Release Date(s)2020 (January 26, 2021)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B
Tales of the Uncanny: The Ultimate Survey of Anthology Horror explores the history of horror portmanteaus, going back as far as the early 1900s when cinema was in its infancy, to the present. From 1945’s Dead of Night to 1983’s Creepshow to 2004’s Trick ‘r Treat, as well as TV programs such as The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Amazing Stories, and Tales from the Crypt, it expounds on the most popular titles, as well as the more obscure, while also delving into the whys and hows of their various existences by those who appreciate them.
Though the subject matter could lead down any number of scholarly paths, Tales of the Uncanny is meant to be more of a lighthearted appreciation than a serious deep-dive, even listing its top fives towards the end. Made up of traditional one-on-one style interviews, Skype interviews, and even phone interviews, it offers a variety of less conventional sounds and visuals than many other documentaries that tend to showcase a customary series of talking heads. As such, it’s a little rough around the edges, but it actually works to its advantage. The interview subjects are a mix of filmmakers, documentarians, and film critics, such as Joe Dante, Mick Garris, David Del Valle, Richard Stanley, Luigi Cozzi, Tom Savini, Rebekah McKendry, Brian Trenchard-Smith, Kim Newman, Roger Corman, Amanda Reyes, Ernest Dickerson, Michael Felsher, Eli Roth, Greg Nicotero, Jovanka Vuckovic, and Michael Gingold, among many others.
Severin Films brings Tales of the Uncanny to Blu-ray with a satisfying high definition presentation. It utilizes trailers, TV spots, and film clips of varying qualities, as well as a series of colorful opticals. As such, it has built-in visual flaws, which work for its intended aesthetic. As previously mentioned, the interviews are also sourced from differing sources, mostly due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic which prevented many interviews from being filmed professionally. It gives the documentary’s look a garage band-like quality. Even so, everyone is in focus and rarely if ever is there a moment of visual confusion. Everything appears crisp and bright with high levels of detail and an array of stylistic flourishes.
The audio is included in English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio with optional subtitles in English SDH. It too carries the same issues, being that the audio of the film clips and interviews are not always top shelf quality. Thankfully, it all works well together aurally. There are even moments of ambient and speaker to speaker activity, keeping the audio in constant motion. Music cues also come through with relative vibrancy.
Included as extras are two bonus films, both rarely-seen horror anthologies: Eerie Tales from 1919 and Unusual Tales (AKA Histories Extraordinaires) from 1949. The first is a silent German film featuring five stories and a wraparound segment of a bookshop wherein paintings of “The Devil,” “The Whore,” and “Death” come to life and read stories to themselves, including one by Edgar Allan Poe (The Black Cat) and another by Robert Louis Stevenson (The Suicide Club). Stylish and effective, it’s definitely the better of the two. The second is a French film featuring four stories told by a group of jovial French policemen. It includes two stories from Poe: The Tell-Tale Heart and The Cask of Amontillado, the latter a fairly faithful and effective adaptation. Both make excellent companions to the main feature.
Tales of the Uncanny is an enjoyable highlights reel. It barely scratches the surface since there are a variety of anthology films to acknowledge and cover in detail, but it barrels through at a relatively quick pace and acts more like a best-of complilation while also occasionally acknowleding lesser known titles. Severin’s Blu-ray release, bundled with two uncommon but entertaining horror anthologies, makes for a fun package.
- Tim Salmons