HALLOWEEN HORROR ROUND-UP 2020

It’s a whole new bundle of movies to add to the Halloween section of my complete holiday horror page, but is it a lucky or unlucky 7? Let’s get right into which ones deliver the Halloween thrills we seek.

MASS HYSTERIA (2020)

I’m always up for a Halloween movie that takes place in Salem, and if you’ve ever been there, you’ll notice Mass Hysteria really was filmed right on the streets of the town!

It also appears to be written by someone who either lived there or has gone there for Halloween, because it has some very true to life situations. For starters, the locals are horrified when the tourists come rolling in for the holiday.

The main kids that work in the historical witchcraft re-enactments are frustrated that tourists just want to see supernatural stuff. And in the crowds of visitors, there’s an annoying religious nut telling everyone they’re going to hell for celebrating Halloween.

Halloween spirit is high, there are plenty of humorous parts and a likable cast, and the plot is fun. When someone dies watching a re-enactment, everyone becomes convinced the main girl playing the role of an accused witch is an actual witch!

And so the tourists, led by the religious nut, start a modern day witch hunt! It’s a blast for a while, but it begins to become repetitive and lose steam, causing this 65-minute movie to feel much longer.

The biggest issue is that there’s a twist that changes the course of the plot and introduces a different kind of horror, but unfortunately, it comes at the 57- minute mark—way too little time to delve into the new situation.

If it had been presented at around the 40-minute mark, it would have helped the pacing and made this one a little more exciting.

HUBIE HALLOWEEN (2020)

If you’ve been a fan of Adam Sandler’s career for the past 30 years, then this is exactly what you would expect. Think of it like the Madea Boo! movies with Sandler’s brand of comedy instead.

The cast alone is epic, and includes the likes of Ben Stiller, Ray Liotta, Maya Rudolph, Julie Bowen, Kevin James, Steven Buscemi, Colin Quinn, Michael Chiklis, Tim Meadows, Rob Schneider, Shaquille O’Neal, Ben Stiller, and Kenan Thompson.

And of course Adam Sandler does one of his voices…one that’s hard to understand quite often, which is a little frustrating. I’m not sure if he was going for a character with a developmental disability or if it’s just supposed to be his personality, but either way, his character Hubie is relentlessly teased and tormented by kids and adults alike.

But he never seems to realize it or let it bother him, for his focus is on enjoying the spirit of the Halloween season in his town and protecting everyone from harm, especially with news of an escaped mental patient coming to town and the possibility that a werewolf is on the loose.

The comedy is quiet funny, there’s plenty of spooky Halloween atmosphere (although I don’t believe this movie is actually filmed in Salem), and the simple plot is entertaining.

However, if this 103-minute movie would have been trimmed by about 13 minutes, it would have vastly improved the pacing and eliminated some of the excess, repetitive nonsense—like Sandler constantly screaming at bogus jump scares. It’s funny a few times, but by the tenth time we really want to just get on with the story.

There are also some totally unnecessary side characters (like a budding romance between two teens) that just sidetrack the action.

Even so, this is a good one to get you in the Halloween zone, and it’s magnified by the expansive selection of horror and Halloween themed songs used. This movie really needs a soundtrack release.

DO NOT REPLY (2020)

I’ll start off by asking—how do filmmakers watch back the movie they’ve made that is dependent on telling its story through on screen text bubbles and not see that the font color and translucent bubble background colors make it hard for practically blind people to read the texts?

Okay, I’m past it. Now on to the Halloween issue. The description of the movie mentions the holiday, but be warned—this movie is not about Halloween for more than five minutes, and therefore I won’t be adding it to the holiday horror page.

It’s about a young woman who meets a guy online. They agree to meet at a Halloween party, he drugs her, and she awakes chained up in a basement.

Surprisingly, this isn’t torture porn–but her kidnapper definitely seems to be a fan of Argento…

It actually does a good job of juggling a lot of character issues at once, and even though it doesn’t have time enough to really delve into each of them, it gets the point across, it’s suspenseful, and it never slows down.

The dude that abducted her has serious issues with women, has several girls imprisoned in his home, calls them all Sadie, and has them make each other into Stepford Sadies…that all look like the singer Poppy.

He also likes making virtual reality movies with his Sadies…

Some girls are already brainwashed, some can’t cope with the situation, and of course our main girl intends to escape the insanity. All I’m going to say is that during the final battle she does one of the smartest things a final girl has ever done in a horror movie.

HALLOWEEN PARTY (2019)

While so much of this film is derivative and features aspects of numerous movies of the past two decades, there are moments that are quite effective.

And the Halloween spirit is high, although there’s a catch with the “Halloween party” aspect.

Taking advantage of the modern technology horror era in which we’re living, the film revolves around a Halloween themed computer game—you get sent the game, a countdown starts, and you must quickly type in your worst fear. Do it, your safe, mess up, your dead.

