Starring 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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The Midnight Man Review – Don’t Hate The Game, Hate The Players
Written by Travis Zariwny
Directed by Travis Zariwny
Travis Zariwny’s The Midnight Man is largely a robotic hide-and-seek slog, yet if dissected in butchered chunks, smaller bites range from delicious destruction to utterly incompetent character work. Judging by the bloodthirsty opening sequence alone, you’d think Zariwny is about to blow our morality-siding minds. A sad misconception, I’m afraid. After our hopes skyrocket, mechanical plot devices are pinned to a storyboard with the utmost lack of exploration. The Midnight Man’s game is afoot, but these players would barely compete against an opponent crafted from brick and mortar. Can someone calculate a handicap for them, please?
Gabrielle Haugh stars as Alex Luster, a caring granddaughter to Nana Anna (Lin Shaye). One night, upon the request of her not-always-there relative, Alex rummages through attic trunks for a silver-backed hand mirror. Instead she finds a nondescript wrapped box with what appears to be a game inside. Her crush Miles (Grayson Gabriel) has arrived by now, and after an incident where Anna requires medical attention from house-call doctor Harding (Robert Englund), the two friends begin playing whatever it was that caused Anna to screech in disapproval. You know, the only rational decision.
At the risk of sounding like a smug CinemaSins video, The Midnight Man would surely bomb any horror IQ test. Zariwny’s *first* piece of introduced information after discovering Midnight Man’s altar is quite simple – DANGER. DO NOT PLAY. IT JUST CAUSED A WOMAN TO FAINT. Nevertheless, our braindead sheeple follow careful rules to summon Mr. Midnight Man into their house – because, as horror movies have proven, tempting occult fates is buckets of fun! At least the characters don’t confess romantic feelings and makeout while another friend who joins the game late – “Creepy Pasta” obsessed Kelly (Emily Haine) – could already be in the Midnight Man’s clutches, that’d be – oh, right. That happens.
Senile Anna is another story altogether – Zariwny’s grey-haired red herring in the worst way. Lin Shaye injects so much destabilized madness into this energetic, midnight-perfect role, elevating herself into a stratosphere well above The Midnight Man itself. Whether she’s screaming about Alex’s disgusting blood, or ominously whispering dreadful remarks through a housewide intercom, or beating Robert Englund to a pulp with wide-eyed psychosis – well, if you’ve seen Dead End, you *know* the kind of batshitery Shaye is capable of. Her genre vet status on display like a damn clinic here.
Shaye – and even Englund – aside, scripting is too procedural to salvage any other performances. Kelly doesn’t even deserve mention given her “bring on death!” attitude and enthusiastic late entry INTO AN URBAN LEGEND’S DEATHTRAP – a poorly conceived “twist” with less structure. This leaves Grayson Gabriel and Haugh herself, two thinly-scripted cutouts who couldn’t find a more repetitive genre path to follow. There’s little mystery to the gonigs on, and neither actor manages to wrangle tension (even when staring our Midnight friend in the face…thing).
Scares are hard to come by because Zariwny opts for a more “charismatic” villain who talks like Scarecrow and appears as a dyed-black, cloaked Jack Skellington. He can form out of clouds and is a stickler for rules (candles lit at all times, 10 seconds to re-ignite, if you fail he exploits your deepest fear). Credit is noted given this villain’s backstory and strict instructions – which does make for a rather killer game of tag – but the need to converse and expose Midnight from shadows subtracts necessary mysticism. He’s a cocky demon with masks for each emotion (think woodland death imp emojis), but never the spine-tingling beast we find ourselves hiding from.
This is all a bummer because gore goes bonkers in the very first scene – with underage victims no less. One young player gets decapitated, another explodes into a red splattery mess (against fresh snowfall), but then a vacuous lull in process takes hold. It’s not until Alex’s fear of blood and Miles’ fear of pain that we get more eye-bulging squeamishness, then again when Kelly’s bunnyman appears. A no-bullshit, bunny-headed creature wearing a suit, which plays directly into Kelly’s deepest fear. When Zariwny gets sick and surreal, he scores – but it’s a disappointing “when.”
I take no pleasure in confirming that any small victory The Midnight Man claims is negated by kids who should’ve been offed for even thinking about a quick playthrough of Anna’s old-school entertainment. Invite him in, pour your salt circles and try to survive until 3:33AM – sounds easy, right? If the demon plays fair, you bet! But why would ANYONE trust a demon’s word? Makes sense given Alex and Miles’ ignorance of more red flags than a Minesweeper game, and a thrilling chase these bad decisions do not make.
The Midnight Man begins by striking a meteoric horror high, only to plummet back down towards repetitive genre bumbling once the game’s true – and less enticing – plot begins.
American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review
Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo
Directed by Colin Bemis
Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.
The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.
As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!
Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.
Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.
In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.
On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.
In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.
Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)
We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.
In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.
Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!
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