Severin Film’s Tales of the Uncanny is a documentary about anthology horror films, those collections of bite-sized frights that dole out scares in small doses. Even though the idea of analyzing anthologies is fascinating enough on its own to horror fans (myself included) and Tales is the definitive word on the subject to date, Tales of the Uncanny is also about the perseverance of filmmakers Kier-La Janisse and David Gregory to finish their documentary under pandemic conditions and the unlikely story of a film that started out as a special feature on the Blu-Ray release of The Theatre Bizarre and became a full-fledged documentary project. In fact, it seems that the finished product is a lot more robust than it would’ve been pre-COVID. The filmmakers both talk about leveraging virtual interviews to greatly expand the breadth of voices that provide insight into the world of anthology horror – the key films that brought it to prominence and it’s rich history going back to the 1940’s.
The list of filmmakers and industry luminaries that lend their experiences to Tales of the Uncanny and accompany us on this deep dive encompasses many of horror’s biggest names. Richard Stanley (Hardware, Colour Out Of Space), Eli Roth (Hostel, Wrong Turn), Mark Hartley (Not Quite Hollywood, Machete Maidens Unleashed!), Peter Strickland (In Fabric, The Duke of Burgundy), Larry Fessenden (Habit, Depraved), Joe Dante (Gremlins, The Howling) and many more round out a roster that would hardly be possible, if not for virtual interviews. Each provides an interesting and unique perspective that unearths some of their favourite anthologies, and some unexpected picks for their favourite short horror segments in those films.
Tracing the anthology horror film from 1945’s Dead of Night through classics like Creepshow, Tales From The Crypt, and modern entries like Nightmare Cinema and XX is a daunting task, but David Gregory and Kier-La Janisse have called on their own extensive knowledge and that of over sixty of horror’s most important personalities to give the horror anthology the respect it deserves. It’s an impressive project both because, and in spite, of the pandemic conditions in which it was produced.
Tales of the Uncanny is available across Canada through the Winnipeg Cinematheque’s online programme until December 15. You can access this and all of the Winnipeg Cinematheque’s selections at this link.