Following up on my other Halloween movie post a few weeks ago, I think this is the only other one I need to do covering everything Halloween themed that I could possibly stumble upon this season to add to the complete holiday horror page.
THE MOUNT (2021)
I had so much hope for this movie when it started. An older, reclusive woman with her house all decorated for Halloween likes to scare trick or treaters.
She also intends to celebrate the holiday with a gentleman caller. My kind of cranky old bitch.
But then a group of weird kids pays her a visit. She is immediately relegated to being tied up in a chair and viciously tortured for the majority of the movie. Just like The Strangers, these kids don’t seem to really have a motive for terrorizing her, but in this case we see them just relishing tormenting her. They’re definitely more bizarre than the baddies in The Strangers, which adds an intriguing element to the film.
While much of what they do is gruesome and they are presented in a creepy, cultish manner, the tonal shifts often spoil the atmosphere, right down to a final knife battle set to militant, farcical music!
There was so much opportunity to make this a suspenseful cat and mouse movie, but that only shines through periodically in what is otherwise just a progression of these kids going more and more off the rails.
It was simply the compelling style of the film that kept me watching, hoping it would get better as it went along.
As a bonus, I watched The Mount 2 (2022). I don’t think it takes place on Halloween, but I’m not positive…because I’m not quite sure what’s going on.
Kids decide to visit the house from the first movie and have a total caricature tour guide in a wig perform a séance.
I believe it is supposed to be soon after what transpired in the first movie.
Pretty soon the original bad kids are back, more insane and bloodthirsty than before. There are hints of occult practices implied this time around.
However, the movie unfolds with numerous music and dancing montages interspersed with stalking and slashing scenes, and it starts to feel like an endless, artsy music video.
By the time a psycho chef came on the scene, I was over it.
THE WOODS OF PURGATORY (2018)
Considering it’s about a priest, this one has all kinds of religious metaphors. The priest is losing his faith and dealing with guilt after the death of his mother.
On his way home from a bar, he sees a girl standing in the middle of a deserted road, chases her, has an encounter with a satanic cult, and then becomes obsessed with possession.
Conveniently, one of his peers performed an exorcism recently, so he begins following the formerly possessed man. Perhaps the eeriest moment is when he witnesses the supposedly “cured” man suddenly suffer an abnormal spasm and let out a deep-throated noise while in public. Freaky!
That plot line aside, the priest is terrorized by the cult wherever he goes.
His priest buddy—a totally rad dude who loves Halloween and likes chasing girls—drags him to a haunted attraction, where things go very badly.
It’s a slow burn and a little convoluted, but I really like how Halloween is integrated into the story of a priest being pursued by a crazy cult that appears to be possessed.
It’s a unique twist on the usual cult plot.
THE CLOWN CHAINSAW MASSACRE (2022)
Turns out this low budget, 45-minute film was trimmed down for inclusion in the anthology Clowns of Halloween, which I cover in a post from several years back, so I won’t go into detail here. Just note there’s a Halloween party, a killer clown, nods to Halloween and Halloween 3, and a gay character.
ESCAPE ROOM: QUEST OF FEAR (2018)
This Russian film is almost two hours long, which works against it so badly for the first 75 minutes. At that point, when the crazy kills kick in, the whole tone shifts and I was mostly feeling it.
The “setup” is drawn out for no reason. One dude’s birthday is on Halloween, he receives an Ouija board as a gift, and he and his friends use it. There is absolutely no need for their Ouija session to go on for as long as it does.
At the same time, his parents go to an occult shop to get him a gift. Once again there’s a scene that just drags on forever, and this time it’s the store owner doing a Tarot reading for the parents.
The group of friends ends up at an escape room haunted attraction. We go on the tour with them as they escape one room after another, get split up, go looking for each other, and get chased by haunters in masks. Feels like the usual haunted attraction horror movie.
