As soon as the title 10/31 appeared on the screen, I cringed – “the font, the font” (I thought); and then the camera moved a little to the left and there hung a regular $8.99 Halloween mask on the same board on which the title was put up. A cheap old monster mask, not even the William Shatner mask but… Goodness. My stomach did a flip, a complete 180 degree flip, like how you flip a pancake in the pan. And when it settles, we see two kids sitting in a lavish house whose exterior was shown to us before through a low-angle shot of a (what could’ve been stock footage) of a huge house (of which many were to follow), glittering with Halloween decorations and of course a pumpkin set all wrong with the eyes and mouth facing the door. I felt anxious at the daunting thought of braving the entire
length of a film whose opening had given me the heebie jeebies and not because it was fearsome; far from it. It looked mundane and pedestrian and what not. I was beleaguered; not having watched a decent horror in ages after The Eyes of My Mother, 2016; Veronica 2017; The Evil Within 2017 and Hounds of Love 2016 (all four extremely well-made and fabulously effective Indie horror outings). I wanted it to be good, that’s all. I didn’t expect The ABC’s of Death, 2013 or Destricted, 2006. Just good enough to write positively about certain film makers I may or may not know. But hey, you can’t please the world; hell, in these times not even yourself.
The format of 10/31 is such that you have to at least like half the film made as a compilation of six films directed by genre directors. If you don’t you are disagreeing with the sensibilities of six talented (questionably but talented nonetheless) people. If you don’t like the feature presentation, there’s something wrong or you should stick to Tree of Life, 2011 and keep digging for more than Malick ever put there.
I felt ruffled and somewhat irritated trying to sit through a film whose production values looked awf… No, let’s not be too mean. It seemed tedious and uninspired, a film whose aesthetics had all the potential to be way off dry land had it not been for the segments: The Samhain Slasher and Killing the Dance‘s saving grace. We shall come to those later.
Alright, I get it, it’s Halloween and the celebrations are inverse, retroverted compared to another Western holiday although compensated; Christmas, and that is one of the reasons this sinnerman thinks that the real Santa made it in to a low budget horror anthology; one of the sequences has the Santa sitting uncomfortably close to a child in a wolf’s mask, stuffing him with candy and asking him not to make a sound by putting a finger on his barely visible bearded mouth, bespectacled face when the sister shouts his name from outside the bedroom. And the boy is not just a boy but that Joseph creep (Mark Duplass) from the 2014 film Creep, standing at the door and blocking the oblivious
documentary maker’s way. But that was that. Point being, it is quite unbecoming of Santa to insinuate evil whispers and to ask the young kid to remain quite as the sister is going berserk outside.
As stated earlier, 10/31 is an anthology with five films linked back-to-back and a wraparound; a central story line with the kids watching the TV. Hunter Johnson directs Malvolia: The Queen of Screems (podcasting and not Elvira), where kids are left unsupervised in front of a television telecasting horror films of yore, in the grand house on Halloween, wearing their costumes and watching a horror marathon, lead by the generously busted Malvolia. Generously busted, eh… That could also mean a stakeout where the cops stumble upon thousands of kilograms of coke.
Was the title placement/nuanced, which was spoken of the way it was, belittling the effort? Well it moves, the whole damn thing on which the title and the $8.99 mask is hanging and the kids are revealed – it made this sinner-man think that perhaps all of it is tongue in someone else’s cheek. But the anthology refuses to be associated with acts of such nature (face eating, the film Love, 2015 or anything close to passing bodily fluids to another person). It is rated R for language (I think I heard a “fuck” once) and gore. Never mind, I said, it will be fun if not scary, I said. An unintentional burst of laughter in a horror film is not a great thing, even when it provides relief. Horror films should not provide any sort of relief. It divides the purpose and puts a dent in the vigor; the theology of a piece of art made to do just one thing; scare and fossilize the damn viewer in amber. If I wanted relief I would have watched The Transformers Franchise again, starting with Moon.
Therefore, when Zane Hershberg (The Barn, 2016) shows a young kid (Jeff Burns) – who looks as if giving an audition and not shooting the final cut – holding his girlfriend’s freshly severed head in his arms and crying and waiting for Melanie or Mulan, or Sheeba or Stephanie (Sable Griedel) to walk out of the trial room to show him the head she just put on and take the new one from his hands and take it back to change. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a poorer choice of a Halloween costume even though I live in that part of the world where amazon.com sometimes refuses to deliver. He is wearing scrubs and a stethoscope, to which he keeps holding on to when the burlap sack mask wearing scarecrow takes it off and shows off the make up from the days of the black and white episodes of The Twilight Zone (1959-1964),complete to the glowing eye sockets. The boyfriend runs all over the place like a headless chicken, trying to convince the audience of his fear or dedication to the craft, which is pretty much close to zero. The director of the infamous, The Barn, with its slow stepping reflex and lose grounding and a misleading trailer is equally implicated here. Once again the blood spurts before the machete makes contact with the neck; once
again the victim is running straight in to the scarecrow and running all over the place filled with tons of blood and loads of smoke to hide behind. I mean, the monster digs his hands into the girlfriend, Samantha, Margerette, Stephanie’s stomach and pulls out the heart? All along The Girl With Purple Hair from Kisck-Ass (2010)pretends to die and ends up looking been roofied. Having noted that, Megan, or Stephanie or Captain Marvel doesn’t go without a fight, trying to cut off the scarecrow’s balls with a set of pliers? And the Ted Talk (invited for best Halloween
costume) guy does nothing but keeps shouting, “Watch out Melanie, Blackcoat’s Daughter,Kick- Ass fan, Stephanie…”; How prosaic.
