I’m always seeing memes about how we should skip Valentine’s Day and just have a second Halloween in February, so it’s quite convenient that I found a bunch of streaming stuff that takes place on Halloween. But are they Halloweenie enough to get you in the spirit?
DON’T LOOK IN THE CELLAR (2008)
This isn’t your daddy’s “Don’t…” horror movie. This low-budget film also isn’t worth a look as a slasher or a Halloween film, and would probably only appeal to adolescent straight boys who want to see chicks in slutty costumes sharing lesbian kisses and getting into catfights. For me, the film mostly served as a good reminder of why I can’t take for granted that I don’t live in a warm climate; a bunch of college kids is hanging out by a pool in bathing suits the day before Halloween! Blech. Talk about killing the mood.
These college kids have to do a class project about an old asylum, so they invite a troubled girl along to the asylum for a research-Halloween party—which in this movie means an endless truth or dare game that takes up a majority of the running time. Meanwhile, there’s a guy with a sack on his head and a campy, flamboyant guy…living in the cellar if you use your imagination. The same 3 or 4 sets are recycled repeatedly, so it’s impossible to get any sense of this actually being an asylum with different floors. It’s much like the film Night of the Dead, which I blog about here.
As a matter of fact, the two baddies in that movie are the two baddies in this movie! The film structure is also virtually identical if you just substitute zombies for a machete killer. I guess all those similarities have a lot to do with the fact that both movies come from the same director! If you must watch one, Night of the Dead at least manages to be a bit funny.
Eventually, the college kids begin walking off alone, enter the room where the sack head guy is, and get killed. Don’t expect anything impressive or memorable here at all. It’s dullsville. Finally, the troubled girl’s past comes into play, and the flamboyant crazy guy supplies us with a lot of uninteresting backstory for an incredible anti-climax.
Here you have a movie in which the director tries to prove an ability to set up tension by simply repeating the same thing over and over for an hour and twenty minutes. I’m dumbfounded that someone at some point didn’t scream, “You have no story here!” Particularly all the actors, who were pretty good but had nothing to work with.
The other pitfall is the need to be so meta that you come across as nothing but a fan boy who picked up a camera and had your characters continuously recite dialogue from your favorite horror movies. In fact, during the very first call the main girl receives from someone using the Scream voice, she rags on the caller for being unoriginal and using the Scream voice. She then goes on to spend the entire movie exchanging lines from Scream with the caller.
Meanwhile, there’s no setup. She and a few other characters are all sitting in dark living rooms with just flickering TVs as a light source for the entire movie. A news report suggests there was a murder a year before, and now, on Halloween Eve, there’s a curfew. It’s mentioned approximately once that it’s Mischief Night, but as I said, all we get are dark living rooms, and not a single one has any kind of Halloween décor. So there’s no holiday spirit here whatsoever.
Aside from the few main characters talking to each other on their phones from their living rooms, there are continuous shaky POV scenes of someone in a hoodie walking around—we just don’t know where. It’s handheld footage of someone lurking with a flashlight through rooms and around houses, accompanied by the same little piano melody over and over, sometimes interrupted by a meaningless musical cue that would normally suggest something shocking happening, but in this case, delivers no visual shocks—only continuing footage of that same person walking around. There’s also the sound of a dog barking somewhere in the neighborhood for the whole movie.
Eventually, at the end, it appears someone invades the homes of each character and kills them. All we see are the dead bodies. You also become convinced that all these people are in one house that has like four living rooms. No idea what the fuck was going on. Finally, the main girl is alone with the killer, and we get a very Scream twist.
Yes, people. We’ve gotten to that point at which filmmakers are creating slashers that are homages to slashers that were homages to other slashers.
ALL SINNER’S NIGHT (2014)
Hidden in the chaos of All Sinner’s Night is a story about a chick whose brother disappeared the previous Halloween…and the reporter she teams up with who lost his wife a year ago, too, and believes there’s a cult at work in both their cases.
The film opens with a tour down a street blazing with Halloween lights, then an enticing scene of a woman in a mask coming into a man’s bedroom with a gun. After this we meet the main girl, who takes a wicked long drive to pad the film. Luckily there’s a cool horror punk song playing during the journey. That would be “Four Play by the 8-Track Player” by Dead Dick Hammer.
The main girl meets up with the reporter and they set out to uncover the truth. But forget about them, because the movie pretty much does. There’s really no straightforward narrative here, and we get loads of music montages and clips of Halloween festivities to lengthen the film.
Aside from that, the film is predominantly made up of scenes of random people being abducted by guys in Halloween masks. I must say, although there’s no sense of connection to any of these fleeting characters (okay, I was kind of feeling the mom who read a Scooby Doo book to her daughter), director Bobby Easley—who’s a total hottie (below)—sure knows how to create some suspenseful moments. They’re reminiscent of current home invasion movies, but would be better served in a film with a stronger script and some structure.
Hello, director Bobby Easley!
Aside from those few abduction sequences that are really tight (and accompanied by a damn good musical score), the rest of the kidnapping scenes are extremely generic and repetitive. There’s also a crazy reverend that looks like Ernest (yes, of Ernest Scared Stupid), and eventually, the move climaxes with an overly long cult ritual segment that, unfortunately, is a glaring reminder that this is a low-budget indie.
Reverend Scared Stupid
The finale does, however, mark the return of the two “main characters” we barely saw throughout the movie.
PAY THE GHOST (2015)
Despite my rule of “don’t watch any Nicolas Cage movie other than Valley Girl,” I was obligated to check out Pay the Ghost because it takes place on Halloween. The good news is it’s better than The Wicker Man. And Cage is somewhat better as well….
Nicholas’s son talks about seeing a dark figure outside his window, and even draws a picture of it. When Nicholas takes him to the Halloween carnival, the boy sees a vulture…and then disappears, virtually right before Nicolas’s eyes.
Brace yourself, because Nicolas’s wife is none other than Lori from The Walking Dead. Almost immediately, she’s as much of a C word to him as she was to Rick. But I promise, she eventually redeems herself in this film, as Nicolas convinces her that there is most definitely something supernatural going on here. He discovers that tons of children that have gone missing on Halloween were never found, compared to children gone missing on other days, most of whom were found. Yeah, right.
The couple begins independently researching the case, and Pay the Ghost becomes your average, modern ghost movie with creepy ghost kids, a few cheap jump scares, cheesy quick cuts and flashy editing, a psychic, silly supernatural happenings, an uninspired flashback story, and an ending that—well, if you’ve seen Mama, you’ve pretty much scene this. On the bright side, the ghost kids are in Halloween costumes.
In conclusion, well, there are a whole lot of other films you can watch instead that take place on Halloween. My full list here.