Terror of Hallow’s Eve, 2017.
Directed by Todd Tucker.
Starring Caleb Thomas, Sarah Lancaster, Annie Read, Mcabe Gregg, Doug Jones, and Eric Roberts.
A bullied teenager summons the Trickster and wishes revenge on his tormentors.
If the John Carpenter-esque font of the title cards and the opening shot of three teenage girls walking down the street on their way home from school doesn’t clue you in as to where director/co-writer Todd Tucker is coming from then the neon lighting, fantastical practical effects and ominous epilogue set in a hospital rams it home, as Terror of Hallow’s Eve positively basks in every 1980s horror movie trope you can think of.
At the centre of the movie is that age-old nugget about being careful what you wish for as troubled teenager Tim (Caleb Thomas – Chase Champion) makes a wish on a pumpkin that he finds growing down a dirt path as he runs away from his latest kicking by the local bullies. Tim (not Timmy – he hates that!) wishes that his tormentors get scared to death and so appears the Trickster (Doug Jones – Pan’s Labyrinth), an imp-like character that Tim read about in a Halloween book, to grant Tim his wish, only the Trickster takes the word ‘death’ literally and Tim finds himself locked in a deal he cannot get out of.
It’s a fable that has been told many times over and will be again probably forever as the fallout from Tim’s anger consumes him and he ends up cursing the moment he made the damn wish in the first place. What Terror of Hallow’s Eve does is add in a few elements that tweak the plot ever so slightly to give it a bit more depth and a ‘was it real or just in his head?’ twist that isn’t that original in itself but plays out in an obvious nod to the 1981 Halloween II (and perhaps even Rob Zombie’s H2 if you really want to make connections, but that probably wasn’t the intention) in a rather downbeat way that the colourful special effects bonanza we witnessed moments before didn’t really suggest.
However, as with the majority of ‘make a deal with the devil’ movies, Terror of Hallow’s Eve doesn’t really have enough meat on its bones to substantiate its 80-minute running time, and so Todd Tucker – who comes from a special effects background – fills a lot of that dead(ish) air with elongated scenes of Tim having flashbacks to when his abusive father was living at home, as well as other unnecessarily stretched-out moments, and what you end up with is an uneven tone that veers from teenage angst movie to full-on monster slasher, stopping at family drama and neon-drenched ‘80s splatter along the way before slowing down into psychological thriller territory before the inevitable Halloween III tribute at the end.
All of which makes Terror of Hallow’s Eve a frustrating experience as it works better when it doesn’t try to be all things to all people. The scenes with the Trickster add a creepy fairy tale edge and had the movie stuck to the quirky tone that comes with having a such a fantastical character surrounded by flashing pink neon and Aliens-esque practical puppets then the movie would have at least had a playful momentum to carry it along, but the bizarre epilogue – that feels totally tacked on just to pad out the running time – is too drastic a comedown from what was going on minutes before, and the first act of the film is so deadpan serious that the shift that happens when the good stuff begins is welcome but comes along too late to be anything other than jarring.
But that may be overlooking the fact that Terror of Hallow’s Eve is Todd Tucker’s first feature-length horror movie and so he can be forgiven for throwing as much as he can into the mix to see what sticks. The practical effects are excellent, which is no surprise given his background, and he obviously has a lot of themes and ideas he wants to explore but forcing them all into what is, at best, a paper-thin narrative and packing it out with creative visuals and references to other movies makes Terror of Hallow’s Eve a little disappointing overall, and given how much padding there is around the lively ’80s throwback of the second act it probably would have served the material better to have made it as a tighter, more fun-filled short as part of an anthology.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★