For years, the anthology (or portmanteau film) has been an economical slice of horror for both studios and audiences. These “get in, get out” kind of movies are similar to a sandwich — a wraparound acts as the bread, the stories are the filling, and the host or narrator is the relish; the format hasn’t changed much since the days of Dead of Night or Kwaidan. Even so, not every anthology is the same. These creepy collections can be an intersection of visions and style, or they can be a surefire way of breaking down an overarching theme into digestible chunks. Either way, anthologies are here to stay because no one can ever say “no” to a scary story.
Anyone participating in this year’s 31 Days of Horror challenge who’s looking for an anthology will certainly have options with these ten picks. Whether they want something familiar and reliable, or maybe a deep cut worth exploring, something on this list will satisfy anyone’s taste for segmented horror.
Horror Stories (2012)
Stream It: AsianCrush
With the task of putting her abductor to sleep, a teenager is forced to tell spooky stories on the fly, or else she’ll become a meal. Her four offerings include two children encountering stranger danger in their own home, a flight attendant battling a serial killer, cousins fighting to the death over a potential husband, and a nurse and doctor determining whether or not a patient is really a zombie or not.
Horror Stories, a high-quality and sleek-looking anthology from South Korea, spawned two sequels.
Ghost Stories (2017)
Stream It: Hulu
In this movie based on a play of the same name, a skeptical professor whose life goal is spent debunking the paranormal, is tasked with solving three mysteries. He then interviews the witnesses: a bereaved father and husband claiming to have seen a ghost at his job, a neurotic teenager who ran over a devil in the woods, and a man terrorized by a poltergeist.
Ghost Stories is the kind of anthology where the stories overlap, or they are connected by some kind of thread-like element. The film isn’t so ephemeral with its content, either; everything has an important part in the protagonist’s own life, whether or not he realizes it just yet.
Creepshow 2 (1987)
Stream It: Tubi
The Creep returns with three more ghoulish stories in this sequel to George A. Romero’s beloved Creepshow. This time around, Michael Gornick (the first film’s DP) executes a trio of mean-spirited yarns where villains — obvious and not so obvious ones — are driven by self-interest to the nth degree: a murdered elderly couple is avenged by a supernatural entity, four people are trapped on a lake raft with a carnivorous blob, and a hit-and-run driver gets her comeuppance.
Many have discounted Creepshow 2, but the sequel is breezy and downright nasty.
Stream It: Hulu or Amazon Prime
The producers of V/H/S created another anthology, but Southbound is quite different from that film; there’s no found footage and the stories are all linked. It all begins with a pair of shady-looking men being stalked by reaper-like creatures who pop up in other segments. Why exactly everyone in the movie is connected, isn’t apparent until the very end.
Placed under a hot, blistering sun, the desert-set Southbound supplies heat like no other anthology of its kind.
The House That Dripped Blood (1971)
Stream It: Tubi or Amazon Prime
Amicus was known for its anthologies once upon a time, and The House That Dripped Blood is one of their kookiest collections. The movie centers on a rental country home with a sordid history. As a detective investigates a missing persons case, he’s told about the previous tenants: a writer’s villain springs to life, two men become dangerously obsessed with a wax figure, a parent worries about his daughter’s new hobby of witchcraft, and a man gains vampire traits when he wears a cloak.
Stream It: Hulu
This unique anthology includes stories directed by women: Jovanka Vuckovic, Annie Clark, Roxanne Benjamin, and Karyn Kusama. The self-contained stories concern a family being slowly destroyed by the mysterious contents of a stranger’s box, a children’s birthday party falling to pieces at the last second, campers awakening an ancient evil, and a mother worrying about her son’s soul as he prepares to turn eighteen.
XX stands out from the crowd, and every segment is rather uncommon in both tone and subject matter.
Body Bags (1993)
Stream It: Tubi or Amazon Prime
This made-for-cable television movie features the talents of John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper, and it’s written by Billy Brown and Dan Angel (R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour, Night Visions), two people who know their way around an anthology.
Carpenter himself plays a creepy coroner who tells his audience how three of his cadavers ended up in his care: a woman working the late-night shift at an isolated gas station crosses paths with a killer; a man finds a deadly cure for his thinning hair; an eye transplant goes terribly wrong for an athlete. The tone is all over the place, but there’s no denying the entertainment value stemming from every story.
Phobia 2 (2009)
Stream It: Netflix
The Thai anthology Phobia 2 achieves the rare feat of outdoing its predecessor, 4bia (or simply Phobia); the sequel is a beast of a hidden gem. Culturally, Thailand is extremely fearful of ghosts, and this five-part movie emphasizes that trait with quality results. Karmic retribution (fair or otherwise) also plays a large role in the outcomes of these stories.
A boy’s punishment is delayed but certain after he accidentally kills his father; another boy experiences paranormal activity while staying in a hospital; Japanese hitchhikers are picked up by a truck driver who’s delivering a frightening cargo; a car salesman isn’t so honest about where his products come from; a horror movie set is haunted by a real ghost.
Tales from the Crypt (1972)
Stream It: Tubi
Based on macabre stories published by EC Comics, this early adaptation precedes the 1989 television series of the same name. In this vintage anthology, the Cryptkeeper directly deals with the public rather than sits in a lair filled with puns and terror. Five strangers touring the catacombs meet the Cryptkeeper after getting lost from their group, and he tells each one of them how they will die.
On Christmas Eve, a woman murders her husband before she herself is targeted by an escaped killer dressed like Santa Claus; a philanderer is trapped in his own nightmare; a father and son plot to get rid of an elderly neighbor they despise; a woman finds a Monkey’s Paw and her wishes go awry; the new director of a home for the blind receives brutal retribution for his unbecoming behavior.
Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990)
Stream It: Pluto TV
George A. Romero and Richard P. Rubinstein’s iconic television series Tales from the Darkside provided four seasons worth of ghastly creativity before gifting the world with a delightful movie spin-off.
Unlike the show, Tales from the Darkside: The Movie has a narrator: a young boy is held prisoner by a hungry witch played by Debbie Harry of Blondie and Videodrome fame. In order to buy himself some time before his captor turns him into a meal, the child reads three stories from her book: a college student sends a mummy after those who framed him, an assassin is paid to kill a murderous cat, and a struggling artist achieves success so long as he never tells anyone he saw a gargoyle kill a man one fateful night.
So, which anthology movie are you watching for our 31 Days of Horror Challenge? Share your picks with the Nightmare on Film Street community over on Twitter, in our Official Subreddit, or in the Horror Movie Fiend Club Facebook Group.