A group of college kids quickly learns this is no game!

The main girl and her computer geek friend talk about their love of everything 80s, and they discuss their own fears. Hers is that spiders are going to crawl up her cooch. It’s mentioned so much that we can only anticipate what’s going to become of that fear later on…

The pair quickly suspects that other students are dying due to the game…yet they seem oddly calm about their friends dying for quite a while. It has an effect on any sense of urgency we should feel as the audience, despite some creepy kills along the way. The first kill alone is brilliantly presented with no score at all, a rarely used approach that is always chilling.

There is an invite to a Halloween party, but the kids get distracted so that never happens. Instead they discover that the forces behind the game consider every day a Halloween party. Lame!

The forces are quite freaky, but when they come after the kids the money shots are mostly packed in the last few minutes of the film, which suddenly turns sort of found footage. And the tacked on end scene is a weird shift in tone—fun and funny for sure, but not in keeping with the rest of the film at all.

SPINE CHILLER (2020)

This 73-minute “anthology” film, which takes more of an intertwining stories approach like Trick ‘r Treat, leans heavily on various gimmicks that make it seem like an early 80s VHS movie. At this point, the analog synth scores, color drenched scenes, and grainy, speckled film filter tricks are becoming caricatures.

But hell, they still work like a charm. And this throwback flick definitely has charm.

The real issue is the lack of variety in the “tales”. Almost all of the stories involve someone who is getting ready for the party being surprised by the appearance in their house of someone wearing a mask and wielding a knife. Good news is, every mask is different.

The only thing that keeps this from not simply being a slasher is one story about a guy whose werewolf costume arrives in the mail incomplete…but evolves into something even better than a costume.

There’s plenty of spooky atmosphere, creepy camera angles, Halloween mask eye cutout POV, some gore using practical effects, and perfectly timed musical cues determined to give us some scares, but the truth is, not much here packs a punch. It’s mostly the nostalgic vibe that kept me entertained. And to be honest, when the stories all tie up together at the end, I can’t promise that you’ll be satisfied. But this guy is quite satisfying…

THEY LIVE INSIDE US (2020)

It’s no surprise that this comes from one of the directors of installments of The Witching Season web series, because it delivers plenty of Halloween atmosphere and an 80s vibe.

The classic opening scene features Halloween-esque music as kids on bikes tour a town covered in signs of the holiday, stop at a creepy house, and tell varying stories about why it’s vacant, including murder, witchcraft, and ghosts.

Then we meet our main character, a poor man’s Elijah Wood. He comes to the house for writing inspiration on Halloween, and brings his daughter along.

I kind of feel like anyone watching will know where this movie is going as we get inside the man’s head. In between experiencing strange, supernatural situations in the house (he does a lot of walking around looking nervous), he works on his story.

And that’s where the film has a split personality. He’s basically writing a story about a woman being stalked on Halloween, but he keeps rethinking and rewriting it, making this sort of like an anthology as we see the woman deal with a masked killer, a killer scarecrow, a crazed clown, etc.

Although the film is suspenseful, it doesn’t deliver much on scares, but the story he’s writing is definitely the highlight, offering a great old school slasher look and feel. However, the scenes slowly revealing his story in the house are repetitive and lead to the most obvious conclusion.

WEEDJIES: HALLOWEED NIGHT (2020)

The director of Halloween horror flick Dark Walker nails it all here—the 90s Full Moon Features vibe, the Halloween spirit, and a combination of Ghoulies and Gremlins. I’d swear these little critters are leftover props borrowed from both of those franchises.

It begins on Halloween 1978. Get it? A dude is trying to send the critters back from where they came: a Ouija board!

Jump ahead to modern day, and somehow three girls and a guy have rented out an entire hotel in Vegas to throw a huge Halloween party. Cue decorating montage…and then a dance montage at the party! There’s even a totally 80s heavy metal band.

The big theme of the night is a scavenger hunt. Winner gets a huge bag of weed! As the game gets underway, a mysterious voodoo priestess shows up and convinces the main kids to play with her Ouija board. Out pop the Ghoulie-Gremlins! Time to get campy!

And totally bringing the camp is a fabulous gay couple.

Kudos to Full Moon for delivering the only film that reminds us that when it’s Halloween, there will be gays!

They love, they fight, they scream, they search for weed…and they’re dressed like a hot dog and bun. Which begs the question, who wore it better? Them or me and the hubba hubba?

There are plenty of nods to both Gremlins and Ghoulies, swirls of green magic mist, an awesome Ouija board, a floating Rastafarian demon head, goofy humor and kills, and even a cameo by some of Full Moon’s most famous little buggers.

If you just want a fun party movie on Halloween night and you grew up on horror of the 80s and 90s, all planchettes point to this film.

 

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES. I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.
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