Writer: Zack Ward
Cast: Caleb Thomas, Sarah Lancaster, Annie Read, JT Neal, Doug Jones, Eric Roberts, Juliet Landau, Peter Jason
Cert: 15 (tbc)
Running time: 80mins
What’s the story: After being beaten up by local thugs, 15-year-old horror fan Tim inadvertently conjures up an evil spirt to exact revenge.
What’s the verdict: Along with a healthy quotient of thrills and chills, there is a warm glow of nostalgia radiating from The Terror of Hallow’s Eve.
Director Tucker (whose day job is make-up work on everything from Pirates of the Caribbean and Watchmen to Ouija: Origin of Evil and The Smurfs) and writer Ward clearly love their 80s fantasy movies. With this film they have made a love letter to The Thing, Halloween, Funhouse and Alien. Plus, a dash of DNA from ripe-for-rediscovery 1980 gem Fade to Black.
Thomas is Tobey Maguire likeable as Tim. A talented amateur model maker and horror make-up buff, his bloody pranks are not to the neighbours’ liking (particularly a cameoing Eric Roberts).
Mum Linda (Lancaster), a nurse at the local hospital, is a protective matriarch, which unintentionally draws the ire of local bullies. After a particularly thorough kicking from good-looking bad boy Brian (Neal), Tim accidentally summons malevolent spirit The Trickster from a bewitched jack o’ lantern.
The Trickster promises revenge on Tim’s tormentors, including Brian’s sympathetic girlfriend April (Read). Soon they are trapped in The Trickster’s house of horrors for a lethally long night.
The Trickster, brought to life by Pan’s Labyrinth Doug Jones, is a promising new villain. Reminiscent of Steve Buscemi after a dose of the Norovirus, another go-round with this rhyming prankster is no bad prospect.
Tucker borrows cues from John Carpenter scores, and shoots in JC’s no-fuss widescreen style, efficiently fleshing out characters before the mayhem begins. He is aided by Ward’s script, which makes room for a subplot about Tim’s absent dad and devotes almost as much time to the careworn Linda as it does her offbeat son.
Gore fans receive their ration of red meat. But, The Terror of Hallow’s Eve is more interested in ghost-train scares and practical monster work than head-cleaving carnage.
Genre favourites Juliet Landau (also co-producing) and Peter Jason show up in small roles, and the denouement is a smart riff on the typical 1980s shock ending.
There’s terror in the title, but audiences will leave smiling.