Described by Tucker as starting with a quasi-documentary, we meet his younger self as Tim. He spends his days mooning at the horror film monster models that rule his life in the absence of the beloved dad with whom the beasties form a remaining, vital connection. His mum (Sarah Lancaster as Linda) tries to help but struggles to balance her increasingly bizarre son’s strange humour and neighbour-baiting behaviour with her own graveyard shifts at a hospital. The problem is that the pages of his comics won’t save Tim when he attracts the ire of the local bullies and is duly mashed. Until, that is, a creature comes to life and offers him a way out.
For an eighties throwback, The Terror of All Hallow’s Eve is joyfully vicious. In order for the plot to work, it’s vital that Caleb Thomas’ Tim puts in a performance (albeit aided by atmospheric lighting) that gets over the anger and libidinous frustration of the hormonal teenage boy. This is offset by Doug Jones (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy) as a folkloric but apparently relatively innocuous genie-jester with big, sad eyes and a sweet little hat. After all, Tucker is an effects technician and has worked on everything from Mrs Doubtfire to Watchmen.
For a while you expect the action to be cutesy kid drama where the bad guys get punished, particularly as the pretty but personality-lacking potential girlfriend and bullies (based on the directors’ own tormentors though they are) are largely stock types whipped from The Simpsons. But in true Tales of the Crypt-style, Tim’s has got more than he bargained for.
SFX, depending on your point of view, is where the film passes the horror fan test with flying colours or falls apart. The action switches from an eerie character study to a case of ‘is that an animatronic in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me’? Emotionally manipulative, queasy set pieces straight out of Young Sherlock Holmes and Stephen King’s IT are replaced by big nasty beasties that look good, but evidently, don’t have anything other than wires inside them. It begins to feel empty. Perhaps a bit Poltergiesty in terms of sheer scale, but empty. Furthermore, while the conclusion at least sticks to its guns despite the all-American charm of the hero, the postscript feels tacked on and a little bit of overacting doesn’t help matters. The cautionary tale ultimately becomes timely reminder on sticking to a narrative style, particularly when the first half of the script is often pure poetry.
The Terror of Hallow’s Eve mixes old-fashioned movie magic with psychologically more daring horror. That said, more monsters don’t make things merrier but if the psychology exists, they’re real.
THE TERROR OF HALLOW’S EVE / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: TODD TUCKER / SCREENPLAY: RONALD L. HALVAS, TODD TUCKER, ZACK WARD / STARRING: CALEB THOMAS, SARAH LANCASTER, ANNIE READ, JT NEAL / RELEASE DATE: TBC