Now with the easy accessibility of filmmaking technology and more filmmakers stepping forward, we’re getting more horror movies based around Halloween than ever. I’m just fine with that as Halloween was always a very under tapped mood back drop for such a long time in the horror genre. “10/31” is tailor made for Halloween and horror buffs looking for a good time with assorted tales of terror and black comedy. While it isn’t perfect, it’s a damn good treat nonetheless that I can’t wait to put alongside gems like “Tales of Halloween,” 2013’s “Mischief Night,” and “Trick r Treat.”
Narrated by Malvolia: The Queen of Screams as played by Jennifer Nangle (He-llo, nurse!), we’re treated to five Halloween based segments. Like most anthologies, there are some genuine good ones and some bonafide clunkers that I couldn’t wait to end. The topper is “The Old Hag” by Justin Seaman, which a genuinely creepy tale about a pair of indie filmmakers called in to an old bed and breakfast with a terrible reputation to film a commercial for potential clients. As they go about shooting in the dreaded “Gingerbread house” one of the filmmakers swears he keeps seeing an old decrepit lady lurking in the shadows and in various rooms. The editing paired with the great moody setting makes this a genuinely creative ghost story with a great sense of preying on our vulnerabilities. “Trespassers” by Zane Hershberger takes a while to get going but has a neat pay off.
After going on a first date on Halloween and suffering through a bad horror movie, a young couple decides to pay a visit to an old abandoned farm. There we learn about the legend of a mysterious scarecrow that wrought a curse on its owners. “Trespassers” is a fun tale about not tempting fate and knowing when to respect certain legends. I’m always a fan of scarecrow based horror tales, the twist is pretty wicked and I loved the make up effects. There’s also a plainly obvious CGI backdrop that shockingly works to the benefit of the story. “Killing the Dance” by John William Holt takes a while to get going, but when it does, the pay off makes the time spent well worth it. A young girl is forced to baby sit her brother for the night as she ventures out to a retro party at the local disco roller rink. Despite her overbearing mother begging her to stay home, she goes anyway and doesn’t realize she’s being watched by a psycho dressed as a farmer.
I kind of saw where the finale was going, but loved the retro aesthetic, awesome soundtrack and great gore. “The Halloween Blizzard of ‘91” by Brett DeJager is the weakest of the bunch, being dragged down by weak editing and really terrible acting. Set on Halloween night where a blizzard has caused authorities to cancel the holiday, two kids argue over whether Halloween or Christmas is better. As they head to bed, the parents are terrorized by three mysterious trick or treaters. The pay off is weird and silly and most of the narrative feels so utterly rushed that the sudden appearance of a holiday character left me confused and distracted.
Finally “The Samhain Slasher” by Rocky Gray is sadly a very down note for “10/31” which is disappointing since it’s soaking in Halloween elements. On the night of a big party an overly religious dad urges his daughter to be careful on the way to a party, as their town is being terrorized by a masked killer known as “The Samhain Slasher.” Though I liked the nods to classic horror tropes, this book end of a segment was confusing, convoluted, and ultimately anti-climactic. It gets points for the cool mask the killer wears, at least. In either case, “10/31” is a solid horror anthology that can be forgiven for its flaws, in the end. I had a good time and this could easily entertain at a Halloween gathering.
Kudos to the collective creative team behind it.