Halloween Night (DVD)

Halloween Night reviewStarring Derek Osedach, Rebekah Kochan, Scot Nery, Sean Durrie, Alicia Klein, Erica Roby, Amanda Ward

Directed by Mark Atkins

“A horror masterpiece from FANGORIA’s Michael Gingold”

That’s what the phantom quote on the back of the DVD box for The Asylum’s Halloween Night boldly states. Here’s what it should read:

“A retarded slasher flick from a guy who should know better.”

The other thing the back of the box declares is:

“Based On The Terrifying True Story That Started It All”

Started what all?

Halloween Night opens with a young boy named Christopher Vale, who, on Halloween night, witnesses two masked assailants tie up his father, do unspeakable things to his mother, and then blow her head off. The staging of what happens next is virtually indescribable, but the kid was standing next to a heating pipe when his mom was shot through the head and the bullet struck this pipe. The steam to let out severely scalded your Christopher’s face. Again, the staging of this scene is awful. Where did that huge steam pipe even came from?

Jump forward ten years later to another Halloween and the insane asylum that Chris Vale now calls home. Chris Vale doesn’t just have a burn-scarred face; he’s completely zombified! Instead of looking just facially deformed like Freddy Krueger or Michael Myers post-Halloween 2, he looks like a decaying zombie extra from Land of the Dead. Face, neck, arms, everything … I think the make-up F/X people were trying to go for a look along the lines of Jason in the lake from the first Friday the 13th. Instead, Christopher Vale looks like a rubbery faced cross between Darkman and Mrs. Vorhees severed head from Friday the 13th Part 2.

Asylum orderlies proceed to taunt Chris Vale’s zombified remains with masks identical to the ones the killers wore, just like all good asylum orderlies do to their patients. Chris doesn’t like this. Carnage ensues. Vale then escapes this maximum security medical facility by putting on one of those masks, wrapping himself in a cloak of white sheets, and casually walking out the front door.

Hoo boy! And we’re only five minutes in.

An APB is out for the hideously deformed asylum escapee. “Have you seen this man?” asks the cop stopping people at a checkpoint to show them a snapshot of a guy that looks like the walking dead. He then advises motorists not to pick up any hitchhikers. I don’t know about you but I don’t need a cop to tell me to not pick up the strange person on the side of the road that looks like the monster from Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse after being dipped in acid.

Wouldn’t you know it; a bunch of teens are planning to have a big Halloween bash in the house out in the woods that the Vale family used to call home. Like many slasher movies, Halloween Night doesn’t have characters; it has dominoes waiting to be knocked over. Halloween Night‘s dominoes include a guy that looks a bit like Donny Osmond with a five o’clock shadow, the lead girl from The Asylum’s When A Killer Calls, a lesbian couple, a greaser, a web surfing dork, a guy dressed as a troll whose job it is to man the entrance to the party, and a few other stragglers. The less said the better.

Two of the partygoers make a stop at a gas station, the very gas station whose bathroom stall Vale has been hiding out in. He kills one of the teens and steals his somewhat cheap looking executioner costume with a Quiet Riot mask. And what luck that our escaped homicidal maniac happened to kill the guy with the Halloween costume that comes complete with actual weaponry: a real hand axe, sword, and big wavy knife.

Vale then drives himself to the party and I’m sure you can pretty much figure out what happens from there.

There was one twist where things actually became legitimately interesting for a few moments. A fight breaks out at the party just moments after Vale has arrived in disguise. That greaser pulls a gun, a cop arrives, and the greaser takes a hostage. That hostage he takes is Vale. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a slasher flick where the slasher got taken hostage and dragged out of a building with a gun to his head.

Up until this point I had at least found Halloween Night a watchable diversion. Unfortunately, almost everything after that twist proved a crushing bore and as unimaginative a slasher flick as possible – a small group of partygoers staying behind in the house to have sex, find some other reason to get naked, or argue with one another, while the killer keeps taking off and putting back on his executioner costume depending on whether or not he wants to just outright kill someone or sneak up on them first before killing them.

