On the April 2 episodes of SNL Pete Davidson, Chris Redd, and musical guest Gunna rapped about their love of films with “at most an hour forty” run-times. Apparently, that lament struck a chord with nearly everyone, including the folks at Netflix — the platform now offers a “Short-Ass Movies” category.
Luckily for hard-core horror hounds who share that sentiment, most horror movies fall on the shorter side when it comes to run times (Gunna even includes The Evil Dead among his short-ass movie montage). But sometimes an hour and a half can feel like forever — where’s a scary snack for even-shorter attention spans?
If you’re not feeling a full-length movie, whether because of difficulty focusing or a deep desire to actually finish something before falling asleep, why not indulge in some of the horror genre’s best anthology movies? Watch a segment and return later at your discretion.
If you haven’t heard of British powerhouse Amicus Productions, here’s your primer: in the ’60s and ’70s, Amicus created some of the most celebrated and foundational anthology horror films — also called portmanteau horrors — starring the likes of Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and Herbert Lom.
Its third foray into portmanteau horror, The House That Dripped Blood, follows local police telling a Scotland Yard detective investigating the latest inhabitant of the house’s disappearance four separate stories about previous inhabitants. The police’s theory? it’s the house that kills.
Another entry from Amicus Productions, Tales From the Crypt (1972) walked so the ’90s US television show, featuring the infamous crypt-keeper host, could run. Both are based on stories from 1950s EC horror comics, in which the crypt keeper is just one in a stable of creepy storytellers.
Although the crypt keeper here isn’t the comic-book ghoul we know and love, he still dishes out ghastly tales and poetic justice via a well-placed reveal. Plus we have the usual Amicus suspects (Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and company) bringing their A game. Be sure to check it out, if only to see an inventive twist on WW Jacobs’s short story “The Monkey’s Paw.”
Okay, there’s a lot of Amicus up top, but we’d be remiss not to include asylum. Robert Bloch, author of the novel Psycho (yes, the one Alfred Hitchcock adapted into the 1960 film), wrote the script based on four of his own short stories. The framing narrative is loosely based on another Bloch story written for Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine (and later adapted for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour).
In that narrative, a doctor arrives at the eponymous asylum for a job interview. The current head of the institution explains that his predecessor had a mental break and is now a patient: If the doctor can identify which patient he is, he’ll be in the running for the position. Each segment of the anthology is a different patient’s interview with the doctor. Can you guess the former asylum head?
The movie Karen Black blames for typecasting her as a scream queen, Trilogy of Terror‘s influence cannot be understated. Although there is no framing device nor any connection among the segments, Black stars in all three stories, including in a dual role as twin sisters. The last portion of the movie, titled amelia, revolves around a possessed Zuni fetish doll that has entered the annals of “scariest doll” of all time. A definite precursor to Child Play‘s Chucky, amelia is not one for horror aficionados to pass up.
Inspired by the original Tales from the Crypt comics, Stephen King created faux comic book Creepshow, wrote original tales for the screen, and enlisted legend George A. Romero to direct. A send-up of the crypt keeper, the Creep of Creepshow can be found doodling the comics, chuckling to himself, or spying on young readers of the latest Creepshow issue. You’ll see horror favorite Tom Atkins, Joe Hill ( King’s son), and the Creep in the framing story. Throughout the segments, icons like Leslie Nielson, Ted Danson, and King himself pop in for a ghoulish good time.
A reminder of just how influential comic books and Amicus Productions have been on the horror genre, Creepshow is one part loving homage, one part ghastly reimagining, and one part wicked joke. (A 1987 sequel was made, but we don’t really talk about it.)
Directed by Rusty Cundieff and executive-produced by Spike Lee, Tales From the Hood features a talkative funeral director leading three drug dealers through his mortuary to pick up some drugs he found in the back alley. As they pass various dead bodies, the funeral director tells the story of each cadaver, inching toward a sinister reveal that pays homage to Tales From the Crypt (1972) while maintaining Tales From the Hood‘s uniqueness. If you’re looking for more, two sequels, both helmed by Cundieff and Lee, were released in 2018 and 2020, respectively.
Tales from the Hood is streaming on starz.
Here, four interconnected stories on Halloween night are held together by Sam, a trick-or-treater clad in an orange onesie and mask made out of a tied-off burlap sack. Sometimes merely a bystander, sometimes a crucial player, Sam remains the key but silent element of the evening. Whether we see homicidal parents, werewolves, or dead children taking revenge, Sam is never too far away.
Directed by Michael Dougherty (you may know him from crampus) and produced by Bryan Singer, Trick ‘r Treat features an all-star cast of fan favorites including Dylan Baker, Rochelle Aytes, Anna Paquin, and Brian Cox.
The other commonality in each of these tales? A warning not to shun Halloween tradition — a defaced house might not be the worst price you pay. After a dip in the quality of anthology films, Trick ‘r Treat was a welcome addition.
Trick ‘r Treat is streaming on Shudder.
If you’re truly looking for bite-size horror with a healthy dose of comedy, give The ABCs of Death a shot. Composed of twenty-six different tales of, you guessed it, death, each one devoted to a letter of the alphabet, the magic of this film stems from its diverse collection of filmmakers from all over the globe, all with their own unique spin on alphabetically dying. Some of the entries are better than others, but at roughly five minutes a pop, a new vignette is always right around the corner.
Keep an eye out for “E is for Exterminate” (to make your skin crawl) and “F is for Fart” (to immediately cure your goosebumps).
Not for the faint of heart, All Hallows’ Eve takes place on Halloween night, when a babysitter discovers a nondescript VHS tape among her young wards’ trick-or-treating spoils. The three stories contained on the movie each share the figure of Art the Clown — you may know him from the 2016 movie terrier, which took its opening from the third story depicted here.
Between impregnation by Satan, an alien abduction and a ghastly breaking of the fourth wall, the babysitter in All Hallows’ Eve was probably right to send little Timmy and Tia to bed after the initial segment.
All Hallows’ Eve is streaming on tubing.
like Tales From the Hood, The Mortuary Collection‘s framing story centers on a talkative funeral director imparting stories of cadavers to a young visitor. In this case, however, the visitor is here to apply for a job, although she isn’t all she seems.
A delightfully kooky collection that flips certain horror tropes on their heads and offers some bizarrely horrific visuals, The Mortuary Collection was a breath of fresh air for horror fans after a few years’ pause on quality anthology horrors.
The Mortuary Collection is streaming on Shudder.
Far from the first entry in the V/H/S franchise, V/H/S/94 holds a special place in our hearts for revitalizing the property. After the first bonkers installation, V/H/S (2012), we had high hopes for the sequels but were disappointed when none really captured the magic of the initial jaunt.
The framing narrative for this one is a SWAT team storming a warehouse only to find a suicide cult’s collection of chilling tapes playing on various abandoned screens. From a cult (different from the one the SWAT team is storming — too many cults!) developing around a cryptid called Rat Man in the storm drains beneath a city to a truly mad scientist-doctor (a dual threat) constructing unwilling cyborgs, each segment soars beyond the framing narrative, but don’t let that stop you from watching.
V/H/S/94 is streaming on Shudder.