Halloween is the best time to scare the pants off all your friends, but that’s just supposed to be a figure of speech. However, things get a little out of hand for the guys in both Devil’s Night and Boys in the Trees, two more to add to the complete holiday horror page.
DEVIL’S NIGHT (2015)
Since there are already two Mischief Night Halloween movies (last time I counted), this one had to go for a different title, which happens to be the same title as a Danielle Harris horror flick, making that two Halloween movies with the title Devil’s Night (last time I counted…which was just now).
I’m not going to lie. The main group of guys in this one goes through some horrific shit in the last 20 minutes or so of this 80-minute movie, but the first 60 minutes don’t do much except deliver a really good Halloween vibe and establish that boys will be douche bags.
The guys hang at a pre-Halloween costume party. They get into fights (over girls, I think…don’t care, just know one of them is dressed as a hunky caveman). They get kicked out, contemplate whether they’re too old to smash pumpkins and egg and toilet paper houses, and then decide they’re not (they are).
After that, you can read the film one of two ways. Either it’s a story of how assholes eventually get what they deserve, or it’s a story about how you never really know what insane, evil shit is going on behind closed doors in the house down the street. Actually, there’s a third option. You can read it as both at once.
The guys run around town all night, partially causing trouble then looking for one of their own after he disappears.
In the last 20 minutes, they’re suddenly abducted without warning by a masked cult and subjected to sadistic, sexual and physical torture. That’s what you get for wearing slutty caveman costumes on Halloween.
There’s so much sexual debauchery going on here, I even thought the leader of the cult was a sort of “Norman Bates” dude in drag. The trick’s on me. It really is a female actress playing the part.
It’s all so compelling you kind of wish it was leading to something profound. Or at least something loaded with cheap horror thrills.
Forget it. There are no heroes once the terror starts, no suspenseful fights or chases or cat and mouse moments. This is a purely fatalistic cautionary tale for the young ones of today who are clueless to the evil torture porn lurking around every corner for no good reason.
BOYS IN THE TREES (2016)
I put off watching this one for a while because a) I heard it was more about the great Halloween atmosphere than actual horror, and b) it was getting lots of high praise as a powerful, moving, emotional, and beautifully crafted coming of age tale.
It’s now safe for me to say it’s a powerful, moving, emotional, and beautifully crafted coming of age tale with great Halloween atmosphere. So what might it be unsafe for me to say?
It’s almost two hours long. That’s too long. For most movies. Virtually all movies. But I’ve established that. In almost every blog I’ve ever written about a movie.
Moving on, I couldn’t help but notice similarities between this and both Lost Creek, a Halloween film made the same year, and Ray Bradbury’s story The Halloween Tree, each of which deals with younger kids exploring emotional attachment and facing their fears of death and loss on Halloween.
Boys In The Trees, however, explores the fractured relationship between two childhood friends in their teen years, specifically because the pretty one has moved on to join the ranks of the popular assholes that bully the weird one.
It’s Halloween night 1997, so montages to tracks like “The Beautiful People” by Marilyn Manson, “Lump” by The Presidents of the United States of America, “Feel The Pain” by Dinosaur Jr, and “Glycerine” by Bush really get us into the nostalgic mood.
After the bad boys egg and toilet paper houses and smash pumpkins (Dammit, Devil’s Night guys, you need to lead by example), the pretty boy friend splits from the group and encounters the weird friend.
E.T. phone home?
They spend the night rekindling their friendship and getting swept into the horrors of Halloween.
Their fears, whether real or imagined, bring them closer together to a point that borders on homoromantic (I so badly wanted to say homantic, but that just sounds man whorish).
Their physical expressions of bonding are expressed various times.
Not surprisingly, the bad boys use homosexuality as a weapon to degrade the weird friend, and eventually against the pretty boy by association, forcing the issue of sexuality and masculine insecurities about showing emotion to be addressed to some extent.
However, after challenging societal expectations of just how much deep male bonding is permissible, the exploration of gay feelings safely returns to the “friend zone,” essentially re-establishing the boundaries with which the audience has always been comfortable.
On the other hand, going from the homo to horror aspects of the film, while the more frightening scenes seem to be imaginary or metaphorical throughout the course of the night’s events, Boys In The Trees does eventually cop to some of its fantastical and supernatural angles in order to tug at your heartstrings in the final moments.