All Hallow’s Eve (2013)
★★ / ★★★★
Damien Leon’s directorial debut is a mixed bag because it requires viewers to wait more than an hour before we are handed what we signed up for: a gory, suspenseful, and genuinely scary experience in which images are strong enough to embed themselves in the mind. “All Hallow’s Eve” is an anthology composed of three shorts and a wraparound. The segment that binds all three is straightforward but it gets the job done: Sarah (Katie Maguire) babysits two children (Sydney Freihofer, Cole Mathewson) during Halloween night. One of them finds an unmarked VHS tape in his candy bag. Despite initial reluctance—after all, the tape might have come from a pervert—the trio decide to watch it.
The first involves a woman (Kayla Lian) who comes across a clown while waiting for a train. It is a typical meet-creep: he gets her attention without saying a word, terrorizes her, drugs her, and kidnaps her. Soon she wakes up in front of two women who are also kidnaped by Art the Clown (Mike Giannelli). Although the situational horror is present, it lacks a dramatic punch. Aside from the clown who always smiles, the images are unmemorable and nondescript; it does not help that the lead’s performance is one-note. The character’s will to survive is not strong and so when it is time to escape, there is a glaring lack of tension.
As the first story unfolds, we get occasional cuts to Sarah, Tia, and Timmy’s expressions. There is a curiosity: Sarah and Tia flinch at the sight of slightest violence. Timmy, on the other hand, is unperturbed. In fact, he smiles at the images, almost nourished by it. We ask ourselves whether this is simply a boy enjoying something what is typically considered to be taboo in a white, suburban household or is this a hint of a possible psychopathy? We wait for an answer. This interesting angle is dropped the moment the segment ends.
The second chapter is bizarre but ultimately unmemorable. Caroline (Catherine A. Callahan) is ecstatic that she had finally moved to countryside. The city has been too much for her—too busy, too noisy, too much crime. She relishes the silence. But a strange occurrence: something crashes in the backyard. Electricity shuts off. The phone stops working. Panic-stricken, Caroline runs to the car to escape. The car fails to start. She heads back to the house and a typical chase occurs. It looks as though the antagonist’s costume has been purchased from Wal-Mart or Target; it is laughably unconvincing. This should have been the segment that excels in atmosphere, lighting, and shadows—anything to hide the cheapness of the suit.
The third—and best—segment involves an unnamed woman (Marie Maser) who makes a stop at a gas station. She stops on her tracks when she notices Art the Clown being kicked out from the establishment by the attendant. It appears as though the naughty man (or woman) in costume has smeared excrement all over the bathroom walls. Art the Clown looks back at her. This section is so unrelenting in its violence that your eyes widen like dinner plates. Sure, our heroine makes stupid decisions—like getting out of the car in the middle of chase for no good reason—but these can be overlooked because it is one shocker after another. All the while we get glimpses of Art the Clown’s expressions. This is all a big joke to him (or her).
No cop was harmed in the making of this film because not one bothers to show up in any of the segments. There is not a single gunshot either. I enjoyed the old school feel surrounding this anthology. Had it reached high points sooner, it might have been a different breed altogether. The picture ends with the conclusion of the babysitter’s storyline. The conclusion is expected, but it shocks anyway due to its extreme nature. I appreciated that it went there… although I suspect it may be too much for some.