All Hallow's Eve 2
A woman finds a VHS tape on her doorstep that shows a series of gruesome tales that could be real. But the true danger is the pumpkin-faced killer that's using the tape to find his next victim.
Christie Lynn Smith
I didn’t see the original, and as it turns out, I didn’t need to. But, based on the success of All Hallow’s Eve 2, I’ll be taking a detour from my reviewing queue and checking it out. This sequel is a short movie marathon in a can.
That’s what I’ll call this particular film collection. It’s a pretty ingenious advent in the way of anthology films. Take a bunch of successful festival darlings – winners and standouts in the short film categories from as far back as 2004 – and throw them into the mix as one feature film.
A private film festival in your own living room. Genius.
In All Hallow’s Eve 2, we’re given one all-encompassing story, as Andrea Monier, playing an unnamed woman with no plans on Halloween night, other than to play a Ouija board alone, is given a banged-up VHS tape by a pumpkin-masked stranger. With no concern for her safety, or for the fact that this weird dude was in her apartment building (heck, it’s Halloween, right?), she pops in the tape and is treated (tricked) with 8 terrific tales of various spooky situations – some Halloween-related, others just basic scary movie material.
I’ll discuss each piece separately. And the order I’m placing the pieces, is not how they appeared in the film – they’re in order of preference.
A Boy’s Life directed by Elias Benavidez
In what is certainly the strongest piece – thematically and dramatically – widow Loraine (the completely fantastic Christie Lynn Smith) and her emotionally struggling son Max (the equally amazing Griffin Gluck) deal with not only the recent loss of their husband/father – an armed services veteran – but also the ongoing belief on the part of Max that there are monsters roaming his room every night. There are things which will remind you of The Babadook, and like that instant classic, at the center of A Boy’s Life is this strong, but strained relationship as the two characters try to understand one another again – in light of their recent tragedy. But of course, this is a horror film, so family drama will eventually be put aside in favor of some shock value. Performance is king in this piece.
Alexia directed by Andres Borghi
The scariest piece in this whole mix, follows the online habits of Franco (Sergio Beron). He’s starting to get over the death of his girlfriend, Alexia (Pilar Boyle), and has begun a new relationship with Melina (Paula Carruega). And he’s even taken to removing Alexia from his friends list on social media. But Alexia has other plans. Grotesque make-up effects, atmosphere for days and plenty of great scares (in the vein of The Grudge) get Alexia into an easy second place.
Jack Attack directed by Bryan Norton and Antonio Padovan
It’s Halloween night, and babysitter Elizabeth (Helen Rogers) is carving out a jack-o-lantern with her young ward, Jack (Tyler Rossell). When they are finished mutilating the unsuspecting pumpkin (pulling out its “brains”, per little Jack) Elizabeth roasts the seeds. And when Elizabeth, Jack and the nosy household pup take to eating the warm treats, well – the pumpkin will have its revenge. Really fun visual effects and over-the-top grossness in a compact and short package, makes Jack Attack a real bite-sized treat (ahem).
Descent directed by Jay Holben
Andrea (April Adamson) goes to her friend’s home, after said friend neglects to show up at their usual bar for their usual evening out. She finds her friend murdered and the killer still inside the apartment. Andrea survives the ordeal, when the killer vacates the premises. Flash forward six years, and a paranoid (can you blame her?) Andrea is working late in her deserted, high rise office building. As she descends in the elevator to head home, someone else boards a few floors down. Guess who? A really tremendous performance from Adamson is what anchors this fun film with an unexpected twist.
The Offering directed by Ryan Patch.
For this one, I’ll give the award for the most esoteric. A father (Bob Jaffe) and his adult son (Jared Mark Smith) drive a snow-covered and desolate road to reach some sort of altar in the middle of the woods, with the intent to provide a sacrifice at midnight – but they forgot to bring “the meat” portion of the offering. Oops. Performances are both quite solid from the two actors. There’s clearly a creature in the woods, but we don’t know who or what it is, and we never get to see it. Lots of unanswered questions, but a visually stylish and entertaining short.
The Last Halloween directed by Marc Roussel
Takes the old trick-r-treat motif and places it in a post-apocalyptic, infected population type world, as four costumed kids go from door to door asking for their treats. They get a few goodies (a can of food, a dead critter) but one hold out (Ron Basch), with his grieving wife, refuses to offer them anything, and based on what’s beneath those children’s costumes, he’ll wish he had given up something. With some of the best makeup effects in the lot, the ending is a little unclear, but overall, it’s very atmospheric and inspired.
Mr. Tricker’s Treat directed by Mike Kochansky
Mr. Tricker (Michael Serrato) loves decorating for Halloween. This short takes us inside his “workshop”, where he produces life-size (and alive) figures to adorn his front yard. And one of his neighbors Monica (Carrie Seim) certainly loves the dedication to his craft and the holiday. Super short piece, but lots of fun and a lot of laughs. Carrie Seim as the happy, valley-girl-esque neighbor in the fairy wings makes the whole short worthwhile.
M is for Masochist directed by James Kondelik and Jon Kondelik
While still a great piece with a terrific reveal, I thought this was the least of the shorts included. Starring indie horror king Bill Oberst, Jr. as a sideshow barker, this is a quick and fun look at three young kids testing their skills at a carnival game — throwing sharp objects at a “masochist” who is bound and gagged on a spinning wheel. Oberst delivers his usual greatness and this piece has the most pleasing use of the common horror anthology theme; “comeuppance”.
And despite the fact that all of the short films shown off here are well-curated goodies, the best line of dialogue comes in the wrap-around story. If you watch the film, you’ll wonder, “Who in the heck still has a VHS player?” Well, our lonely Halloween girl tells a friend on the phone (and answers our question), “Are you kidding? Of course I have a VCR. Do you know how much better Texas Chainsaw Massacre looks on VHS than Blu-Ray?” Brilliant and certainly the best justification for owning antique machinery.
All Hallow’s Eve 2 is available on DVD/VOD, and absolutely worth your time. Pop some popcorn, forget that it may not be Halloween season (well, for us horror fans, it always is) and have yourself your very own horror film festival, in the comfort of your favorite zombie jammies and on your own plush sofa. There’s a variety of horror delights to be found here… just don’t accept effed-up VHS tapes from strangers. Then again, you never know what you might find, so have at it!