I don’t understand the 1980s. Sure, the 1980s and horror where very good to one another, many a classic and new voice climbed out of that decade. However, the films of that decade didn’t stylise themselves with kitschness in mind, that’s merely the way that things where back then. Now, in 2019 we are neck deep in a wave of new horror directors who hold the 1980s to achingly high standards aping every stylistic touch and a few that didn’t exist but pop culture posthumously attributed to the decade. Horror has never been so backward looking. Horror has always motored towards the horizon stopping for no-one, that is, until now. I bring this up as the Terror of Hallow’s Eve is the latest to join this ‘illustrious’ tradition. Why Todd Tucker decided to set Terror of Hallow’s Eve in the 1980s is utterly beyond me, nonetheless it is the latest to join signature’s Frightfest Presents line.
Tucker has produced an intriguing left turn when using the context of all these young new horror directors who bend over backwards to show how influenced they are. We join Tim (Caleb Thomas) who pranks one of the girls who lives on his street with his gory prosthetics. Eric Roberts appears in this scene for an odd cameo to chastise the kid for scaring the life out of his daughter, setting up Tim in such a unsympathetic light is, also, an odd decision. Throwing himself into his hobby, alienating his poor mother (Sara Lancaster) who is struggling to keep a roof over their heads, he retreats into Halloween. While pottering around the house, he finds a strange book in his attic that details a creature called the trickster. Visiting the local store with his Mother, and openly lusting after the pretty shop assistant (April (Annie Reed)), he meets her boyfriend who eventually beats Timmy up. For sympathy to only come at the hands of a beating, yet again, is odd. Upon returning home he meets the trickster who promises that he shall have his revenge whereby the mysterious monster will kill these mean kids by scaring them to death (well… sort of).
Many a 1980s slasher (or adjacent film) used this set up to have a monster kill off the bullies and cool kids with some sort of bladed implement, that happens here too but the face of the trickster changes from scene to scene. The trickster initially presents himself as a diminutive grey skinned dwarf wearing prison threads and a jester’s hat. After his creepy introduction, it reveals it can shape-shift and effect the world; changing from small murderous puppets (think Tales from the Hood) to a giant skeleton hell-beast. It’s in the flexibility of the trickster that the true worth of the film can be found. Tucker is using the fluidity of his creation as a platform to experiment with different creature designs in scenes tailored to the personalities of the bullies friends (a stoner and a big lad). They are both killed with methods that relate to their stereotype – essentially, gluttony from two different angles. The broader film-making craft is a little wanting, but in these contained horror segments the passion really comes out.
Once Tucker and his cast find that stride of moving from set-piece to set-piece before the inevitable turning of allegiances, the film becomes more and more comfortable. Whenever the monster is on screen, The Terror of Hallow’s Eve stands up on its own two feet. Seeing the screener’s time was only around the hour mark, I was rightfully confused. I asked myself, “surely, that is the end – how can this go on for another twenty minutes?” At 70 minutes, Terror of Hallow’s Eve is a well-tread but well-intentioned creature feature that tries its own thing in a world of samey backwards firing horror movies. It is then when events move to a modern day asylum housing the sole survivor. This is done to show that the Trickster has reappeared to weave its spell on the desperate. This could be construed as sequel baiting, and I would be open for more of the trickster, in reality, finishing on a beat of such low tension only really extends the neat and streamline 70 minutes to a much more theatrically acceptable 90. Ending on such a low ebb with an epilogue bereft of drama or tension just to beef up a run time is sinful.