Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #505
Number of Views: One
Release Date: October 6, 2015
Sub-Genre: Horror Anthology
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 91 minutes
Special Effects: Various
Studios: Hollywood Shorts, Ruthless Pictures
Distributor: RLJ Entertainment
Stars: Andrea Monier, Damien Monier, Landon Ackerman, Helen Rogers, Christie Lynn Smith, April Adamson, Emily Alatalo, Steve Anderson Jr., Ron Basch, Bill Oberst Jr., Sergio Berón, Pilar Boyle, Paula Carruega, Alastair Forbes, Griffin Gluck, Jake Goodman, Bob Jaffe, Finn Kobler, Patrick Logothetti, Brian Majestic, James Markidis, Robert McLaughlin, Jonathan Nation, Julian Richings, Tyler Rossell, Carrie Seim, Reno Selmser, Michael Serrato, Jared Mark Smith
Suggested Audio Candy:
Noir Deco All Hallow’s Eve
Sometimes I wonder whether I’m watching an entirely different cut of a film to the rest of the world. Damien Leone’s All Hallow’s Eve was one such movie. I watched it with no real sense of anticipation, expecting just another par for the course anthology, which I would forget the moment the end credits rolled. Imagine my surprise then when it turned out to be an absolute delight. Leone’s film may not have been big, nor clever, but he adhered to the fundamentals of a piece of entertainment which focuses on the season of good chills. That’s right, he made it scary. Not sleepless nights scary or enough to make you sleep with a bedpan scary, but certainly a dash unsettled. Comprising three wonderfully mean-spirited tales of terror and a deliciously engaging wraparound, it hit the spot decidedly well.
The stars were evidently aligned for Leone and there were numerous other reasons why his anthology stood out from the crowd. Katie Maguire’s Sarah made for a wonderful hostess, the synthesized score from Noir Deco still jingles on incessant loop in my head a year later, and it featured a rather dubious clown by the name of Art, the likes of which are the whole reason I avoid the big top in the first place. However, astonishingly my view was not widely shared and when All Hallow’s Eve 2 suddenly appeared out of nowhere, I could barely believe what I was reading. The general consensus for the sequel is that, whilst not exactly great, it is a far cry better than the original and addressees many of its glaring problems. Had I watched the wrong movie? Perhaps Art had slid the wrong VHS into my toploader last October 31st?
It appears not. For some inexplicable reason, Leone’s film was met by a wave of indifference and that truly saddens my soul. Mercifully, he is currently working on a full-length version of his 2011 short Terrifier, for which All Hallow’s Eve derived its inspiration, with none other than Maguire as its leading lady. However, other than being named as one of numerous producers for the second outing, he has seemed happy to outsource the project and allow others to carve their own pumpkins. Warning signs rang out in my head as different personnel would invariably harm the overall vibe and, even more worryingly, this time there are eight segments crammed into its slender running time.
Before we proceed any further, allow me to make something abundantly clear. It would appear that I am in the minority with regards to All Hallow’s Eve so, whatever judgement its sequel receives, chances are I’ll be dining alone. I would suggest exploring yourselves unless, per chance, you actually agree that the first film rocked like an upside down budgerigar. If, like me, you hold it in high regard then hang from the next 1000 words or so as though your life depends on it as it is likely that you will share my sentiment. Other than that, what the hell do I know anyhoots?
Starting with Jesse Baget’s wraparound, a wave of consternation hit me instantaneously which you would expect to be a good thing right? Alas no, my dread was not on account of the pumpkin headed prowler making his presence felt from the shadows but, instead, fear that the basics are unlikely to be adhered to. While admittedly the original did nothing more inventive than laying the tracks for what followed, I was invested long before the first short introduced itself. This is a strictly bare bones affair and, as much as it pains me to say it, one of the least inspired openings I have been exposed to in recent times. It wants to be scary, truly it does. Baget’s direction is sound and the new killer has his sideways stare down to pat; but it comes across seeming something of an afterthought. Not the best start then.
