3 Dead Trick or Treaters is a 2016 Canadian horror film written, directed, and edited by young filmmaker Torin Langen. The film has won multiple awards at numerous film festivals and conventions, such as The Blood In the Sand Canadian Film Festival, HorrorQuest Film Festival, and the Southampton International Film Festival.
Despite being only just over 70 minutes long, the film is an anthology of terror tales set during the Halloween season, and occasionally in the days after. However, instead of the evil spirits and undead entities roaming the streets on Halloween night, the horror on display here has human faces… even if they are usually covered by masks. That said, don’t expect something similar to Michael’s seasonal exploits through Haddonfield either. Instead, 3 Dead Trick or Treaters focuses more on the ancient rites of the holiday, and presumably even more on the evil in mankind’s souls.
However, what helps 3 Dead Trick or Treaters stand out from the multitude of other Halloween-themed films of recent years is that the film attempts to tell its tales with no dialogue from the actors. While successfully managing to convey each tale without the use of speech, this approach is sure to alienate some viewers.
The film opens with a black and white credit sequence, introducing us to a writer driven mad by a constant stream of rejection letters from publishers and magazine editors. The letters hang tacked to the walls, wallpapering the interior of his small house. He savagely scrawls words on tattered pieces of notebook paper, furiously snapping pencils as he works.
After the opening credit sequence, the film truly begins, now fully in color. Judging from the smashed and rotting pumpkins littering the streets, the date is just a few days after Halloween. A paperboy rides his bike through the late autumnal setting of a sleepy little town that we truly never get to see much of. It’s also probably better to call the “paperboy” a “paperman” as this guy looks to be pushing 30. The wicker basket attached to his 10-speed assures that he won’t be having any lasting relationships anytime soon.
While making his route, the paperboy arrives at a small house (seemingly) on the outskirts of town. Rolled newspapers from previous days’ deliveries littering the porch where Halloween decorations still hang. He knocks on the door, but no one responds. Walking around the side of the house in search of the occupant, the paperboy instead discovers a trail of rotting jack o’lanterns leading into a nearby wooded field. Some distance up the path, he finds a small note pinned to one of the pumpkins; one that seems noticeably fresher than all the others shown so far. The note enigmatically reads, “I WROTE THEIR BEDTIME STORIES”.
Just beyond this lies a small clearing that has been marked with three makeshift gravesites. Each of the graves features a cross made of loose pieces of weather-worn wood and is adorned with a different dimestore-quality Halloween mask, as well as a small folded piece of paper. Written upon each of these papers is a story contrived by our crazed author. The paperboy reads the first tale, entitled “Fondue”. (For the record, the film is actually composed of as many as 5 separate stories, although there do appear to be at least minor connections between them all.)
The story opens with a teenage girl sitting outside of an aging movie theater, presumably waiting for someone or something. Her wait is a short one as a teenage boy soon emerges from the theater and approaches her. While the extent of their relationship is never truly revealed, it is also of little importance to the plot.
The kids leave the theater and soon make their way to a small department store, where they pick up some masks and plastic pumpkin buckets for their trick-or-treat candy. While hanging out by the train tracks, they each draw an “F” on their hands with a permanent marker before putting on their masks and wandering into the cover of the forest. As they intently wander through the woods, they eventually cross paths with another teenage girl, who is also wearing a similar mask and brandishing a black marker “F” on her hand.
The couple soon reach a rundown house located deep within the woods. Knocking on the door of the place, they are greeted by another person dressed in similar fashion. The girl is allowed to enter the house, while the boy is made to wait just outside. Upon entering, she finds that the interior of the building is in just as bad of shape as the exterior. She isn’t given much time to reflect on this before being handed a rusty pruning saw and shown the way the dwelling’s bathroom. Naturally, I won’t tell you what follows, but let’s just say that it takes “trick-or-treating” to extreme measures. That said, any gore is mostly implied.
Arguably, “Fondue” doesn’t make a whole Hell of a lot of sense, but still manages to make a moderate impact, if only for the violent subject matter and the somewhat disturbing fashion in which it ends. It is only mere moments after “Fondue” concludes that the next tale, “Malleus Maleficarum”, begins.
The tale begins with a woman dragging a large wooden post down a rocky country road. She plants the post into the ground before the scene changes to find 2 teenagers sitting in a house. The woman soon arrives in a car, picking up the teens before driving to a small roadside market. A sign just outside the door states that “Exodus is near!”. More disturbing is the person with a bloodied bag over their head that is seen sitting up in the bed of a pick-up truck as it drives away from the market.
