Studio: Image Entertainment
Director: Bryan Norton, Antonio Padovan, Marc Roussel, Ryan Patch, Jay Holben, Jon Kondelik, James Kondelik, Elias Benavidez, Mike Kochansky, Andres Borghi
Writer: Mark Thibodeau, Michael Koehler, Christopher Probst, Mark Byers
Producer: Jesse Baget, Kimberley Browning, Damien Leone
Stars: Andrea Monier, Julian Richings, Bill Oberst Jr.
A woman home alone on Halloween receives a mysterious videotape containing eights tales of terror.
The dismalness of “All Hallows’ Eve 2” dares me to rethink a position that more anthology features should be fashioned from short films that would otherwise never see the light of commercial distribution. Either that, or production company Ruthless Pictures needs to choose worthier shorts based on authentic cinematic merit, not because they can be acquired cheaply and stitched to a misleading pretense of being related.
As with “Zombieworld” (review here) and “The Invoking 2,” “All Hallows’ Eve 2” is a collection of disparate shorts from disparate filmmakers assembled under an inference of being a fresh film. In actuality, it is comprised of pieces having nothing to do with a common theme, or even with each other, dating as far back as 2004.
Where “The Invoking 2” (review here) was additionally dubious for having zero connection to its numberless namesake, “All Hallows’ Eve 2” does go through the motions, barely, of presenting a wraparound somewhat similar to the one in the first “All Hallows’ Eve” (review here). Actually, anthologies usually visit their wraparounds semi-regularly. A better term here is bookend, since aside from one randomly inserted reaction shot, the framing story features only at the beginning and at the end. That’s how lazily committed “All Hallows’ Eve 2” is to its unenthusiastic narrative device.
Squeezing eight segments plus bookends into 79 minutes of screentime requires content to be lean. It also requires each chapter to breeze by so fast that caring for characters or engaging in atmosphere are things with scarce space to manifest.
“Jack Attack” and “The Last Halloween” play first. Neither is a story so much as a setup. While Canadian-produced “The Last Halloween” is boosted by an arty aesthetic, this pair’s thinness leaves the intended horror feeling hollow. The nearly complete absence of an arcing plot renders third segment “The Offering” similarly describable in two words: that’s it?
M. Night Shyamalan won’t be praising “Descent” for its been-done-before twist. But the fourth film is at least the first to feature a legitimately developed plotline. Being caught with a killer inside a stalled elevator packs enough thrills as a simple premise to briefly quiet the yawn induced by the first 30 minutes.
Four deep into eight segments and a realization dawns that “All Hallows’ Eve 2” hasn’t had anything to do with its titular holiday since the second short. Halloween seemed set as the element linking each story, but nope, simply falling into the horror genre is reason enough to lump this group together.
“M Is for Masochist” is a rejected “ABCs of Death” submission and it is simple to see why. A single-note idea lasting barely three minutes, “Masochist” has the production value of an old “Tales from the Darkside” episode, practically shooting a closet for a carnival midway.
“A Boy’s Life” is well made and thoughtfully scripted. However, its theme of mother and son grieving dad’s death through an imaginary monster makes it redundant in the wake of “The Babadook” (review here). Its purposeful character study also slows it down so as to be tonally out of place with the rest of the film. The ending is additionally too predictable to even count as a twist.
Following a four-story layoff, “Mr. Tricker’s Treat” finally returns “All Hallows’ Eve 2” to the discarded Halloween setting. It also returns to the pattern of homemade visual quality and one-beat gags concluding with a shoulder-slumping sigh from the viewer.
Unfortunately for “Alexia,” being genuinely freaky and the best short in the lot counts for little when the preceding hour and change has worked overtime to burden eyelids with boredom. “Alexia” definitely qualifies as the diamond, while most everything else in “All Hallows’ Eve 2” is the rough.
Sack-faced Sam is synonymous with Mike Dougherty’s “Trick ‘r Treat.” It is impossible to think about “Trilogy of Terror” without conjuring a mental image of the Zuni fetish doll. And crowning a standout memory from “Creepshow” is a virtual Sophie’s Choice for horror anthology fans. So what’s the indelible impression left in this instance?
Carefully curated festivals regularly remind that emerging creators are constantly crafting compelling content in short film format. Sadly, many such gems remain undiscovered in darkness while movies like “All Hallows’ Eve 2” clutter channels with quick and easy cash grabs. The more inventive genre filmmakers still waiting for their spotlight deserve better. So do you.
Review Score: 40