For many horror fans (especially those of us of a certain age) the Crypt Keeper holds a special place in our black little hearts. There have been many different types of horror anthology hosts ranging from the dignified and austere to the goofy and ridiculous. While the Crypt Keeper was certainly more the latter, there was something about that shriveled little monstrosity spouting out unbelievably cringey puns that just made him so goddamn endearing. The Keeper may not have been the first horror host, but he remains one of the more memorable ones and ever since, numerous horror anthologies have tried to put in their own host that can bring a similar level of macabre campy energy to the experience….with varying success. Enter Vampus, the titular host of Vampus Horror Tales, an old man in a black cloak whose odd, off kilter persona isn’t likely to be igniting any long-running horror franchises in the foreseeable future.
Going down well-trodden territory of not just Tales From the Crypt but also Creepshow, Trick ‘r Treat, etc each segment Vampus introduces comes from the pages of a comic book. Although the film seems to frame our intrepid host as winsomely grim he comes across more as unhinged and homicidal between stories, as we see him bludgeon a woman to death with a hammer, and give a young couple hot dogs before chainsawing off their heads. At one point he beats a man to death with a shovel before turning to the camera and saying “I guess it was curiosity that killed the cat.” Oh, that wacky Vampus. I’m all for the violence (if anything there should have been more of it onscreen than off) but the film isn’t really able to strike the right balance in tone as it fails at attempts to flesh Vampus out as the morbidly charming character it clearly wants him to be.
The real meat and potatoes of any anthology isn’t the framing device, it’s the stories themselves and these horror tales tell a variety of stories such as a well-dressed couple trapped in a room, a birthday party in a haunted theme park, a blind woman stuck in a house with a dangerous man and a post-apocalyptic viral outbreak. The acting was solid across the board and the film is well shot, but the stories vary wildly scene to scene from the intriguing to the mundane to the borderline incoherent at times. This isn’t helped by the fact that this Spanish language film contains white subtitles that aren’t bordered and have a habit of repeatedly disappearing into any bright sections of the scene. There’s nothing inherently terrible here but there isn’t anything inherently great either and if you’re in the market for a Spanish horror anthology with some real bite to it you’d be better served sinking your teeth into Mexico Barbaro instead.
Availability: Widely Available
Available on multiple streaming platforms to rent or buy as of streaming debut in February 2023.