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Review: 3 Dead Trick or Treaters is an Impressively Professional Film

Review: 3 Dead Trick or Treaters is an Impressively Professional Film

The most immediately impressive thing about Torin Langen’s creepy, silent anthology is the professionalism of the cinematography. Autumnal, natural daylight is used for a striking yet bleak colour palette. Praise should also be given to the score which (much like Rob Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects) uses a savage industrial sound which gives cringe inducing power to the violence. The string-centric score also aids the pacing by bridging each scene with a melodic flow. This, coupled with a sound design of emphasised crunches and thuds creates a playful freedom that the lack of dialogue allows. It also prevents any clichéd or poorly written character exchanges.

A paperboy (played competently but inexplicably by a 20 something hipster) stumbles upon the graves of three missing trick or treaters. Attached to each grave is a “bedtime story” the writer presumably told each dead child before their death. The unspoken horror of this premise and shots of the paperboy looking over his shoulder in this creepy environment make for a surprisingly unsettling opening.

Without dialogue the viewer is often invited to use their own imagination to fill in intentionally mysterious gaps. Not everything is spelled out and the true implications of the clues we are given often lead us to dread filled conclusions. That is where the masterful sense of horror comes from – the viewer’s imagination.

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In the first story “Fondu” the actors are not only restricted by a lack of dialogue but also by having their faces concealed by rather disturbing masks. They’re more or less reduced to mime like body movement and wide eye popping. The shortness of the story leaves little time for character development. The focus is more on the question of what’s going on than who these people are/whether we should care.

Only during the second story, “Malleus Maleficarum” does the low budget of the film become apparent. Fairly amateur steady cam shots and somewhat cliché editing give a student film vibe that doesn’t gel well with the professionalism of the first twenty minutes. Perhaps it doesn’t help that it opens in a sterile, blandly lit bathroom interior far from the orange and brown scenery that allowed the earlier scenes to flow so well. Though it does have its moments. An unnerving POV shot from a victim’s perspective in which the victimiser looks directly at us is one of the creepiest moments in the film. Later the perspective is reversed and a victim looks up at us. Though this could have been the actor looking at the camera by mistake. Thanks by and large to the score it has a much better sense of characterisation, tension and emotional impact than in “Fondu”.

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The third story “Stash” once again involves masked characters. It concerns a homeless group and their stash of dodgy Halloween candy. One (hopefully intentional) shot of an apron that thanks to a convenient crease now says “Kiss the Cock” is perhaps the funniest moment in the movie. The style here is more gritty and visceral given the subject matter. There are grim, shaky cam action sequences and a heightened sense of anger than the first stories. However the themes of homelessness and hunger aren’t really explored, just exploited for shock.

“Delivery”, a bonus story offers the best acting and most engaging story. Two policemen are investigating a wooded area where three separate people have been reported missing. The rural setting is sometimes reminiscent of True Detective. Eventually a twist is revealed that repeats a theme seen in the other stories: the living using the flesh of the dead for their own gains or sick amusement.

The mastermind behind these stories is a well set up character but once we finally meet him all sense of threat is lost. It’s rather like when the shark in Jaws is revealed. The filmmakers should have shown less of him and let the viewer’s imagination do the work for them.

Overall it’s a well paced and impressively professional film. All those involved show much potential and who knows what they could achieve with a higher budget.