Since 2009’s Trick R Treat, horror audiences have been treated to a resurgence of anthology movies. V/H/S and it’s superior sequel were successful movies, and a breath of fresh air from the Paranormal Activity movies dominating theaters every year. The anthology format serves horror well. Where several horror movies struggle to pack 90 minutes with scares, segments in a horror anthology can back out to the frame story before tension wavers. Even a weak segment reaps the benefits of a mostly successful group of shorts. When the work is cohesive and the scares are quick and fun, anthologies thrive.
All Hallows’ Eve, written and directed by Damien Leone, thrives…mostly. Three horror vignettes are wrapped in a frame story set on Halloween night. There are some successful scares, and Art the Clown becomes an instant classic horror icon. The last segment is one of the best 30 minutes of horror in several years, but I can’t help but feel like the rest of the movie was an afterthought. An interview with Leone from Examiner confirmed my instincts. The third segment was finished (and even had a name, Terrifier) several years before All Hallows’ Eve was created. Saving this particular segment for last was wise, but taken as a whole, the movie seems disjointed and the Halloween frame story gimmicky.
The movie begins post trick-or-treating on Halloween night. Sarah (Katie Maguire) is babysitting young Timmy (Cole Mathewson) and Tia (Sydney Freihofer). In Timmy’s bag, the trio notice a tape. After a bit of disagreement, they decide to watch the tape.
The first segment is a short horror snapshot with very little consequence. We’re introduced to a woman on Halloween who is having trouble getting into the spirit when she is kidnapped by Art the Clown in a train station. From there, we see witches, some sort of devil or demon, and a new baby sacrifice. There are several jarring images, but the short reeks of a college freshman film school project.
While we might not find segment one very scary, Sarah the babysitter has had enough and sends the kids to bed. Shortly after, she decides to watch more of the tape.
The second segment feels like an homage to b-movie alien movies. A woman is home alone when the lights go out and creepy things start to happen. We soon realize aliens are in the house. On a shoestring budget, the alien costumes can be quite silly, but the segment still manages a few jump scares. In the bigger picture, however, the segment has nothing to do with the other two. We see Art the Clown’s face in a painting, but it’s clear that this segment is a space filler.
It’s fine though, because we need a breather before the third segment. I’ll keep the details minimal, but the segment focuses on a woman being pursued relentlessly by the maniacal Art. The cinematography switches to a grindhouse style, which I found to be a nice touch.
By the third segment of the movie, the tension has escalated in the frame story, and we get two payoffs in a span of only a few minutes. The movie ends strongly, but again, I’m left to wonder if an extended third segment wouldn’t have made for a better movie. All Hallows’ Eve works because of Terrifier. It’s scary, relentless and taught the way good horror should be. Unfortunately the other tacked-on segments suffer.
If you’re in the mood for another great anthology to put you in the Halloween mood a la Trick R Treat, All Hallows’ Eve is not it. But if you’re looking for another great horror villain Art the Clown is a great addition to the canon. Come to support indie horror, stay for Terrifier.