“Does this make you feel tough? Does this make you want to be a big bad monster?”
It is Halloween, 1981, and 15-year-old “mamma’s boy” Tim (Caleb Thomas) has just been caught with a horror magazine by local bullies Brian (JT Neal), Spaz (Mcabe Gregg) and Chuck (Nico Papastefanou), who are intent on harm. On the awkward edge of adulthood, Tim was abandoned years earlier with his mother Linda (Sarah Lancaster) by his drug-addicted father Bobby (Christian Kane), and is now a ‘latchkey kid’, left largely to his own devices while Linda works long shifts. Shy, sensitive and highly creative, Tim has a talent for art, a taste for the macabre, and an eye for Brian’s girlfriend April (Annie Read). Beaten and bruised by the neighbourhood bullies, Tim conjures the Trickster, a gnome-like, rhyme-talking spirit of the year’s spookiest night – but are the monsters that comes to exact revenge on Tim’s persecutors real, or just in the boy’s disturbed mind?
“Looks like your little boyfriend’s a psycho,” Brian tells April some way into The Terror Of Hallow’s Eve. This is certainly the most rational explanation available for what is going on in the film, as the increasingly bizarre nature of events can be put down to a combination of Tim’s triggered vindictiveness and overactive imagination. After all, our nastiest monsters are almost always human, and the film’s conventionalised (and conventionally questionable) claim to be “based on true events” brings expectations, if not of genuine reality, then at least of a certain grounded realism. Yet director Todd Tucker (Monster Mutt, 2011), with his long history of crafting special makeup effects in films like The Mask (1994), The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (2008) and Ouija: Origin Of Evil (2016), has a way of bringing tree demons, stab-happy marionettes and giant spiders so convincingly to life that we can never be sure whether we are witnessing real calendar horror, a teenager’s impressionistic fancy run wild, or just another of Tim’s own elaborate genre-based pranks.
Not only set (mostly) in the Eighties, but also affectionately reprising the sensibility, lighting and practical effects of that decade’s horror, The Terror Of Hallow’s Eve comes with a Joe Dante-esque merger of monsters and psychology, while also revisiting the hide-in-the-slatted-closet business of the original Halloween (1978) and the Haddonfield Memorial [here Mental] Hospital setting of Halloween II (1981). It is endearingly old school, yet still manages, in the end, to show how we are all, even today, informed and influenced by the legends of the past.