Three Dead Trick or Treaters

This Halloween certainly offered up more spooky offerings than usual. Some of the terrible things involve ghastly treats for children, witch hunters looking for victims to torture and burn, and a police force too busy selling the dead to protect the living. All of this and more pours from the mad mind of an author (Jeremy Charles Singer) scribbling away in his lair. This is the basis for Torin Langen’s  2016 extreme horror anthology Three Dead Trick or Treaters.

The subgenre of extreme cinema is challenging and controversial among horror fans. Dependent on disturbing images of graphic sex and violence, extreme horror pushes viewers’ boundaries beyond their limits. Its dedicated fanbase, drawn to transgressive films, has to search hard to find films in their niche zone. TetroVideo, an Italian video distribution company, caters to their needs by selling violent and gory DVDs and Blu-rays, from small, independent filmmakers.  The company doesn’t shy away from the extreme nature of their films, using the title Gorehounds as their address.  They were kind enough to offer a screener of Three Dead Trick or Treaters to The Banshee for review prior to the release of a special edition later this month.

 “After stumbling upon the graves of three murdered trick-or-treaters, a small-town paperboy discovers a series of handwritten horror stories tacked to the children’s headstones. Penned by a deranged pulp author driven mad by his craft, the stories chronicle grisly tales of Halloween rites, rituals, and traditions.” (source)

Three Dead Trick or Treaters

Writer, and director Torin Langen is an Ontario-based filmmaker, fabricator, and multimedia designer. He spent four years making this anthology, filming with a small cast and budget in the woods and fields in the late autumn around Ontario. Seen as a whole, the film is a somber elegy to the death of a mad god.

The handwritten stories found by the paperboy (Holden Levack) are the failing deity’s gospels. They convey the difficulty, pain, and futility of existence.  In Fondue, the first story, trick-or-treaters get chocolate-covered body parts in their Halloween baskets.  Delivery, the last story, is a dark mediation on greed, morality, and loneliness. In between are Malleus Maleficarum, about modern witch-hunters, and Stash, illustrating the lengths the homeless have to go to survive in hostile places.

Three Dead Trick or Treaters doesn’t pull any punches, offering plenty for gorehounds. As an homage to the work of Czech surrealist Jan Švankmajer, Langen’s script lacks any spoken dialogue. Many of the film’s scenes take place outside. The day’s failing light turns the bare trees and deciduous leaves into an incongruous backdrop for the tales of dismemberment, cannibalism, and necrophilia. Stephen Schooley’s artful soundtrack further enhances the action, perfectly balancing the mayhem of the speechless characters and their settings. 

 Despite the film’s high aesthetics, problems with pacing and poor special effects take away from its presentation.  Even at a brief 73 minutes, the Three Dead Trick or Treaters slows to a glacial pace at times. Perhaps because of a low budget, the practical effects had to be low on gore and viscera, which could either hurt or enhance the viewers’ experience.   

Watching Three Dead Trick or Treaters is a heavy experience. Doubtless, there are viewers who will celebrate the meaninglessness of existence touted by the film.  Other fans may want to avoid its graphic content. For those willing to make the journey, it is a slow and somber trip, created in a world of glowing, natural beauty whose last motes of color are disappearing before the coming winter. 

TetroVideo is planning to release a Mediabook edition of Three Dead Trick or Treaters in late November. Pre-order it here.  

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