Things can only get better right? So you would think and Bryan Norton and Antonio Padovan look to be getting us back on track with Jack Attack whetting our appetites with a pumpkin carving exercise turned awry. However, for as much meanness of spirit as it exhibits, it isn’t enough to convince and we are promptly ushered on towards Marc Roussel’s The Last Halloween. This time we are going door-to-door alongside four young trick-or-treaters in their search for candies. Despite a wonderfully demented turn from a pox-ridden Julian Richings and some suitably moody photography, I still wasn’t yet feeling it. Next up is Ryan Patch’s The Offering and it is here that I began to lose a little heart. While it looks and feels substantial, it just feels like you are watching a trailer for something bigger. Three segments in and Def Con 5 was looming.
Jay Holben’s Descent begins to save face with its intriguing set-up of a woman stranded in a faulty elevator with a man she has the worst kind of past experience with, and some reasonably upstanding implementation. James & Jon Kondelik’s M is For Masochist was originally entered as part of The True ABCs of Death 2 and who better than Bill Oberst Jr. to get the show on the road. He is predictably awesome but his carnival is over so prematurely that it hardly seems as though it warrants a place here. Suddenly the penny dropped. There isn’t anything wrong with the shorts themselves per se, what has been regrettably compromised is the overall aura of the original. Nothing feels quite grimy enough.
We then follow-up our briefest entry with the longest. Elias Benavidez’s A Boy’s Life is incredibly well-played and appears to be spinning a yarn from The Babadook‘s excess patchwork but lets itself down badly with a hokey conclusion. Again, a few minutes doesn’t feel long enough. Mike Kochansky’s Mr. Tricker’s Treat is a novel inclusion, if only for its hilarious dismantlement of a chirpy flower fairy but ultimately all signs are leading to nowhere once again. Finally, Argentinian director Andrés Borghi steps into the fray with Alexia and delivers the belter I had been crying out for. Using social networking as its vessel, then cutting and pasting with Ringu, works wonders and this glorious segment stands out like a turd in a punch bowl, only minus the peanuts.
So here’s my issue with All Hallow’s Eve 2 as, should I be required to criticize then I will damned well do so constructively. Here is a collection of shorts, all of which have merit, bound together with the most flimsy of ribbons and presented as more of the same. The problem is that the original was more than simply more of the same, at least to me. It is nigh-on impossible for expectation not to play its hand in such cases and I refuse to be too damning in my overall judgement. As an anthology, it gets her done and delivers a few rancid candies along the way. But the exclusive feel of Leone’s forerunner is lacking and, hard as I try, I just can’t shake that overriding feeling of disappointment.
This is where it gets tricky Grueheads. Having just shot a one-minute short for upcoming horror compendium, 60 Seconds To Die, I know how difficult it can be to express feed but it is possible. The likes of The ABC of Death work best as a catalogue for you to peruse at your leisure and 26 seems to be a magic number. I believe there is a medium to be struck and eight slices of pumpkin pie and an anaemic appetizer is neither here, nor sadly there. Having said that, I currently await my first viewing of Tales of Halloween and all omens are decidedly positive there. I’m hopeful that there, in such capable hands, the correct balance will be struck. Here is my quandary with All Hallow’s Eve 2. It falters on the most rudimentary of mission briefs and that makes it a trick in my book.
Individual Judgements (out of five stars)
Jack Attack ★★★
The Last Halloween ★★★
The Offering ★★★
M is For Masochist ★★★
A Boy’s Life ★★★
Mr. Tricker’s Treat ★★★
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 6/10
Grue Factor: 2/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: A strong start with a nice dash of human harvesting gives way to slim pickings on the splatter front. A dash of deep red here and there doesn’t place All Hallow’s Eve 2 in the same playground as its predecessor and it has to be content with some suitably grotesque make-up to make its point.
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