All Hallows' Eve (DVD)
Directed by Damien Leone
Distributed by Image Entertainment
Two years ago Damien Leone unleashed Terrifier, a brutally violent and dark short film wherein a demented clown stalks a poor young girl after she witnesses a murder at a gas station. Simple and brutal, it introduced the world to Leone’s skills as a writer, director, editor, and perhaps most importantly, special effects, for which he’s most well-known. The star of the short was undoubtedly Art the Clown, played by Mike Giannelli, who delivered one of the most unsettling performances in recent memory, leaving us (well, me) wondering if he would return in a feature of his own.
He does, but in a roundabout way. Taking a cue from Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat, Leone’s All Hallows' Eve is an anthology of sorts, with Art the Clown serving as the link between a series of stories foisted upon an unwilling babysitter named Sarah. Forced to spend Halloween watching after a pair of precocious youngsters, her night takes a decidedly twisted turn as she’s compelled to watch a mysterious videotape slipped into Timmy’s trick ‘r treat bag, the contents of which become more unsettling with each passing scene. The first follows a young woman drugged by Art, eventually waking up chained to a series of pipes in an underground sewer and faced with demonic entities; the second follows a woman stalked by an alien in her new home; and finally, Leone’s original short film Terrifier rounds things out before quickly segueing into a night of horror for the poor babysitter as Art quickly begins to work his way into Sarah’s reality.
Sadly, Art’s involvement with each is too tenuous to serve as an adequate through line. This is mainly the case with the middle segment, wherein Art only appears in passing as a painting; it seems pigeonholed, as if Leone needed something to justify making this an anthology. Furthermore, the tone of the three shorts vary wildly, with Terrifier remaining intact from its days as a short film, employing a grindhouse aesthetic that isn’t seen anywhere else in the movie. Each short is effective on its own, but as an anthology, it almost seems as if Leone rushed too quickly into the film.
To keep things grounded in the presumed real world, the film frequently shows Sarah watching the tape, reacting to the events as they unfold. After putting the kids to bed, she resumes watching, albeit with some reluctance, all while strange occurrences begin to rattle her nerves. It’s effective, and prevents the film from being nothing more than a mishmash of short films that have a vague connection to each other. Although not getting his due until the final third of the film, the star of the show is Art the Clown, to whom Giannelli brings a sort of demented glee to the character that’s destined to instill a deep seated fear of clowns in more susceptible viewers. He never utters a word, preferring to scare you shitless through facial expressions, an exceptionally sinister and black-toothed smile, and silent laughter. It’s the type of character that could, had Leone focused on constructing a story around him, rather than using him as a catalyst for a series of shorts, be destined to become a horror icon.
Through all of its flaws, however, All Hallows’ Eve shows tremendous talent both in front of and behind the camera. Leone is a superb effects artist, and while it’s not a perfect film, it hints at a promising future for Leone and, if we’re lucky, Art the Clown.
3 1/2 out of 5