Does the first feature length appearance of Art the Clown lay the proper groundwork for his standalone film? Find out, as we review director Damien Leone’s first full-length feature, All Hallows’ Eve.
So if you know me or you’ve been following my exploits here on the Horror Bound website, then you know my favorite horror film released in recent years has got to be 2016’s Terrifier, a grisly homage to 80’s slasher films featuring the brutally callous Art the Clown. If you’re a hard-core horror fiend, then you know Terrifier was actually a spin-off from an earlier film, also written and directed by Terrifier’s Damien Leone, called All Hallows’ Eve. Didn’t know that? Well then dive into my review as I finally sat down recently to watch Art the Clown’s humble beginnings myself.
Technically an anthology, All Hallows’ Eve gives us four stories all sharing one eerily similar detail: Art the Clown. The film starts out innocently enough introducing the wraparound story of a lone babysitter in charge of two tweens on a simple Halloween night. After discovering an unmarked VHS tape in his trick or treat bag, the boy tween, Timmy, goads his babysitter into letting them watch what’s on it. Thinking that’s an odd treat to leave in a kid’s bag, our babysitter, Sarah, declines. After some bartering however, she caves and the trio settles in for some viewing.
It’s worth mentioning here that Leone wears his 80’s influences on his sleeve. From the music, to the production design, to the plot, Damien Leone is consistently showing us where he comes from as an artist. As such, you’ll constantly spot some of the most common horror tropes throughout his entire body of work, and this one is no different. Even the usage of a VHS tape when disc based media and even flash based media have been around for a decade or two, depending on which format you’re referring to, is an obvious nod to the horror classics of the decade in which he’s so fond of. It’s not the most original form of storytelling, but as I always tell my screenwriting students, “It’s how you tell the same story differently that matters.” And Leone definitely pulls out some tricks here to change it up a bit.
Like in an age where most horror anthologies are told from the found footage perspective (I’m looking at you, V/H/S) to add realism and total immersion, here instead, Leone opts to go old school with each tale being shot more as if it were a short film in and of itself. That can take you out of the scare sometimes, but I personally prefer my anthology films presented in this format.
Even the three tales that are presented on the tape are emblematic of plots and stories of horror films from decades past, but spun in some manner that is unique. The first, a story of a devil worshipping cult driven by the their dark master to find him worthy women to impregnate with his demon spawn, is an obvious tip of the hat to 1968’s Rosemary’s Baby. But utilizing the vehicle of Art the Clown to deliver the victims to their captors is something we haven’t quite seen before. Although the tale that follows will more than likely remind you of more recent fare like Shyamalan’s Signs, Leone instead has the alien take on more of a slasher role and has the alien pursuing and stalking his prey more in the manner of a Michael Myers. It’s an interesting take on a very familiar genre, even mashing up the two ideas into one.
Back in our wraparound story, Sarah puts the two children in her charge to bed, but as we get deeper and deeper into her story, the more she watches the video, the more creepy shit begins to happen in her real world. She starts to see things and hear things, all presented in the form of jump scares, even culminating with the two children claiming that the babysitter has been checking up on them every fifteen minutes, when we know she’s been downstairs glued to the video the whole time. Finally, unable to prevent her own morbid curiosity from watching more, we jump into story three.
I feel like the final tale is where Leone flexes his creative muscles the most. He utilizes a bunch of post production/editing tools to give the look of the last story the biggest 80’s gleam of them all. Color correction and frame scratching give it a distinctive reel-to-reel movie theater look and some creative EQ’ing brighten the soundtrack to a tinny, crackling feast for the ears. Even the premise harkens back to ‘87’s The Hitchhiker entry in Creepshow 2. But in this chilling tale, our pursuer is one Art the Clown. Of course there’s buckets of blood and gore, I mean, if you know Art the Clown, then that should come as no surprise to you. In the end, Art has his way with the victim and we zoom out on a naked, scarred, and now quadriplegic young lady. It’s not until this final display of terror that our protagonist finally decides to turn off the video. But by then, of course, it’s too late.
There’s definitely a lot of Asian horror influence working its way through our climax here. I don’t know if Leone himself is an Asian horror fan, but there are some pretty textbook usages of their tropes in this final scene. First, after the VCR mysteriously turns itself back on, the next image we see on the screen is an Art the Clown making his way towards the screen before putting his hands on the glass, showing us that he’s trapped in there and wanting to get out. This is very Ringu in its presentation. But the very idea of an object like a videotape or a phone call passing on a curse into the physical world is emblematic of lots of early 2000’s Asian horror as well.
Finally, her worst fear realized, Art has manifested himself out of the TV and into the house. He disappears and reappears in differing locations and Leone even utilizes the same visual tricks he used in the final videotape sequence here in the climax as well to further cue us that our babysitter, Sarah, is slowly being transmogrified into the visceral world of the tape she was just viewing. Its some terrifying shit, folks. Her concern immediately transfixed on the children sleeping upstairs, Sarah barges through the kids’ room door to find their severed heads upon the bed, body parts on the floor and Art’s name scrawled in blood on the walls. We fade out on Sarah’s screaming face.
And there you have it, ladies and gents, Art the Clown’s immortalization into the annals of horror movie history. Presenting itself to me as more of a display of Leone’s makeup and effects talent than his storytelling prowess, All Hallows’ Eve is still a fun watch. If you’ve read part two of my series on Asian horror here on the site (if you haven’t, you can here: Asian Horror Part 2), then you know that some of my favorite films are those directed by makeup guys because they have the best gore. That being said, this was still a small budget, indie horror film with a pretty scant crew and Leone doing most of the heavy lifting (even earning himself a Foley credit), so it does suffer from those common production problems: poor sound, poor sound effects editing, poor mixing and definitely some novice acting. But when have we, as horror fans, ever dismissed a film for any of that stuff. Shit, if we did, we’d have never given Street Trash a whirl.
So for its genre bending story, gagtastic gore, and Art the Clown appearances, it gets all the high marks. But I’m taking off deductions for mediocre acting, trope-eriffic storytelling and some technical production issues. Three corpse fingers out of five!