Mr Halloween on DVD

Tuesday, 15 September 2009 08:46

Every year, in the run-up to Halloween, teenagers have been vanishing from the quiet town of Sauquoit, New York. Those children that remain fear the disappearances are connected to “Mr Halloween” (aka Bill Loomis playing his namesake), an eccentric recluse who ironically maintains a horrifying haunted house to entertain the kids.

This year’s teenagers are no different and cannot resist a scary challenge; the local “Missing Persons” notice board becomes more cluttered as a result. When the dust has settled one year later, and the authorities still have not done anything to crack the case, a group of friends vow to expose Mr Halloween as the suspected kidnapper (or worse) and put an end to his reign of terror once and for all.

Mr Halloween on DVD“Mr Halloween” makes no bones about being a homage to John Carpenter’s classic slasher tale. References abound, including the film’s title (naturally) and its lead character, Bill Loomis (presumably also a stage name in honour of Donald Pleasance’s character in “Halloween” – Dr Sam Loomis). Loomis stomps around the place in a robotic, single-minded manner, clothed in a boiler suit - all very reminiscent of Michael Myers - and also appears to possess super-human strength and abnormal resistance to bodily harm.

It is a risky endeavour, as debutant director Andrew Wolf (also co-writer) is encouraging direct comparison to that late Seventies’ masterpiece. Of course, “Mr Halloween” cannot hope to compete even though both films are independently made and fashioned on a low budget. What this movie can do, though, is try to successfully echo some of Carpenter’s strong points, and give us one Hell of a ride.

Wolf succeeds on a number of levels. He does not mess around with superfluous plot, but rather concentrates on a tried and tested (if unadventurous) sequence of events: kids talk about Loomis and the house and all the bad things that are rumoured to have happened there; kids muster up the courage to enter the house; kids get chased, locked in, abducted or killed in a number of satisfyingly gory ways. It is a simple cycle of slowly cranking up the tension, then swiftly taking it to the top notch for a few hair-raising minutes before releasing the valve again for a short while before repeating it again.

The setting of the haunted house helps to ensure that the film’s key moments are highly claustrophobic, and also unnerving because of all the Halloween paraphernalia littered about the place. Witness the ghoulish, animatronic masked figures who might or might not be real human beings (either dead or subdued), blood-soaked fixtures, creepy fairground music, cackling canned laughter and shrieking screams. With all this commotion, it is difficult for the kids to hear or see Mr Halloween approaching, and when he strikes they stand little chance of getting out alive.

Quite early on in the film, Loomis is outwardly revealed to be a fairly normal (if mono-syllabic) man in the aforementioned boiler suit, and at that point there is a brief moment of concern that he possesses all the scary potential of 50p set of plastic vampire teeth. He does not even wear any kind of makeup, mask or hood, so the image on the front of the DVD case is utterly misleading. Fortunately that slight miss-step is quickly dismissed once he clobbers his first few victims, grinding their faces into the tarmac or smashing their heads through car windscreens. His victims put up no resistance but in this case it is clearly because he strikes with such extreme force and hostility; they are limp dolls in his mighty grasp.

Later on in the film the kids discover a grave with Loomis’ name on it from 1951. This, in conjunction with other scenes from the film introduces a more overt element of supernatural power to the character, upping his creepiness and mystique. The weird soundtrack also helps to establish a strange aura around Loomis; it is reminiscent of classic sci-fi films like “Forbidden Planet” in its electronic warbles and cyclical noises, but actually fits in quite well in this off-kilter world.

Most of the other characters in the film are less effectively depicted, thanks partly to some pretty amateurish acting. Token teenagers wander aimlessly up and down the streets discussing the town’s events, but are seldom able to convey the truly disturbing nature of what is going on. Their friends have been disappearing, and although they keep talking about it, they do not seem to care very much or be suffering the depression and fear you would associate with the subject matter. This might be to avoid dragging the film’s tone down too much, but surely Wolf could have summoned a small amount of empathy in his characters? The handful of adult roles in the film also appear to pay lip service to the situation, even when it is their kids who have vanished.

The local Sheriff (Jack Bell) is singularly uncooperative when it comes to taking the investigation further, preferring to moan about how the kids do not respect authority any more, and preferring to believe that they are up to no good, rather than suspect Loomis of any wrong doing. In his case, though, one suspects there is more here than meets the eye, such is his blunt refusal to help the community out. Bell could definitely have applied a little more subtlety to his role, as his character’s penchant for being work-shy is not very convincing. Co-star Shannon Eastman as Jill is the most compelling teenager, applying a few more layers of personality and emotion than the boys seem capable of, but perhaps that is a true reflection of boys and girls in real life?!

Other than some slightly dodgy acting, the only other criticisms would be that firstly that the film is presented in a letterbox format with large black borders on all sides, and that it outstays its welcome by at least twenty minutes. 110 minutes is a long time to sustain a nervy horror film, and “Mr Halloween” fails to avoid dips in interest by occasionally stretching the quieter scenes too far, and recycling dialog between the children.

Do not let these issues put you off, though, as in general this is a very competent first effort by Wolf. It is scary, gory and above all great fun. Perfect fan-fodder! The DVD is out now, priced £12.99. Trailers are the only extras on the disc.

You could have had a chance to win one of three copies of the "Mr Halloween" and stablemate "Dr Chopper" DVDs, courtesy of MVM Entertainment. All you had to do was answer the following question: Which town in New York features in “Mr Halloween”? The answer was Sauquoit and the lucky winners were Mark Nolan of Epsom, John Tingay of Sheffield, and Julie A Taylor of Leicester - well done all!


Movie Review: Mr Halloween (2007, Certificate “18”)

 

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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