A young babysitter (Katie Maguire) on Halloween discovers an unlabeled VHS slipped into one of the kid's trick or treat bags. Hesitant to watch, the contents are reveled to be a horror movie of several stories involving a terrifying clown, but the more she watches the more an intense sense of something unwanted lurking about permeates the house.
Built around two of writer/director Damien Leone's prior shorts, The 9th Circle (2008) and Terrifier (2011), his debut feature All Hallows' Eve might prove the anthology the wisest approach for agreeable indie horror. This kind of storytelling's resurgence in the genre could be indicative of filmmakers realizing the advantages of the format especially when tackling projects on a shoestring. Everything can be streamlined to save precious money, and to the benefit of the viewer, if a particular tale gets stale just wait a few minutes and another will begin.
Although All Hallows' Eve is a bit different since Leone had the ingenious idea of mining a feature through the use of his two already completed shorts. The babysitter wraparound and sci-fi tinged second story are new with the shorts respectively serving as the first and third. Without giving anything away, all three stories are straightforward with understandably little involvement with the wraparound. Due to the meager budget, everything moves with brevity so it's not advised to expect the second coming of Trick 'r Treat (2007). Even Steve Sessions' ultra cheap Cremains (2001) exhibits a greater degree of creativity in each of its yarns. That's not to say they're bad, just nothing new done well enough to hold interest with a surprisingly effective score by new retro wave artist Noir Deco (listen here).
However, the one constant, Art the Clown (Mike Giannelli), is terrifying. Leone, who also provided the make-up effects, gives the character gaunt, almost alien-like features while Giannelli's silently gleeful performance imparts the murderous force with much untapped potential. The swiftness of this anthology helps the character only become scarier as there's zero hint of his origins or reasoning behind his methodology. Sure, there's quite a few psycho clowns roaming the horror landscape ever since Pennywise left his mark, with most being awful, but you'll be left wanting as the credits roll.
That's ultimately a nagging aspect to All Hallows' Eve, it's like a test run by a filmmaker ironing out the kinks of venturing into his first feature. That's not a slight, Leone clearly shows an ability to stage frightening sequences along with building atmosphere and Art the Clown has the legs to perhaps become a recognized future slasher figure. Thankfully, according this interview over at HorrorTalk.com, Leone is planning a conventional sequel with a focus on Art. Given this film has landed on Wal Mart shelves, it'll receive a fair amount of undeserved criticism from such exposure, but if you want to experience a burgeoning talent and his creation that could both go somewhere in the genre give this one the time, preferably after midnight.