Terror Of Hallow's Eve


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Terror Of Hallow's Eve
"There's a nostalgia factor here that will attract some genre fans but others will find that the cramming together of so many tropes weakens the impact of any individual one."

There's a very Eighties feel to Todd Tucker's tale of supernatural goings-on in a small US town, which will have some fans rubbing their hands in glee from the outset. It seems appropriate given a location, which has probably changed little in the intervening years - the sort of place where life as a teenager is inevitably going to be difficult. Tim (Caleb Thomas) is 15 and dealing with frustrations that many viewers will relate to. His dad has walked out after abusing his mum (Sarah Lancaster), his mum keeps calling him Timmie and trying to kiss him in front of people, and he has a crush on former neighbour April (Annie Read), who seems way out of his league. But Tim also delights in playing tricks on people - as we witness in an entertaining early scene - and it's this that tempts him to try and solve his problems by making a pact with something he can't control.

What tips Tim over the edge is an assault by April's boyfriend and his two hangers-on - older, bulkier teenagers who mock his love of horror comics. It happens to happen on Halloween and as he staggers home through Raimi-style dark and misty woods, the bruised youth stumbles upon a curious scarlet pumpkin. He takes it home, begins to carve it, and in so doing summons a trickster spirit who offers to scare his enemies to death. This includes April, of course, because Tim blames her for not being smart enough to see through the older boys' bullshit (and, perhaps, fall into the arms of a nice guy like him), but that's a decision he will come to regret before the night is out.

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One suspects that Tucker, who co-wrote the script, has put a fair bit of himself into Tim, coming as he does from an art background. Tim's bedroom is full of pictures he has drawn and sculptures he has made; art is his passion and the trickster uses this to tempt him, inviting him to draw the way that he wants the killings done. This gives the director an excuse to play around with classic horror tropes, everything ostensibly being drawn from a teenager's imagination. There's a nostalgia factor here that will attract some genre fans but others will find that the cramming together of so many tropes weakens the impact of any individual one. They're all competently handled but nothing stands out enough for the film to make its own distinctive contribution to genre lore. What is worth watching is the old-school practical effects work which both delivers on creepiness and enhances the art theme.

One old trope that really doesn't work today is the presentation of April as a wide-eyed innocent who does nothing but scream and simper when confronted with the scary stuff. Today's horror fans are used to women being treated as people. It's not just that the helpless whimpering act is irritating, it's that a it's difficult to take seriously - and grounded characters are necessary for the film's fantastic and comedic aspects to work. Fortunately, Tim's mother gets more room to develop and Lancaster makes the biggest impression as an actor, hinting at real world terrors that put the rest into context, so the film isn't a total loss in this regard.

Thomas makes a capable lead in a role that allows for a bit more complexity than most available to teenagers, and just about manages to keep viewers onside despite the darkness in Tim. A lengthy epilogue opens up the narrative further and creates the possibility of a sequel. Overall, Terror Of Hallow's Eve is entertaining enough - it just has a tendency to lose its own voice amidst all the recycled material and it never quite recaptures the fun of its first scare.

Reviewed on: 05 Jun 2019
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After a 15-year-old is brutally beaten up by high school bullies, his wish for revenge unleashes the Terror of Halloween.

Director: Todd Tucker

Writer: Ronald L Halvas

Starring: Caleb Thomas, Sarah Lancaster, Annie Read, JT Neal, Mcabe Gregg, Niko Papastefanou, Doug Jones

Year: 2017

Runtime: 80 minutes

Country: US


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