“ALL HALLOWS’ EVE” (DVD Review)
Constructed of footage shot as far back as 2004 on a variety of different mediums and cameras, ALL HALLOWS’ EVE (now on DVD and VOD from Image Entertainment) is an anthology film showcasing the work of writer/director Damien Leone. Despite often feeling without purpose aside from being a potentially entertaining dark accompaniment to drug use, ALL HALLOWS’ EVE is kind of awesome. At just 80 minutes, it never really has the time to become boring, and Leone and his crew have been productive; there’s an impressive amount of weird happening in this little Frankenstein monster of a movie.
It opens with a babysitter (Katie Maguire) and the two kids (Sydney Freihofer and Cole Mathewson) she has been hired to chaperone on Halloween sorting through their trick-or-treating loot and discovering an unlabeled VHS tape that has been slipped into one of their bags. They switch off the public-domain NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD that they’ve been casually watching on TV (eyeroll) to investigate the cassette’s contents, and it turns out to contain a series of bizarre and graphic stories with the recurring image of a disturbed clown (Mike Giannelli).
The film seems to derive as much as possible from other popular horror anthologies without really justifying the borrowed plot devices: It takes place on Halloween, the kids are trick-or-treaters, the stories are presented on a mysterious VHS tape. Yet this doesn’t play as intentional robbery, since this omnibus was pieced together out of necessity. The creators aren’t telling a connected series of stories here, and thus ALL HALLOWS’ EVE fails as an anthology; nevertheless, for some reason, it really works as a horror film.
The first story was shot on 35mm (what? why? how?) in 2006. It makes absolutely no sense and, when paired with the absurd framing device, rockets past the level of annoyingly illogical and directly into the realm of off-puttingly surreal. It does, however, feature my number-one sex fantasy: copulating with Satan. The second entry is the last one shot by the filmmaking team, and the least suited to the film; it’s a science fiction tale in which aliens invade a woman’s house. The only redeeming part of this short is the alien itself, an awesome monster that looks like something out of Whitley Strieber’s COMMUNION. It’s both hysterical and unearthly; sadly, the story showcasing this creature is inexcusably uninteresting.
The third segment is when the clown really gets to shine, which is what you’ve been waiting for since his introduction, and it’s easily the best of the three. The image of a creepy clown dripping in blood and brandishing a hacksaw is what gorehounds want in a film, and this sure does deliver. The narrative works as well; the clown stalks and terrorizes a young woman who has gotten lost driving home. This segment is inventive, scary and disgustingly gory.
Leone did his own special FX, and he’s pretty damn good at them. ALL HALLOWS’ EVE is full of strange characters and creatures that are quite a pleasure to look at, whether or not their existence makes any sense in the narrative—which is especially true of the first story. Despite its lackluster moments, the movie keeps providing that familiar yet rarely occurring twinge of fear. Maybe it’s a result of the lack of rules set forth, or perhaps the bizarrely structuralist device of the horror existing only through the tape media. The goofy clown worked, and even when I fully expected to see him, he still alarmed me. I can’t explain it; there’s something legitimately creepy about this movie.
The DVD’s only special feature is a commentary by Leone and clown actor Giannelli, and it’s fantastically entertaining, since these two dudes are good friends from Staten Island who have been working together on movies for a long time. They have the strongest New York accents and keep making each other laugh and playing off each other, which adds up to a great listen. And even though its namesake holiday is past, ALL HALLOWS’ EVE makes for a pretty good watch.