Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #288
Number of Views: One
Release Date: October 29, 2013
Sub-Genre: Horror Anthology
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 83 minutes
Director: Damien Leone
Producer: Jesse Baget, Gary LoSavio, Lisandro Novillo
Screenplay: Damien Leone
Special Effects: Damien Leone
Cinematography: Christopher Cafaro, C.J. Eadicicco, George Steuber, Marvin Suarez
Score: Noir Deco
Editing: Damien Leone
Studio: Ruthless Pictures
Distributor: Maritim Pictures (Germany)
Stars: Katie Maguire, Mike Giannelli, Catherine A. Callahan, Marie Maser, Kayla Lian, Cole Mathewson, Sydney Freihofer, Jennifer Castellano, Michael Chmiel, Brandon deSpain, Eric Diez, Robyn Kerr, Steven Mancuso, Daniel Rodas, Marc Romano, Minna Taylor, Marissa Wolf
Suggested Audio Candy
 Noir Deco “All Hallow’s Eve”
 Noir Deco “Are Monsters Real”
I have made an executive decision that this year there are to be two Halloweens. Hopefully I won’t incite the wrath of Samhain for meddling with the calendar but, after watching the movie I’m about to wax about, there is simply no other way. Alas, I missed the cut with this little independent gem by a meager handful of days and those pumpkins have begun to smell like diapers full of ear wax by now but, whether it’s October 31st, Christmas Eve or April fucking Fool’s Day, this movie deserves to be viewed. We are talking lights off, sound maxed out, and all available exits obstructed. Your rewards will be vast; 83 minutes of breathless eighties-infused anthology madness which can proudly stand just shy of the very best of ’em. Films such as Damien Leone’s All Hallow’s Eve are the reason I took this gig in the first place; spreading awareness of projects deserving that extra foot up that could easily end up overlooked. Not on Keeper’s watch they don’t!
Leone has arrived and astonishingly very few people are yet aware of what he is packing behind that lens, those eyes, that frontal lobe. Allow me to enlighten some. He is evidently a seventies/eighties aficionado like myself; indeed his inspirations include John Carpenter and Tangerine Dream to name just an illustrious brace. It is totally evident in every last frame of his film and, for any fans of the epoch, that will likely have you salivating where you’re seated. If you need further convincing then how about these pumpkins…somebody, likely a clown, has clearly whispered the magic secret of how to evoke fear and desperation from your addressee into his ear and he took heed of every word. The result is a gloriously inventive, often and increasingly mean-spirited little three-piece with a delicious wraparound that exposes some of our darkest fears and gnaws away at our wits like feverish vermin until our very last nerve has fragmented.
All Hallow’s Eve was preceded by Terrifier, a stunning twenty-minute short from 2011 which showcased Leone’s aptitude for visceral horror exquisitely. Clearly he was aware that he was onto something, thus the entire short forms one-third of the framework here. It’s a wise move, so long as you can manage to repeat the feat a further two times and Leone does exactly that. All three segments, which curiously include footage shot ten years ago, hone in on what gets under our skin and there isn’t a slack link in the chain. It would have been easy for one vignette to fall short of the lofty mark Leone sets himself within the first five minutes as anthologies are notoriously hard to pull off with any sort of conviction but he does so with considerable aplomb. When you consider that this is his first full length feature that is quite a staggering achievement.
Those searching for originality are looking in all the wrong places as they won’t be finding it here. The overarching story focuses on babysitter Sarah (the excellent Katie Maguire) and her two spirited ankle-biters Timmy and Tia (Sydney Freihofer and Cole Mathewson) who, upon finding an ominous VHS cassette stashed in the kids’ trick or treat bag and against Sarah’s better judgement, undertake an impromptu viewing in keeping with the festivities. Naturally, our shepherd scopes the tape out first just to ensure there are no fallen choir girls, sex aids or farmyard animals but, after discovering it only consists of some good old-fashioned exploitation, decides to air against the side of caution and we’re just darned thankful that she does. None of the three short films are interconnected per se although they do share one particular common thread… that being, folk suffer.
Anybody who reads my work will already be aware that I have something of a thing for clowns. When used the right way there are few more malignant performers and Leone understands this; grasping every last one of our securities and milking them for dear life with both remarkable restraint and just the right quota of spiraling dread. He kills the lights, takes our hand, and marches us to their murkiest crawlspaces, where he hints at even darker forces of evil just enough to deplete a little more oxygen from our lungs. His set up is steady and controlled although he also isn’t afraid to raise the bar ad hoc and punctuate the deadly quietude with acts of coarse brutality. By the time the tape has unspooled to the third parable he lets his beast off the chain and we really see the meanness of spirit which separates the men from the boys in these situations.
Leone manages a feat throughout by bending certain anthology rules which allow this to work more as a horror movie first and compendium second-most. Three times we are transported to a film within a film and they all work on their own exclusive merits, each embracing its individuality while remaining consistent with its tone. Each has a nightmarish quality, offers precious little respite for its protagonists, and has a delicious little sting in its tale. That is all you really need to know to venture forth into All Hallow’s Eve and take your candy; individual synopsis for each vignette would prove fruitless as you’re best under-prepared upon commencement. Don’t question certain implausibilities or act incredulously towards the dialogue as Leone has no intention of ramming his forearm up Jane Austen’s petticoat. There’s no great science here, just understanding of all three of its components. Biology through implementation, Physics through augmentation, Chemistry through transfusion of terror. Give this man a Pulitzer.
While you’re at it, save a prize for Noir Deco. The words “synthesized” and “electronic” sit rather well with Keeper when it comes to ominous constricting audio and each bite of sound here is both on-key and supremely suited to its visual cohort. Since each of the three parts has its own exclusive style, this fluctuates from pulsing and sparsely implemented to edgy, industrial and intrusive, but it works without exception. The bridge piece in particular plunges us into virtual blackness and, by revealing as much to the audience as it does to its hapless quarry, it makes it all the more mortifying. By the time we reach the ultimate kicker those clown shoes sure do leave a bruise as our perceptions are challenged with no shortage of finesse. Any potential pitfalls are averted and All Hallow’s Eve finishes with an impish flourish.
Damien Leone is a name that I have no doubt we will be spending time with in the coming years. To my knowledge his macabre collection has only found distribution in Germany and this dumbfounds me infinitely. It is time to spread the love and awareness for All Hallow’s Eve as horror can often lose sight of what makes it so in the first place and we all need reminders from time to time that…bottom line…we just want our bladders tested. Is it a bona-fide classic? Not quite but never say never. Leone’s film needs a few years to gestate in our thoughts before it could be considered of elite status. I’m content in the knowledge that it falls marginally short as it makes the next proposition from this gifted young director a mouth-watering one. Halloween may well have come and passed for another year but that’s no reason not to begin planning ahead for next October. Just wish I had a DeLorean.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10
Grue Factor: 4/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: Leone is something of a one-man-band and this impressive résumé includes exemplary special make-up effects which, considering much of the content is ten years old, makes them all the more awarding of plaudits. Sporadic with its violence as fear is key and bloodshed need only be sparingly to gain maximize impact. When the marinara starts gushing, it does so from crudely hack-sawed appendages, and he isn’t afraid to get amongst the gristle. Throw in a little pagan molestation, an everything-must-go womb-sale, and some interesting new lines in body modification and I’d say you’ll be getting your fill.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
© Copyright: Rivers of Grue™ Shadow Spark Publishing™