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Current horror films that are valentines to their 1980s predecessors constitute a red-hot subgenre right now, and director Todd Tucker’s new feature The Terror of Hallow’s Eve is one of the best of those offerings. Playing things straight while capturing the magical feeling of that decade’s supernatural chillers, the film serves up a classic teen revenge story with impressive special effects and a great big heart.
Tim (Caleb Thomas) is a highly introverted 15-year-old who has a definite talent for monster art in various media and creating practical effects. Though his overly protective mother Linda (Sarah Lancaster) tries to understand his unique gift, Tim’s fellow students and neighbors are nowhere near as tolerant. When Linda intervenes as three boys bully Tim, she makes things worse for her son, as naturally the boys come after him later.
On October 30, 1981, Tim makes a wish that he could scare his assailants to death, and inadvertently brings a supernatural being called The Trickster (Doug Jones) to life. Tim lures the bullies and the lead tough guy’s girlfriend-with-a-heart-of-gold April (Annie Read) to his house, where things get terrifyingly out of hand.
Director Tucker is a makeup artist and special effects artist with a long list of credits, including recent work on Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016), Fright Night 2 (2013), and Devil’s Pass (2013). His passion for his crafts is on full display here, and his art, special effects, and makeup departments all turn in fantastic work. Tucker shows that he is highly adept at helming a feature film, including showing a knack for solid pacing and an eye for visual flair.
Actor Zack Ward, who wrote the screenplay from a story by Tucker and Ronald L. Halvas, has already proven himself quite masterful at telling solid horror stories with his previous screenplays for Restoration (2016) and Bethany (2017). He continues the trend here. Though his revenge tale is a tried-and-true one and his main characters are basic scare-fare archetypes, he adds plenty of originality along with his homage (tributes to John Carpenter, for one) to make for a fun ride.
The cast all turn in crackerjack performances. Thomas invests his Tim with just the right amount of seething beneath the surface. Lancaster gives a top-notch turn as a mother whose outward strength masks a fragility that is hard to repress. Jones is superb, as might be expected; his Trickster is initially a darkly playful character who has big surprises in store for Tim and his enemies. The supporting cast, which includes genre favorites Juliet Landau and Peter Jason alongside several talented up-and-coming actors, also shines.
The Terror of Hallow’s Eve boasts both practical and CGI effects in the creature feature, blood and gore, and supernatural hijinks departments, and beyond. Tucker and Ward invest plenty of well-crafted, nostalgic story elements into their film so that it rises well above being a mere special-effects showcase. The pair also wisely leave out the little winks and nods that undermine other love letters to 1980s fright fare. This is a great-looking, gorgeously crafted affair that deserves to find a wide audience.
The Terror of Hallow’s Eve screened at London’s FrightFest (August 24–28).