Jeffis the real villain here you see? Making viewers feel distressed and frustrated and then BAM! The scarecrow comes back to life and bites Kathy, Alice, on her ass. Then we see a diminutive homage to The Nightmare on Elm Street Films when Mr. Scarecrow unclenches his left hand with long nails/talons/Freddy prop glove/blister make up,The Twilight Zone Home DIY Kit and all that jazz; and oh, plenty of smoke. More smoke than in the underground gambling dens of the 1930’s Chicago.
The Old Hag or Gramma from The Twilight Zone (Season 1; Ep. 18a) or Gramma from Skeleton Crew (1985 – pub. G. P. Putnam’s Sons) by Stephen King or The Visit (2015) by M. Night Shyamalan…Where was I? Oh,The Old Hag, directed by Justin M. Seamen is about hiring amateur film-makers to make a promotional documentary for a haunted Bread n’ Breakfast. A luxurious B n’ B run by a woman who cannot stop yawning – Cindy maples. We all know that doesn’t happen, the B n’ B promotional brand activation to run on cable TV or the net. Only 5 star hotels do shit like that. Plus witches have stopped looking like this since Robert Egger’s The Witch, 2014. This is sacrilegious, taking the name of a high-grade, plenty bloodcurdling film in a review for another motion picture which is derivative to the point of being ridiculous at times and complete bat shit at others. In between we have the $8.99 mask popping up from below the screen just for a cheap scare and it doesn’t do jack.
Sparse and from Dullsville County, blistered, all over the place, quotidian with passable acting and what seems passionless, 10/31 is all that (which I’m damn sure it’s not; passionless and all). If you’ve watched The Barn, 2014, directed by Zane Hershberger and also one of the producers of this baby and the director of the segment: Tresspassers from this anthology) you will want to think hard before purchasing the double whammy $15 VOD, which includes The Barn as a special free feature. They don’t slam the FBI warning on motion pictures for no reason. And they’re giving away The Barn for free? Who am I to say anything, a mere content writer at gruemonkey.com? That does not give me…
Ah fuck it.
It certainly feels that a lot of hard work, good intentions, sleepless nights, butt hurt fund-raising, awful props and Malvolia have gone in to the film but the film as a whole appears sub-par and besides tons of blood and the almost passable segments The Samhain Slasher by Rocky Gray (if only for a few dollars more) and Killing the Dance or Groucho (Louis Garavito) Marx in a cowboy get up, keep the film from balancing on the edge and not falling in to the abyss of long forgotten but not forgiven feature length films. Gray directs with more sophistication than the rest of the contributing directors and a sense of real deal grotesque with his Slasher.
Set in the flashy, shiny disco balls 80’s, the segment, Killing the Dance begins with a dolly shot and a camera, which is following the movements of roller skaters to electronica and Blondie; I could be wrong, the rights to Call me for some Overtime would have been too expensive for 10/31. Beat-box, big hear, pink tennis head bands, Groucho Marx (again), and a boy who would grow up to be Carrie, 1976 and Scanners, 1981, a werewolf as the kid brother, a porn-star as the adult boyfriend with an even more sleazy Sanchez and clichéd dialogue exchanges, a lady looking like Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars; it is all here but only as much.
The segment, The Halloween Blizzard by director Brett Dejager is intriguing and confusing and again, not scary- meandering, angulated, convoluted, weird but not scary. In the end, The Samhain Slasher, almost saves the show even though it is being called the weakest link in the chain of films. However, in my humble opinion this one makes you take the film -as a whole – seriously with a psycho at a teen party. How novel.
Lastly, 10/31 is pretty modest despite the psychedelic colors and dense and thick enseignement and the lush curtains of the houses; modest to the point of being beleaguering, bizarre, a myriad of memorable references and awfully incorrect geriatric foundation/source convention. The actors and film-makers could do themselves some good, and watch low budget films like, Eyes of my Mother to watch and learn how to set the mood of impending doom and to put up an acceptable performance but when you want to scare (even if just a little), you have to give more than just a little acceptable.
10/31 comes to an end as the camera cuts back from all those horror houses that October did not build, to the same kids who were consuming candies and watching the God bless, busted lollipop sucking (just my imagination) Malvolia, our brains peel the flesh back to Killing the Dance and The Samhain Slasher and how the smoke and the low angled camera on roller skates made us nauseous and not just because of the constant hover-cover of the camera.