Welcome witches and warlocks,
Today I will be reviewing the horror anthology 3 DEAD TRICK OR TREATERS by writer/director Torin Langen. To best describe the story, I have cobbled together a plot summary from the various press releases:
“This silent anthology follows the stories written by a madman for three trick or treaters that he killed and buried in the wilderness. The stories concern common rites, rituals, and traiditions associated with Halloween.”
Good anthologies are hard to come by, so when I found out that this was not just an anthology, but a silent one at that, this jumped up on my must watch list. As with most features of this ilk, some of the stories worked for me, while others feel a bit flat. Luckily, there are four stories plus a framing device, so given that three of them were firing on all cylinders, this comes out more ahead than behind.
Let us turn first towards the two that did not quite translate. These two, they were the first and second ones, provided some good visuals, but came up short in the plot department. Some of this comes from the lack of context provided, while the short runtime of these segments also proved to be an issue. Both bits had some good ideas running throughout, but in a way the silent nature of this film may have held them back from greatness as just a little more fleshing out would have made them feel more complete.
The idea of making a silent picture for a modern day world seemed a bit gimmicky, but I have to admit that for the most part it works. One of the main reasons it finds success is that it creates a dark ambiance across all the stories that unites their seemingly disparate threads. Furthermore, the world we are looking in upon beings to feel like a surreal reflection on our own world as the lack of dialogue subverts the familiar.
The use of silence proved most effective for me during the framing device, the third bit, and the fourth bit where each felt like complete tales that needed little to no additional explanation. Not only do these stories feel the most well put together, they also got under my skin more than the others just due to the broader implications contained within their themes. The sense of dread these segments created was impressive given the lack of jump scares or violence they put on display; proving once again the power of ideas.
Keeping things tethered to reality means that the special effects in this piece are basically non-existent. Instead of being bombarded with over the top creature designs, we are treated to a more realistic horror feature that frames normal looking neighborhoods in otherworldly camera shots. The cinematography brings an eerie, ethereal quality to the proceedings by occasionally seeming as if it we are watching the events unfold through the eyes of a peeping Tom before the camera suddenly springs to life in a manic fashion. The haunting framing combined with the change in tempo kept me enthralled with the look of this film, even though each bit had a similar aesthetic style.
One of the first things I noticed that set each of the individual segments apart was the fact that each short had its own score. Much like the picture itself, the music was not overly produced, but kept just subdued enough to match the timbre of the subject matter. Whether the orchestrations had haunting overtones or a melancholy nostalgia, each fit perfectly with its segment which helped strengthen the impact when the darkness took hold.
All in all, the conceit of this anthology is quite strong as it creates a haunting, surreal atmosphere where darkness quietly runs wild. By taking a more grounded approach to the horror, the evil takes on an everyday aspect that makes it seem as if it could be happening in our backyard. The segments that work really shine in such blisteringly creative ways that they more than make up for the lesser bits. Fans of WAXWORKS (1924) or anthologies in general should check out this novel take on a classical idea.
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