out there.
On the horror end of the anthology spectrum, I have a soft spot for Ealing Studio's 1945 film THE DEAD OF NIGHT.
A very early entry into the anthology sub-genre, it's notable for the fine craftsmanship in each of its segments. These are short films made by British studio masters, including Charles Crichton who would go on to a great career directing comedies, including the TV series The Avengers, THE LAVENDER HILL MOB and A FISH CALLED WANDA.
The tone of the film is impeccable. It's unsettling, eerie. Horrific in a polite, classic way. A very British brand of surreal. Its wraparound story captures a dream-like feeling that unsettles even in those spaces between its segments.
Another favorite of mine is The League of Gentlemen's Christmas Special. The League of Gentlemen is a comedy troupe from England that specializes in blending the utterly macabre into their comedy sketches. At times, the comedy disappears entirely, and it becomes purely dark drama. It's not to everyone's taste, but it's definitely worth giving it a try.
Their Christmas Special is an homage to the Amicus studio horror anthologies of the 1960s & 1970s. Movies like TORTURE GARDEN, TALES FROM THE CRYPT and, their best, FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE.
The special features tales about voodoo, vampires and curses. It's wrap around segment has an evil gypsy Santa Claus. What's not to love?
And then, there's NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR, which I feel I have to mention. It's an exemplary case of just how crazy an anthology film can get if no one is manning the steering wheel.
It is not a good movie. No sir. But it's worth watching once just so you can say you did it. You have the devil and God playing chess, you have '80s jazzercise music for some reason, you have a first segment that was clearly a feature-length, instead hacked down to a weird, inscrutable and arty(?) 30 minutes.
NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR is the horrible, raging, malformed id hiding under every other anthology film's veneer. But for the grace of the narrative gods, we'd all end up on that night train, riding towards madness.
One final thing. Check out this great, mini-documentary for more on the history of horror anthology films:
Next week: we introduce one of our lead characters!