3 Dead Trick or Treaters
After stumbling upon the graves of three murdered trick or treaters, a small-town paperboy discovers a series of handwritten horror stories tacked to the children's headstones. Penned by a deranged pulp author driven mad by his craft, the stories chronicle grisly tales of Halloween rites, rituals and traditions. Absent of dialogue and heavy on atmosphere, 3 Dead Trick or Treaters is a horror anthology unlike any you've seen before.
Holden Levack, Jeremy Charles Singer, and Raven Cousens
3 Dead Trick or Treaters is a bit of a misleading title as the ultimate body count in this Halloween-themed horror anthology is significantly higher. 3 isn’t even the number of tales contained within this experiment Canadian creeper; it consists of 4 stories plus an equally compelling wrap-around. The most notable element of the film, overall, is the fact that there’s no dialogue, but just noting this aspect can lead to some incorrect preconceptions. There isn’t any dialog, but the film isn’t silent, and the actors aren’t mute. There are screams and grimaces, disembodies voices emanating from behind radio static, or from an antiquated sound system in a dilapidated greasy spoon. There isn’t any dialog, but the film is far from wordless; words are, in fact, incredibly important, be they glimpsed on scraps of cardboard, rejection letters, missing person’s posters, or cell phones.
And if you’re thinking that the absence of dialog means the actors compensated with over-exaggerated facial expressions and/or body movements, you’d be equally incorrect, which illustrates one of the film’s major strengths. The acting and direction are delivered with skillful subtlety and restraint while clearly communicating intentions as well as any scripted speech. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” “This is necessary!” “Don’t worry, kid; you’ll get used to it.” These and many other lines are communicated with eyes and lips instead of tongues and vocal cords. The choice to go dialog-free is a bold move, one likely to alienate those with knee-jerk aversions to experimental and arthouse filmmaking. Still, 3 Dead Trick or Treaters is a successful exercise, one that many established and up-and-coming filmmakers should take note of; it goes beyond “more is less” instead promoting communication on a level that transcends the need for verbal exposition. Bravo.
Official Synopsis: After stumbling upon the graves of three murdered trick or treaters, a small-town paperboy discovers a series of handwritten horror stories tacked to the children’s headstones. Penned by a deranged pulp author driven mad by his craft, the stories chronicle grisly tales of Halloween rites, rituals and traditions. Absent of dialogue and heavy on atmosphere, 3 Dead Trick or Treaters is a horror anthology unlike any you’ve seen before.
3 Dead Trick or Treaters is written, directed, shot, & edited by Torin Langen and stars Holden Levack, Jeremy Charles Singer, and Raven Cousens.
Director’s Statement: 3 Dead Trick or Treaters is a fusion of mood-driven experimental filmmaking and kitsch Halloween imagery. In whole, the project is an expression of isolation and the anxiety that comes with it; characters struggling with morality under horrifying circumstances. This is merged with my love for dime store monster masks, silent storytelling and underground music.
3 Dead Trick or Treaters premiered at last November’s Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival, and is continuing its festival tour next week at San Diego’s Horrible Imaginings Film Festival. In addition to festival screenings, the director has organized a DIY theatrical tour for the film, spanning close to 30 dates around the world. A benefit of having a film with no dialogue is that it can play to any audience, and the tour has even lined up several dates in Asia. [See dates below.]
3 Dead Trick or Treaters manages to engage all the senses, as if the lack of dialog enhances our perceptive capabilities. You can smell the latex rubber of Halloween masks and rotten pumpkins caving in on themselves; you can hear the wind and feel the chill of late autumn on your skin. You can taste the conflicting flavors of candy-corn, red apples, and salty, iron-rich blood in your mouth. While it seems unlikely that the paperboy who links the 4 stories would be an adult, it speaks to the timeless quality of the movie. 3 Dead Trick or Treaters succeeds at taking adults raised on It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown back to our days of youth—and the accompanying susceptibility to terror. Unified by the mind of a psychopath, the disparate stories are further linked by themes of violence, cannibalism, and other deviant behaviors.
Fondue follows some grown-up trick or treaters who crave something more sophisticated than candy on Halloween. The opportunity for a bizarre delicacy requires their participation in a disturbing ritual.
Malleus Maleficarium opens with the passage from Leviticus so often invoked during the Salem Witch Trials, the condemnation of necromancers. We’re privy to a modern family ritual that seeks to eradicate a condemned minority. Strife within a family unit leads to separation and further condemnation in a story that parallels the modern persecution of those who identify LGBTQ. Ultimately, a group is divided among those who have a propensity towards violence, and those who don’t. It’s a poignant and shocking exposition, and this chapter delivers the film’s one, exquisitely delivered jump-scare.
Stash features a trio of homeless 20-somethings who use Halloween and trick or treating as a chance to load up on bags of candy. But like any shared treasure, those with partial ownership of a horde become obsessed with their fair share. Ultimately, they find that candy can satisfy an immediate hunger, but blood offers more significant sustenance, leading to new and disturbing cravings.
Delivery has all the hallmarks of another meditation on cannibalism but actually addresses another, equally shocking taboo.
Bottom Line: 3 Dead Trick or Treaters is a unique anomaly that’s beautiful and macabre in equal measure. Despite being thoroughly experimental in nature, it’s much more accessible than your typical arthouse offering. There’s a retro, indie aesthetic that will speak to fans of 1970s and early 1980s era horror, as well as aficionados of grindhouse and drive-in era splatter fests. The film is a creative and enjoyable experience throughout, a low-budget success-story that has me wondering what these crazy Canadians will offer us next.