RLJ Entertainment // 2013 // 82 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker // October 26th, 2013
Send out the clown.
It should go without saying, but I have to say it anyway: if you're making a direct-to-home video horror movie, don't reference other, better horror movies.
All Hallows' Eve stumbles right out of the gate, giving us a babysitter and two 'tweens watching Night of the Living Dead. Since this is one of the great horror movies of all time, obviously nothing served up here is going to match it, so why trot it out? Simply for nostalgia sake? As All Hallows' Eve unfolded, and the whole thing became more obvious, the occasional cuts to the George A. Romero classic made me long for the days when indie directors were trying new things, not recycling ideas, when they were following a unique vision, not giving an audience what they expected -- and could find in dozens of other, similar movies.
Oh, well, enough of that; back to All Hallows' Eve. The boy tween is going through his trick-or-treat candy when he discovers a VHS tape someone put in his bag. He has no idea how it got there; I have no idea how an 11-year-old would so quickly identify media he's likely never seen, but no matter. Fortunately -- and inexplicably -- the tween's family has a VCR still hooked up to the TV, and after minimal begging, the babysitter agrees to screen the rancid, unmarked tape.
To the surprise of no one -- least of all those who've seen V/H/S or its sequel, V/H/S/2, whose premise this film shamelessly rips off -- the cassette contains horror movies. Cheap, low-budget, not-especially-scary horror movies; well, unless you're an actor in the film playing the babysitter or the tweens, in which case you find these anthology nuggets beyond terrifying, so when the camera cuts to you (a nice way to keep your gore budget down, just cut away during the really yucky parts), you make horrified faces or clutch the person next to you.
Anyway, this being an anthology, there are three short films by director/writer Damien Leone. Two of these -- the first and the third -- involve a clown. Clowns were much scarier before I saw them featured in so many direct-to-homevideo horror movies. Seriously, if I'd seen All Hallows' Eve 15 years ago, I'm sure I would have found the clown here to be scarier; now, not so much. I just feel I've been clowned to death. If this makes me jaded, so be it, but even with my jaundiced take on clowns, there's not a lot to see here. The first and third films -- which as I'm writing this are viewable on YouTube, and are called, respectively, The 9th Circle and Terrifier -- involve the "scary" clown; in one, he clumsily kidnaps a young woman, to whom terrible (and terribly low-budget looking) things happen; in the other, he pursues a woman, to whom terrible (and terribly low-budget looking) things happen. Both these films go on too long, and suffer the expected setbacks -- unimaginative writing, uninspired acting, and tacky effects being the chief complaints.
But the third one, Terrifier, at least, isn't without interest. It goes on way too long, but Leone does build some suspense. It's really too bad that, like most indie horror-schlockers, he falls back so much on cheap and obvious gore effects. Seriously, severed heads? Mannequin limbs being chopped up? It's so 1989 camcorder.
The second episode is just downright silly. Maybe it's supposed to be; I can't imagine anyone taking it seriously, particularly after "the villain" turns up. It's another woman in peril, and the clown isn't a part of it, though Leone throws in some nonsense at the end of the segment to involve the clown. Evidently, this segment was made with the finished three-part film in mind.
Since we keep cutting back to the "terrified" babysitter, it's clear that this is all somehow going to end up on her lap, and it does, with a finale that has a little bit of creepy promise until Leone goes crazy with the red paint and renders it just another bad gore effect.
There's some promise here; Leone is clearly going for the classic '80s-style slasher/horror, and he follows the playbook well. But nothing distinguishes these films from the glut of low-budget horrors already out there.
The films have a deliberately scratchy and specked "film look," but beyond that, the transfer is fine, as is the audio. The lone supplement is a commentary with Leone and Mike Gianelli, who plays the clown.
It's not a bad film, especially, just not a particularly good or memorable one. Rather than heralding an exciting new talent, All Hallows' Eve ends up hollow, a pseudo-scary paint-by-numbers project. Worth a look if your cable is out and you've exhausted Netflix and Redbox.
Review content copyright © 2013 Tom Becker; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: RLJ Entertainment
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 82 Minutes
Release Year: 2013
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* IMDb: All Hallows' Eve
* IMDb: Terrifier
* IMDb: The 9th Circle
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