Last night at dinner with some friends, the conversation came up about anthology films. Due to the enjoyment my friend and I got from Trick ‘R Treat, we were discussing how there aren’t many anthology films made these days and most of them are just not that good. So if you don’t know what an anthology film is, they normally are composed of different stories that share some connecting thread and are all encompassed with the same genre. In the 60’s and 70’s these types of films were more prevalent in the horror genre. In the 80’s a shift was made where comedy began developing anthology films, which were more like small comedic skits.
One thing that makes or breaks an anthology film is the common thread, the connecting factor. Creepshow and Creepshow 2 worked so well because they are all stories contained with a comic book (harking back to the old EC Comics days). The House That Dripped Blood shared a common location for the stories, a creepy English manor that a famous actor has mysteriously vanished from. With Trick ‘R Treat the there are several threads from recurring characters, the stories all occur in the same town, and the fact that it involves different traditions of the season. From the comedy realm, Four Rooms is fantastic. The story takes place on New Year’s Eve in a hotel and deals with the bellhop (masterfully played by Tim Roth) on his first night and it details the four rooms that he is called to that evening. Sin City is another anthology film, with recurring characters and the city itself serving as the ties that bind as it were. All of these films have strong threads that enhance the film and give it a sense of cohesion without cohesion it’s like watching skits. Cohesion also allows you to develop attachments to characters and progress a story, this is why some of the above referenced films have a story that runs between the individual stories. This technique furthers the narrative and also provides for a relationship between stories which otherwise would be disjointed and ill fitting.
Another factor which makes or breaks anthology films is the actual quality of the stories presented. That’s why the horror genre took advantage of such films, it allows within the course of one film to have a vampire story, a ghost story, and a masked killer story. Part of the problem with a lot of the recent anthology films is that their stories do not really have much merit in themselves. Even if you have amazing connecting threads, if the stories are low quality stories then it doesn’t matter. So to take advantage of the flexibility offered by anthology films Four Rooms had a different writer/director for each room (Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino being two of them). This approach not only led to different types of stories being told but also led to each story having its own personality and look. It may not work for every anthology to be done that way but for the purposes of that film it made for a most enjoyable viewing experience. I think that when considering an anthology film it helps to come at each story from a different perspective creatively because it allows each story to have its own voice while maintaining the connectivity with the other stories through the previously stated common threads.
So that’s my rant for today, I want to see more anthology films and I want to see them soon. So any filmmakers reading this, I’m challenging you. It’s a challenge I’ve put to myself as well. Lord knows one day I hope to be able to do a feature length film and an anthology film, but they cost money and take people and time. So unless anyone wants to donate to my filmmaking career, let’s encourage others who are in the business currently to get busy on this. So until next time, hope the anthology of your life maintains your interest.
P.S. To donate to my filmmaking endeavors send me big bags of money, email me for mailing information.