The storekeeper almost seems to be expecting their arrival. Upon entering the store, the man leads them to a closet-sized backroom where more folks with bags over their heads await. The “family” (which is how I will refer to them since the end credits list these characters as “Boy”, “Girl”, and “Aunt”) claim a hooded man as their own and depart the store with him in tow.
They all return to the spot where the aunt had earlier planted the wooden post, now revealed to be in their backyard. The hooded man is bound to the post, while the aunt opens a large sack containing three different implements of pain: A baseball bat, a crowbar, and a tire iron. The female members of the family take turns beating on the man, but “the Boy” clearly has strong objections to what is happening and has yet to raise a hand to the man. The “Girl” takes a break from pummeling the man with the tire iron in order to return to the house and remove some cookies she’s been baking from the oven.
Taking this as an opportunity, the boy revolts against the Aunt before releasing the man and attempting to lead him to safety. What (predictably) follows is a flight for freedom, as well as the ensuing pursuit of both the prey and the betrayer. What doesn’t follow is any explanation for why any of this is happening. The credits refer to the beaten man as “The Witch”, and maybe the explanation is just as simple as that, especially when you consider that the story starts with a passage about “witches being stoned to death”. Then again, maybe the “explanation” isn’t that simple, assuming there is only one acceptable answer.
“Malleus Maleficarum” remains a fairly tense ride until its conclusion. As with “Fondue” before it, there is little pause before leading into the next story. In fact, our protagonist never truly gets to read the final story before being alerted to a presence behind him. With or without him, the third story, entitled “Stash”, opens with a row of jack o’lanterns on a darkened porch, helping to once more firmly establish the Halloween theme.
Again, the tale focuses on a group of teens (in this case, 2 boys and a girl) walking through woods awash with all the various colors of fallen autumn leaves. They also wear scary dimestore masks, although these kids are carrying pillow cases filled with candy and other sugary snacks.
They dump their bags into a hole dug in the ground, covering them with an abandoned cabinet door and a pile of leaves. However, tensions soon flare when one of the kids’ bags is revealed to be filled with empty wrappers; the sugary treats long gone, save one lone apple. The boy is turned upon by his friends, a brandished box cutter helping to enforce the point. He flees the scene, left to fend for himself. They will soon reunite when the outcast boy is forced to return to the stash out of hunger. This only exposes just what extents one will go to in order to stay alive.
Upon the conclusion of “Stash”, the viewer is immediately thrust right into the film’s fourth story, which is the tale of the paperboy and what becomes of him after finding the gravesites (which in itself is another grim tale of survival). This, in turn, abruptly leads us into the film’s fifth (and final) tale, “Delivery”.
Focusing on 2 police officers investigating the recent disappearance of locals (one of whom will easily be recognized from an earlier story), I unfortunately found “Delivery” to be the least compelling of the tales as it generally consists of nothing more than the two policemen, (who don’t look like they would even make the force) pretty much just moving from location to location while looking confused. Of course, like every other character in the film, their intentions are not what they appear to be.
Ultimately, 3 Dead Trick or Treaters ends with more questions raised than answers given, which is sure to infuriate some viewers. To be honest, I can’t say that I truly understood this film. There may have been definitive meaning or explanation behind these tales, but if so, I surely didn’t catch them. However, maybe that is for the best! The one thought that struck me after completing the film a second time is that maybe I’m not supposed to truly understand. Maybe there is no clear explanation of what happened or why. I prefer to think that the answers are completely open to our own interpretations, and that there are no right or wrong answers.
For example, while the credits of “Malleus Maleficarum” lists the bound and beaten man as a “The Witch”, there is nothing saying that this person is a user of powerful arcane magicks. Personally, I think that the term “witch” may have been used to implicate a person with influence (deemed unacceptable by others) over another. By those standards, the tale could have just as easily been about the members of a “family” removing a corrupting force from their lives…. or at least from one of the characters’ lives. Hopefully, you grasp what I’m implying.
In the simplest of terms, 3 Dead Trick or Treaters is a very odd movie. Between its lack of dialogue and the ambiguous nature of its narrative, many casual horror fans are sure to give up on the film early on. Other viewers, such as myself, may appreciate the lack of resolution as it then leaves the meanings and explanations up to the viewer to determine for themselves. While Langen shows talent as a filmmaker, using lighting and camera angles to expertly help set the film’s tone, the film is much like the bag of candy that you return home with after a night of trick-or-treating. Not every piece is something you’ll enjoy ingesting, but there are enough sugary morsels to help overlook the occasional bag of candy corn or even those dreaded Mary Janes.
3 Dead Trick Or Treaters is available through our Amazon Recommendation Page: https://www.amazon.com/shop/horrorandsons