Midnight is the witching hour, so it seems only right that horror happenings take place on New Year’s Eve! Ghostkeeper, Sickness House, and Steel Trap all take place on the big night. So which one deserves a toast of good cheer and fear?
Don’t expect party hats, streamers, or noisemakers. Ghostkeeper takes place in a seemingly abandoned mountain lodge with a party of only 2 chicks and a dude who get stranded there while snowmobiling. Once in the lodge, they meet a creepy old lady who must have given Anne Ramsey some serious competition at all the creepy old lady auditions in the 80s.
Ghostkeeper is a really spooky slow burner in classic early 80s style. With only three victims, they can’t exactly get killed off too quickly. The eerie desolate halls and candlelight make this feel like a real haunted house movie. The opening text of the film tells us that a “Windigo” is a ghost that lives on human flesh, so we kind of assume that’s what we’re in for. Yet while there’s a hint of The Shining supernatural at work, there is a real monster locked in the basement that looks like a zombified lumberjack.
According to the director, they ran out of money, so instead of following the script, he just made up the end as he continued shooting. It would explain why the dude suddenly starts to mumble like he’s possessed and literally walks off into the woods and out of the movie. And why some old man wearing snowshoes suddenly walks into the movie with no explanation and is immediately killed. And why there’s never any kind of juicy, gory confrontation with the monster in the basement.
If the original plot had to be scrapped, they could have just removed the explanation of the Windigo from the opening of the movie so we wouldn’t have felt cheated of the paranormal promise. Even so, the eerie tone and atmosphere is sustained throughout, the storyline manages to be somewhat cohesive anyway, and it’s from the 80s!
SICKNESS HOUSE (2006)
I love low-budget horror. I love movies about being stuck in a house in which everyone is turning either zombie, demon, or infected. Plus, Sickness House is about a group of people quarantined at a party on New Year’s Eve.
When there’s little money available to make a movie, it’s usually safest to go for a campy or comic tone and not take yourself too seriously if you can’t deliver the horror, the special effects, or the acting. Unfortunately, Sickness House takes itself really seriously and doesn’t deliver much of anything. It would have needed some sort of budget to pull off the cool movie it’s attempting to be.
When the guests at this party get sick, they hear voices, they hallucinate, they get black marks on their skin, they attack people, and they see some shirtless zombie dude walking around. There’s plenty of internal drama between characters to fill the time, but the film just doesn’t deliver anything to really awaken your senses.
Sickness House came out before [REC], so having the group trapped inside by guys in puffy white uniforms isn’t a rip off, but I’d say the part with a chick shaving off her flesh in the shower is a blatant rip off of Cabin Fever. They should have called the movie New Year’s Fever. Damn. That’s a good one.
STEEL TRAP (2007)
Steel Trap is the horror flick I’d want to give a great big kiss on New Year’s Eve. It’s a typical new millennium sleek slasher with a bunch of self-involved victims that all deserve to die. It also totally delivers tension, mystery, and gore. Plus, it really celebrates the spirit of the holiday.
So there’s a big rockin’ party going on in this apartment building, but a small group of assholes gets invitations to a more exclusive party on a different floor. Once there, they are soon involved in a sort of riddle/treasure hunt that quickly turns dark and sinister. Before long, they start getting offed in unique ways by a killer wearing a glistening black mask and carrying a hook.
It’s so much fun to watch all these pricks make dumb decisions and fall into one booby trap after another while coldly and mechanically spouting endless lines of self-involved dialogue, which I think is done on purpose just to demonstrate how shallow they are even in the face of death.
Steel Trap is fast paced right up to the big reveal of the killer and the killer’s motives at the end. The “crazy” act as the killer reveals why each person had to die is rather comical, absurd, and typical of post-Scream era denouements, but it’s still one hell of a fun New Year’s Eve slasher without going into any extreme torture porn territory.