Then the killing starts. It’s brutality and blood galore, and the film gets this trippy 1970s insane asylum horror movie vibe, with that freaky style of music that goes right to your head, crazy camera work, psycho clowns, Saw-like sets, gut-munching cannibals, and practical gore effects.
The only thing that ruins the awesome atmosphere is the decision to throw in blaring thrash metal music during the death scenes. I don’t know why filmmakers ever choose thrash metal to serve as a “score”. I get that it implies chaos, but it always disrupts my immersion in a film.
RL STINE’S ZOMBIE TOWN (2023)
This is perhaps the biggest family-friendly Halloween letdown I’ve watched in several years. It simply isn’t charming enough, and the pacing is abysmal.
Chevy Chase makes a cameo in an opening zombie scene from a movie made in the town in the 1970s.
One of the first problems with this movie is that while there is Halloween décor, the film doesn’t take place in a quaint little community as these films usually do—yet the movie is called Zombie Town! This setting has more of an open, city vibe, which means there aren’t exactly lots of autumn colored trees around to beef up the holiday vibe.
On the bright side, the soundtrack has a good mix of songs, like “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us” by Sparks, “The Air That I Breathe” by The Hollies, “Pump It Up” by Elvis Costello, and “Rock Me Gently” by Andy Kim.
We learn the director of the film (played by Dan Aykroyd) is set to release a new film for the first time in decades. The main kid, who works at the local theater where it will be premiering, sneaks the girl he likes into the theater for a sneak preview of the movie before the event, which ends up unleashing zombies on the town (or city…).
Considering this is an R.L. Stine story, these aren’t flesh eating zombies. They instead do a little supernatural trick—their eyes glow and vapors escape from their mouths into the victims, who then become zombies.
The kids and Dan Aykroyd are then forced to run around their neighborhood trying to stop the outbreak, while determining what caused it.
There are some fun and funny moments, like their teacher-turned-zombie groaning “detention” instead of “brains”, and a suspenseful visit to a Halloween house party filled with zombie guests. And while the zombies might be deliciously disturbing for little kids (gateway movie, perhaps?), overall the movie misses the mark on humor, children’s scares, and Halloween spirit as compared to some of my faves like The Monster Squad, Hocus Pocus, and The Curse of Bridge Hollow.
It even tries to pull off an uplifting Spielberg vibe circa 1983 in the final moments, but it falls flat considering nothing that came before it calls for it.
THE PUMPKIN MAN (2023)
I always blind buy 80s throwback Halloween horror Blu-ray releases from Scream Team Releasing, and this year’s offering is a tried and true slasher theme—a pumpkin-headed killer. Yay!
In a small town, the legend of The Pumpkin Man still echoes, and they have a festival celebrating him every year. This year, however, a teen girl is so intrigued by him that she convinces her friends to help conjure him.
They had no idea it would work.
When the first victim turns up dead and the kids have nightmares of Pumpkin Man visiting them in their bedrooms, they realize they’ve made a huge mistake. Now they have to figure out how to send him back where he came from.
The Halloween and 80s horror lighting give the pumpkin man a great presence, and the death scenes are a treat, with all practical gore effects. Pumpkin Man even speaks with a novelty voice like Freddy Krueger.
There’s a montage at the festival’s haunted attraction, and most of the killings and the final act take place there. It’s nothing mind-blowing as far as indie slashers go, but it definitely has the holiday spirit.
Of note is the nonchalant diversity present here—the main girl’s mom makes a comment in passing about how she would be proud of her daughter even if she had a girlfriend, plus the Black female friend in the group has a white mother. As subtle as these aspects are, the anti-woke crowd will still probably lose its mind. I couldn’t be more thrilled.
This Blu-ray release also includes a 45-minute anthology of 6 holiday shorts from the director as a bonus feature:
1st story – takes a break from Halloween momentarily to give us a Christmas tale. A Scroogey businessman is terrorized by a creepy Santa. Great use of lighting to create the suspense in this one.
