FrightFest 2017: The Terror of Hallow’s Eve (2017)

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Sometimes you can just tell when an artistic endeavour – a piece of art, music, literature or film – comes from the heart. There’s something about it that just, works. Such is the case with The Terror of Hallow’s Eve, the new fantasy horror, directed by make-up effects / filmmaker Todd Tucker. Trumpeted as being ‘based on true events’, Tucker has said that the first part of the film’s story mirrors that of his own upbringing and his interests in make-up and model making, which led to a career as one of Hollywood’s most successful and creative effects guys.

Picked upon by a group of high-school bullies, Tim (Caleb Thomas) wishes he could get his revenge. However his fevered desires result in the conjuring of a deceptively – and initially benign – spirit, the manifestation of whom heralds the start of Tim’s real problems.

Firstly it must be said that The Terror of Hallow’s Eve achieves what it clearly set out to do. It’s atmospheric evocation of, and references to, such 1980’s horror / fantasies as Poltergeist (1982)Gremlins (1984) and Beetlejuice (1988) are inescapable. Considering though that this is when its director Tucker – of whom the character of Tim is semi-autobiographical – was himself growing up, such similarities are to be expected. However what lifts it above the normal run-of-the-mill slasher, is its clever storyline, including the use of the victim’s likes and dislikes to bring about their deaths, as well as the ambiguity surrounding whether the perpetrator of their said demise is real or imaginary. Combine this with a host of creepy creatures which will make your skin crawl, and a central fantasy villain unlike any bogeyman you’ll have seen in recent horror cinema, and the result is a smorgasbord of nostalgic nastiness which evokes smiles and screams in equal measure.

The film’s clever melding of human interest threads – the relationship between Tim and his mother Linda, as well as his social and adolescent anxieties – with the supernatural / fantasy aspects, is sympathetically and imaginatively handled. The result is a story which is – despite its outrageous elements – an effective visualisation of the possible imaginings of a troubled teenager.

Other than this the real show stealer is the central performance of Thomas, as the misfit Tim. Though actually in his early twenties, Thomas’ physical stature (he’s 5′ 5″) and appearance lend themselves perfectly to that of an adolescent teenager. Mix this with his ability to portray a young man confused and disturbed by his emotions and life experiences, pushed to breaking point both physically and mentally, and you have an actor who’s performance brings feeling and believability to a deep and complex character.

Though clearly the film which you see on screen is the main ‘story’ here, the background of Tucker, who’s brainchild it is, is just as fascinating. Overcoming severe bullying as a teenager – the incidents in the film of Tim’s confrontations with three high-school bullies are all based on real events – Tucker went on to become a highly sought after effects artist working on everything from Mrs Doubtfire (1993) to Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) and Van Helsing (2004). Leaving room for more to come, the film does not end on a particularly ‘happy’ note. The same can fortunately not be said for the real-life Tucker. His career at the top of one of the world’s toughest businesses is proof that success is often the sweetest revenge upon life’s bullies.

Director: Todd Tucker
Writers: Todd Tucker & Ronald L. Halvas (story), Zack Ward (screenplay)
Stars: Doug Jones, Caleb Thomas, Christian Kane,
Juliet Landau, Sarah Lancaster
Runtime: 80 mins
Country: USA

Rating: ★★★★★

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