A slasher movie lives and dies based on two things: the nature of the slasher and the movie’s kills. I know slasher movie fans are generally an easily pleased bunch so I cannot say for sure whether or not the kills here will satisfy them. The only original (and improbable) kill involves use of a coat hanger. Other than that, it’s just a lot of axes to the head and slashed throats – pretty routine stuff that’s competently done but still rather flaccid.

I do think I can say with almost absolute certainty that slasher movie fans won’t be too terribly impressed with Christopher Vale as a movie slasher. The guy just doesn’t cut it – no pun intended. Everything we’ll ever come to learn about this character – which isn’t much – comes from the opening prologue and one of the partygoers looking up info about him on the internet. Having the personality of a non-speaking, (sometimes) masked killer may work for Michael Myers and Jason Vorhees because those characters have an aura of unstoppable evil to them, but Chris Vale is all too human – one hilarious moment has an angry half-naked lesbian beating the snot out of him – and his motivations for going on this killing spree, again, make little sense. You know there’s a problem when you have no idea why the slasher in a slasher movie is going around slashing.

Logic gaps abound. I’m sure this is the sort of movie that the people defending it would insist to be a check your brain at the door, don’t take it too seriously, and you’ll enjoy it sort of film. I would counter that even mindless entertainment has to have some coherent line of thought behind it and making a good movie out of the senselessness doesn’t hurt either.

The F5 level of stupidity that is Halloween Night‘s final scene perfectly typifies one of the biggest problems plaguing Asylum productions. Their films are often loaded with stuff that’s just flat out asinine yet the movie takes itself so seriously as to negate any chance of it being a cheesy fun. You keep winding up with dull, unimaginative films that negate their cheesy nature with a straight-faced blandness so much so that when something stupid happens it only ends up feeling insulting to your intelligence and not stupid in a fun way. It’s the difference between a good B-movie and, well, stuff like this. And I say this even when talking about a movie that’s superior to almost everything the Asylum has produced this past year.

The Asylum boasts that Halloween Night movie is based on a true story. An explanation for this comes in the form of a quickie featurette with Asylum honcho David Michael Latt. You see Latt used to throw elaborate Halloween parties 20 years ago that often involved an elaborate prank being pulled on the guests. One of these Halloween parties was being held at a secluded house in the woods and on the way there they found out that someone escaped from a mental institution in the area. When the prank designed to scare the crap out of everyone went down, the partygoers were especially freaked out because they thought it was the escapee having crashed their party. That’s it. So in other words, I could one day make a horror movie about a guy that goes in for a routine colonoscopy only for the doctors to discover a portal to hell in the man’s rectum that proceeds to unleash a legion of demonic creatures and claim it to also be “based on a true story” because I did once had to have a colonoscopy. While I can appreciate some old fashioned ballyhoo, we’re not exactly in William Castle territory here with this one.

Other DVD features include the usual spate of outtakes, deleted scenes, and the dreaded Asylum group audio commentary track in which people constantly talk over one another and seem completely oblivious as to the actual nature of the film. Look, I don’t expect anyone to come right out and say their movie sucks but a little honesty would be appreciated every now and then and probably even make for a more compelling commentary. I listened to the first five minutes of this one and heard them laughing off how the script originally called for Vale to get burned alive after the sofa he’s hiding under gets set on fire but they changed it to the steam pipe incident due to potential fire safety issues in the Asylum office building where they were filming. That right there pretty much told me all I needed to know about the making of this movie.

Halloween Night is stupid slasher flick that’s sporadically amusing but mostly dull due to pacing issues, the predictable nature of the “seen it a million times before” storyline, and its insistence on taking itself far too seriously even when it’s being outright dumb. Good for a few laughs, some gratuitous nudity, and little else. For all the films the movie tries to pay homage to, Halloween Night only really pays homage to those totally forgettable, direct-to-video slasher flicks that you saw a long time ago. Remember those? Remember the ones that were so lame and generic you’ve already forgotten their titles? You know the ones I’m talking about. You just can’t remember their titles. Halloween Night will become one of those titles.

2 out of 5

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Jon Condit

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