As a reviewer in a genre of films that is overrun with sequels and remakes, it starts to feel impossible to be surprised anymore so it’s nice when a film catches you completely off guard. It’s even better when that film is so engaging that you leave the theater and discuss it with fellow theatergoers for hours. That was the case when I and a fellow writer from iHorror settled in to watch 3 Dead Trick or Treaters at the Nightmares Film Festival in Columbus, Ohio.
The anthology film revolves around a paper boy who, in the course of his job, stumbles upon three graves marked with crosses and various trinkets. On each cross is a story, and as he picks up each piece of paper, we’re drawn into the the tale of that particular grave’s resident. Each tale is beautifully arranged and filmed and the dialogue free nature of the film as a whole really opens you up the emotional experiences of each character and the horrors they are drawn into.
As the credits rolled at the end of this chilling horror film, I knew two things:
- I’d just seen something completely original.
- I had to talk to the man who made this film!
Within hours, I had tracked down writer/director Torin Langen and we were working to set up a time to chat about his remarkable anthology film and how it came to be. As luck would have it, Langen was as interesting as his film and it turns out it was quite a journey to bring each segment together.
“We started filming back in 2012,” he began, “and I guess it was four years in the making, beginning with the first segment called Fondue.”
Each year, in October, he and a group of actors and crew he describes as “enthusiastic non-professionals” would gather in the same locations to film for a few days on what one couldn’t even call a shoestring budget.
“We never had a grand scheme for what the finished project would ultimately be,” he said. “We would plan the next segment and shoot it in the autumn so that everything would have the same appearance and then the rest of the year I’d be working on post-production along with my friend and composer, Stephen Schooley, and other small projects I had going.”
Langen, who credits the DIY/punk scene of southern Ontario for some of his inspiration, also began submitting Fondue to festivals to gauge audience reactions and because he didn’t want to suddenly have a full feature that no one had ever heard of before. It did just what he needed it to, and kept the creative juices flowing.
As I said before, this film is completely dialogue free. Not a single word uttered in the entire film. It’s a bold move in 2017 and though I had my own theories as to why he’d made this choice, it was still enlightening to hear his answer.
“Each segment, to me, is a ritual,” he said. “You don’t have to speak during a ritual behavior because you know every action and movement by heart. The audience is being let in on the ritual by the lead character or a reluctant accomplice. I really wanted it to be mood driven and the lack of dialogue helps with that but it also forces the audience to pay more attention.”
That’s also where the film’s amazing score comes into play. Schooley, who composed the music for every section of the film except Fondue was a composition student and playing in an ambient band when Langen met him, and because he was a student at the time, he had access to score the film with actual musicians and instruments rather than relying solely on synthesized music. The overall effect of cellos, violins, guitars,drums and piano gives 3 Dead Trick or Treaters an aural quality one often doesn’t find in micro-budget independent films and adds even more to the intensity of each scene.
“The music did so much of the speaking for the characters,” Langen explained. “It worked as an extension to their emotions with upswings in tone in moments of surprise and slowly building themes for their dread.”
The two together, with a set of actors that I still can’t believe aren’t trained professionals, were able to create something so unique that it is hard to classify, but I hope we’ll see more of it in the future.
For now, 3 Dead Trick or Treaters is making the rounds on the festival circuit. Langen has also arranged viewings of the film around the world in various art galleries and underground theaters in places like Singapore, Japan, and Shanghai. For a complete listing of where the film will be playing, visit Langen’s website!