Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Clowns, Jack-O-Lanterns and Cousin It Oh My!

The witches will be flying soon!
Most, at least those not living under a pumpkin or buried in a grave, are familiar with the standard Halloween film fare featuring Michael Myers and that creepy white William Shatner mask. Let’s be blunt. Halloween wouldn’t be Halloween without a reminiscent screening. But, the film is only good for 91 minutes, which leaves plenty of time to explore other holiday terrors. These might include Night of the Living Dead, Sleepy Hollow, The Exorcist, Psycho, The Evil Dead, House of a Thousand Corpses and many, many more. Too scary you say? Well the, how about Hocus Pocus, Monster House, The Addams Family, The Nightmare Before Christmas and the timeless It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown. Point being, either list is virtually endless with plenty to go around. The choice is yours. However, here at Staying Scared, while we can appreciate all films enveloping fear, even the less fearful ones, we prefer to lean tighter against the chilled tombstone and embrace the more cutting edge. Thus, this time Staying Scared is taking a look at a few lesser known Halloween based anthologies.

Trick 'r Treat (2007)
In this 2007 film, Sam, short for Samhain (the old name for Halloween), is introduced early on as the central character and eventually plays a role. Wearing orange pajamas and a burlap sack hood with black button eyes, this child-like character appears more like a scarecrow than anything. But, don’t let that fool you, for he is truly a wicked one, entrusted to enforce the universal Halloween rules of…

(1) Always hand out candy to trick or treaters
(2) Be sure to wear a costume
(3) Never ever, under any circumstances, let the Jack-O-Lantern’s candle go out before midnight

With the rules in place, he overlooks the evening events and lingers over four tales, The Principle, The School Bus Massacre Revisited, Surprise Party and Meet Sam, each of which have a specific tie to one single horrific event.

Full of murder and mayhem, the film, while not overly terrifying, is entertaining enough and does offer a Creepshow-like comic strip conclusion that is both satisfying and sweet. Loaded with typical Halloween clichés, Trick ‘r Treat is a film worthy of the holiday and if tightly watched, might even teach some of the lesser known Halloween lore.

All Hallows Eve (2013) and All Hallows Eve 2 (2015) also feature short Halloween rooted tales that surround a central plot based on an old vhs tape. In both cases, it is the babysitter who plays the vital role. Unlike some predecessors, the films are arguably more frightening and most certainly more grisly. Let’s take a glance at each.

All Hallows Eve (2013)
In All Hallows Eve, the tape is found scattered among the trick or treat take and the tales feature a murderous goon of a clown who is both creepy and demented. Here you will find witches, the devil, an alien and the standard driving alone on a desolated highway.

While the acting is far from best, there is atmosphere, a complimentary soundtrack and gore. Underrated is one word that immediately comes to mind, especially when considering effects, creativeness and direction. Yes, the film may be low budget, but it does have value and should be appreciated for what it is…a fun creepfest. Strangely freaky and possibly nightmare inducing, watch All Hallows Eve for the clown alone…he will get to you.

All Hallows Eve 2 (2015)
All Hallows Eve 2 finds the vhs tape placed outside on the porch by a Jack-O-Lantern mask wearing freak who, straight out of a Michael Myers page, can inject fear simply with standing idly by looking back. Part 2 is more refined, quick and to the point, not allowing the viewer the time to get bored and don’t be surprise if you get sucked in on pace alone. Those familiar with part one can’t deny that the film making team has learned and from set design to tale quality to FX to acting, this franchise is growing and someday could have the potential to become a Halloween staple.

While were on the subject, let me ask you…you’re a babysitter on Halloween night and find an old vhs tape either on the porch or in a kid’s trick or treat bag. Would you watch it? Mwhahahahahaha

Tales of Halloween (2015)
Being a fan of short horror, Staying Scared could easily appreciate the efforts in the ten films, but that doesn’t mean they were all liked. Some were good, some were bad and some were simply mediocre. Led by the radio station narration voice of Adrienne Barbeau, the long opening credits featuring pure clichés in pop-up book type format was too long for our taste. We would have rather saw each tale introduced separately. However, that said, it doesn’t mean Tales of Halloween is a complete waste either. On the contrary, the rapid yarns take off quick and an odd fascination or compulsion clutched, forcing a continuous viewing from the opening Sweet Tooth to the closing Bad Seed. And, it was enjoyable. Some of these tales are quite warped and offer twisted endings. We especially enjoyed Ding Dong, a modern day Hansel and Gretel piece and couldn’t help but laugh as two neighbors fought to the bitter end over decor in This Means War. Trick would give slasher Jason a run for his money and The Ransom of Rusty Rex harbored one of those twists while featuring John Landis. While there were a couple we could have did without, having the Night of the Living Dead and Carnival of Souls playing in the background of various scenes made up for the slight downfall. No, this wasn’t Michael Myers, but it was a macabre Halloween night and we were entertained, which was exactly what was sought. So, for those with similar mindset, ignore the less than stellar reviews and give this one a peek. You might be surprised.

Suspension of disbelief is a requirement for all horror film viewers and is best served with a hearty appetite of open-mindedness. With the above mentioned films, the concept remains the same and don’t go into each film with high expectations. After all, we’re not talking massive budget Spielberg here. Take them with a grain of salt, or in this case, a drop of blood, and accept them for what they are, good, campy and creepy fun. Some are forgettable and some are not and that’s something for you to decide.

Cousin It (yours truly) was in the house for Daytona's Biketoberfest 2015
Blended in quite nicely I might add
Rockin with the band Hairball

And so, the zombies are in the house, the toe tags are ready, the blood is dripping quietly, witches are flying & the Jack O Lanterns are ready...
Happy Halloween everyone!

Stay Scared,

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