If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then director Todd Tucker genuinely admires John Carpenter, Terror of Hallow’s Eve opening with a somewhat familiar white on black typeface as it announces the date of October 30th 1980 before dissolving to three teenage girls clutching their schoolbooks as they walk the leafy suburban streets discussing senior boys and hanging out at the mall the following day.
Yet it is not the returning of a psychopath of urban myth intent on slaughter they have to fear so much as the accidental invocation of a supernatural entity by a bullied teenage boy, hoping to scare his tormentors into leaving him alone but rapidly escalating into a Hallowe’en night of mayhem and murder.
“I wish I could scare them all to death,” Tim curses over the carved pumpkin having endured another beating, the blood from his injuries dripping into the pulped innards, a wish he will have to recant if he is to save his few friends, his mother and himself from the Trickster.
Written by Zack Ward from a story by Ronald L Halvas and Tucker, Caleb Thomas is Tim, talented and creative as he crafts horror projects in his mom’s basement but misunderstood and isolated, still reeling from the divorce of his parents, Linda and violent alcoholic Bobby (Chuck‘s Sarah Lancaster and Angel‘s Christian Kane).
A funfair ride filled with familiar faces in cameo roles – The Shape of Water’s Doug Jones is the Trickster, Doctor Who’s Eric Roberts is the father of one of Tim’s schoolfriends, Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Juliet Landau appears as a nurse and is listed as a producer – they are underused and other than Thomas his teenagers act like escapees from the school drama club.
Disjointed and too often feeling like an extended after-school special on bullying, dysfunctional families and taking responsibility for ones actions spiced with copious gore, the timeframe is inconsistent, the hair and makeup wrong for the eighties of the main setting, the flashbacks to Tim’s childhood in a living room styled like the fifties and the coda in the present day with Tucker as the adult Tim unnecessary.
With scenes lifted from Evil Dead and a hint of A Nightmare on Elm Street, Tim a dreamer who finds he has taken his friends into his nightmare with him, it is John Carpenter who is the strongest influence, in the shooting style and the soundtrack which copies his distinct sound even when not using the track Vortex from Carpenter’s Lost Themes album and with Haddonfield Mental Institution as one of the locations.
An uninspired variation on the “be careful what you wish for” cautionary tale, directed by a former makeup artist whose resume encompasses The Undiscovered Country and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button the practical work of the puppets and masks of Terror of Hallows Eve are better than the script, short on original ideas and notably absent of the key ingredient of the promised terror.
Terror of Hallow’s Eve is available on digital from 10th June from FrightFest Presents