Horror Anthologies at the Telluride Horror Show

American Horror Story. Black Mirror. Room 104. Channel Zero. The Mortuary Collection. Monsterland. Creepshow. Scare Me. Nightmare Cinema. Scare Package. Books of Blood. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. 50 States of Fright. Into the Dark. Welcome to the Blumhouse. The Twilight Zone. Horror anthologies are all the rage across various media right now, and the Shelter-In-Place Edition of Telluride Horror Show is no exception. 

A collection of selected short stories, anthologies come in the form of literature, television shows, movies and more. Typically running somewhere between ten to thirty minutes, segments may either make up several chapters within one whole picture, like in Tales from the Hood and John Carpenter’s Body Bags, or they may be relegated to one story per episode, as is the case with cult classics like Tales from the Crypt and Masters of Horror. Most contain wrap-around stories which explain the reasoning behind the varied stories, and some even feature a dryly sardonic host, such as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, or the Crypt Keeper. Some anthologies may devote entire seasons to one plotline, like The Act, while others land somewhere in the middle, like Lovecraft Country, which follows a monster-of-the-week scenario not unlike The X-Files, but simultaneously carries an overarching villain that comes to a head over the course of the season a la Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

When it comes to the types of anthologies at Telluride, there’s a little something for everyone.

Sprinkled in alongside traditional feature standouts like Amelia Moses’ Bloodthirsty and Brandon Cronenberg’s Possessor, sweet little bite-sized anthology treats enrich the festival with pockets full of fear. An annual festival that prides itself on its scenic mountain town location, it feels fitting that short horror fables would add so much dimension to the lineup. We may not be sitting up in the mountains, surrounded by friends and fans of the genre, but watching these sinister segmented snippets feels akin to listening to spooky tales over a campfire, each story a little scarier than the last. It helps provide that communal feeling that so many virtual festivals have lost in the shift to complete online runs.

As COVID-19 surges across America, more and more festivals are turning to the internet as a viable option for sharing their films. Although it’ll never be quite the same as gathering with other film fanatics in the hallway between movies, gushing over the latest title or debating which project is truly the most underrated flick of the fest, the air crackling with the intensity of the moment, it’s still so wonderful to watch new movies from some of the most exciting minds in the industry. Thanks to the tireless efforts of everyone behind the scenes at Telluride, we were lucky enough to preview some of the latest and greatest slices of terror from exciting new voices in the indie world.

Here’s a breakdown of the horror anthologies from Telluride you need to have on your radar.

Anonymous Animals

Baptiste Rouveure’s ferocious commentary on carnivores burns itself into the brain by way of daring narrative and aesthetic choices. Set in an otherworldly place where authoritative roles are reversed, the movie follows humanoid figures with animal heads. Half-man, half-brute, these sadistic creatures lord over their human subjects with an iron fist. Chained by the neck to stubborn trees, electrocuted by cattle prods, herded like sheep into claustrophobic cowsheds, fed slop in bowls on the ground like a dog on a leash. Beaten. Humiliated. Hunted. Killed. In a movie where men are treated in the same way that they treat their food, it’s hard not to see the metaphor at hand.

The vehicle of horror has always been used to candy coat social messages. What better way to Trojan horse social injustice awareness into entertaining little snack-sized terror than subliminal messaging in short stories? This wildly original caustic criticism of capitalistic evil starts with a wolf sniffing down a terrified regular Joe in the woods and from there plunges into full-on pitch-black fantasy. A world where silent people are collared by horned beasts. A fascinating, lively perspective on meat eaters that forces you to take a second look at what exactly is sitting on your plate. A brutal twist on the status quo that illustrates the horrors animals face, all in the name of a tasty meal.

Dark Stories

A vivid storyteller is pushed to the brink when an unexpected arrival brings an uninvited guest into her home. In the midst of trying to appease the undead dummy doll who bursts out of his box and holds her hostage, Kristanna Loken’s rambunctiously resourceful Christine tells a series of horrific tales, each one more ghastly than the last. At first, the dummy is delighted by her fables of monsters pulling people into paintings and ghouls masquerading as joggers in midnight streets. Reanimated corpses returning to this realm to right their wrongs, sleep paralysis so surreal it’s hard to tell when you’re dreaming, a newborn babe who craves blood. A farmer who demands loyalty lest you be boiled alive when the aliens come, a blood sucking fiend with an early bedtime.

Through increasingly intense stories shared between Christine and her living dead doll, directors Guillaume Lubrano and François Descraques subvert audience expectations, tinkering and toying with horror movie formulas and turning typical tropes on their heads. Powered by nostalgia from the quirky anthologies of the ’80s and early ’90s, this one’s a wicked good time for fans of the genre, even if diehards do spy a few of the familiar gotcha moments coming.

The 100 Candles Game

A witch in the wood that likes the taste of children’s flesh. An old woman riddled with ties and tubes and machines dragged screaming into a dark doorway. Priests exercising demons from pregnant women. Willing fools holding séances in the name of stupidity. Young girls buried alive in air-tight caskets. A monster in the guise of a mom. Celestial voices calling for blood. Red hot fiery grimaces pitching woo. A father-daughter demon hunting tag team. Razor sharp claws reaching for hiding spots. Vengeance as a living thing, passed down from generation to generation. This is The 100 Candles Game, and nobody is getting out alive.

Sitting in a literal burning ring of fire, the game entails that each player must tell a scary story, and when that person is done, they must take a lit candle into the other room alone, look into the mirror, blow out the candle, and wait and listen and witness whatever might appear in their reflection. It’s all fun and games until somebody goes missing. What starts out as an innocent game quickly morphs into a cautionary tale about what happens when young people unwisely choose to tempt the petulant gods. 

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