Portmanteau-a-go-go #31 – All Hallow’s Eve

All Hallow’s Eve is a 2013 anthology that is quite unusual in that all of it was written and directed by one person, Damien Leone, and while it is still a collection of shorts, having it one man behind it does give the film a little more consistency than the typical portmanteau.

This is partly down to the linking story that wraps it all together but also because of the appearance of Art, a clown that would happily go toe to toe with Pennywise, in all three of All Hallow’s Eve’s stories

It all starts on Halloween.  Sarah (Katie Maguire) is babysitting a couple of precocious kids, Tia and Timmy.  Between the usual arguments about how late they can stay up and what they can watch, Timmy discovers a VHS tape in his bag of trick or treat candy.

Ignoring the fact that this film is set in the modern day (they have smartphones) and yet the house has a VHS player, Sarah initially decides, quite sensibly, that maybe watching an unlabelled videotape from a mystery source is a terrible idea but somehow the three of them start watching it.

The first story uses footage from the director’s previous short The 9th Circle.  A woman is waiting at a bus station when she spots Art the Clown who creeps her out significantly before drugged her.  She wakes up in a tunnel with a chain down around her neck and two other woman in the same situation.

They tell her that another woman was with them but got dragged away (by the chain) down the tunnel.  She decides their chances of survival would be aided by investigating what’s down there rather than wait around to be pulled, neck first, to their dooms.

What she finds is pretty disturbing and the story takes a rather unpleasant direction at this point.  The rather poor make up, masks and costumes do detract a little from the scares but equally the imagery it leaves you with makes you question if you want to continue or not.  Either way the acting, and general quality, of this section of the film isn’t great.

Sarah at this point decides that no fucking way are these kids watching any more of the film and sends them off to bed.  After a bit of protestation, and a call to a friend of hers, she decides to watch the next story.

This one is quite different.  A woman has left the city to move into a big house in the country with her husband.  He’s away and she’s unpacking while talking to a friend.  There’s a little bit of early preamble about the husband painting something during a trance but it is glossed over.

A little while later she is looking out of a window when a light flies towards the house.  This knocks out the power and while she is figuring out what is going on, she realises she isn’t alone.  Rather wisely she decides to get in the car and escape but that’s dead and she then spends the rest of this story whimpering, sobbing or shrieking.

You’ll probably be laughing though when you see the alien that is stalking her.  It’s some proper 1950s sci-fi bullshit.  Just a guy in an alien suit moving his arms in a stupid way as he moves.  It’s laughably bad.

I won’t spoil the ending any more than this segment helps spoil the film.  But the woman in it does reasonably well when it comes to conveying being scared.  Art the Clown makes a tiny cameo in this story, linking everything together but ultimately this tale feels at odds with the rest of the film.

So we’re back to seeing how Sarah is doing.  She sees some movement in the house and goes to check on the kids who are both in bed.  They’re creeped out because of some noise and have decided to stay together in Timmy’s room.  It’s quite worrying when they tell Sarah to stop checking in on them which she hasn’t been because she’s been watching the video.  Uh oh.

Despite saying “what is this shit?  Why am I even watching it?” she decides to go back to the VHS to watch the third and final tale.   This one is based on the director’s 2011 short ‘Terrifier’ which has since been turned into a full-length feature and features that classic portmanteau story about a woman running low on gas and running into a maniac in a gas station.

Of course this time the maniac is Art the Clown and he really sets the bar for bastard clowns everywhere as he engages with this film’s third unlucky female lead in a game of cat and mouse.

This story opts for a tacky grindhouse filter on the visuals which detracts from the story which is probably the most hardcore version of this type of story that we’ve seen.  The ending is beyond unpleasant with Art’s reaction to it all adding somewhat to the effect.  Again, the acting and production values aren’t great but it’s a pretty dark tale that is reasonably well told.

We could have done without the visuals the story left us with but that’s horror for you.

The film then goes back to Sarah and the kids.  We won’t spoil it here but the pay off is definitely worthwhile if you’re into big horror moments and the post-credits sequence had hiding behind the sofa blanket that I reserve only for the creepiest parts of horror films.

So here’s the thing about this portmanteau.  The three stories on offer are pretty average but the linking story itself is far better than all of them.  Katie Maguire puts in a great performance as Sarah and there is a lot more time given to this part of the film than you usually get in a horror anthology.

It has the biggest scares, the biggest payoff and links into the third story in a brilliant way which is definitely something we like to see in our portmanteaus.  So while the film is hard to recommend in terms of its segment stories, overall it’s well worth a look.  Especially if you’ve got an appetite for some shameless gore.

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