2nd story – back to Halloween. A guy buys Witch’s Brew coffee, not heeding the warning label. He goes all single-serve coffee machine when he should have made two cups, because he is immediately visited by a witchy presence.
3rd story – a demon that disguises itself as a trick or treater shows up at the door of a guy who hates candy corn. There’s a nice tie-in to the previous story, but it’s very confusing, because this guy’s house is decorated for Christmas!
4th story – a girl leaves a Halloween party and encounters a goblin…in a mask. Eek! This one is brief but brutal.
5th story – a girl goes through a haunted attraction in which one of the freaky creatures isn’t a guy in a costume. Another eek!
6th story – this is probably a short film that led to the creation of the full-length The Pumpkin Man movie. Witches conjure up The Pumpkin Man and are chased and viciously killed off. This is actually a faster-paced slaughter fest than the full-length feature.
If only the creators of this indie had seen what it could have been if they had trimmed it from 106 repetitive minutes to a tighter 75 minutes, it could have been a campy queer Halloween horror comedy. Either way, it earns a spot on the homo horror movies page.
When her friends get together for Halloween weekend at a supposedly haunted house, a lesbian hopes it will be her chance to woo her ex back. For support, she brings her gay brother along.
What ensues for a majority of this film feels like a small group of friends sitting around, bored, trying to find something better to do, which kind of rubs off on the audience. The lesbian bickering and drama become tedious. Virtually the same dialogue about their failed relationship gets rehashed over and over.
Occasionally the friends go out walking on the streets and have encounters with individual locals—moments that have so much potential to be creepy but never quite nail it. There’s also a dancing montage in slow motion…a very slow montage even without the slow motion. Every aspect of this film just seems to linger on too long for no reason.
The performances are stunted and awkward, and the score is campy dramatic, but that all works to the movie’s benefit when the final act goes for the occult plot that was bubbling deep, deep underneath all along.
An hour and fifteen minutes in it’s finally Halloween.
There are costumes and decorations, and at last we get horror comedy action as the group of friends is terrorized by a cult, showing us what a campy, silly good time this could have been with stronger writing and major editing.
TOTALLY KILLER (2023)
This is the hit flick everyone is watching—and one I want on physical media asap. It’s not “totally” Halloween focused, but the plot centers around the fact that in the 1980s three teen girls were murdered at Halloween time. Plus, the final act takes place at a Halloween carnival event in 1987. Wahoo.
Speaking of the best decade ever, the soundtrack is so 1980s, including songs by Bananarama, New Order, Echo & The Bunnymen, Shannon, Chris De Burgh, and more. What’s significant about this song selection is that, unlike other 80s throwback movies that are at fault for anachronistic song choices, the songs here all come specifically from 87 or before—not from 88 or 89. Hey. Details like these matter to those of us who were there.
Our main girl is our favorite witch Sabrina, who is awesome in this film. Her mother is TV mom Claire from Modern Family, and her father is horror cutie Lochlyn Munro.
It’s Halloween, and decades after a trio of murders of high school girls, Sabrina goes to a concert on Halloween. While she’s gone, the masked killer strikes again in an awesome kill scene.
Sabrina ends up at a science fair and on a time machine her best friend made….that unexpectedly actually works and catapults Sabrina back to Halloween 1987.
For starters, Sabrina has to contend with the very culturally different times, which is a hoot, especially if you were a teen in the 80s. The way in which this movie is “woke” should appease the anti-woke crowd, because in a sense it pokes fun at how much harder it is to navigate the simple practice of saying anything out loud these days.
Sabrina also quickly befriends her teenage mother and father and the girls that are about to die and needs to stop the murders in order to change the events in her own present.
Reminiscent of Happy Death Day 2U, it’s funny and fast-paced, give us a slasher whodunit (which are lacking these days), the characters are likable, the meta jokes about Back to the Future and classic horror movies rule, there are great death scenes and action sequences, and there’s even a gay character at the very end. Totally Killer is an instant slasher classic.