Monday, April 27, 2009

Hallows Eve: Slaughter on Second Street (2008)

Any horror film that has any kind of word in its title relating to Halloween immediately grabs my attention. Good Halloween horror flicks are surprisingly hard to come by, so I was looking forward to checking out low-budget flick Hallow’s Eve: Slaughter on Second Street. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t have anything to really do with Halloween or its history, instead it is just set at a haunted house attraction around October 31st. Something that small doesn’t necessarily ruin the film, but the poor direction, bad acting and under-developed, dull story certainly make this indie flick a chore to sit through.

A reputedly haunted horror attraction in a small town is closed down after some “accidents” make the landowner a little leery. It’s just a few days before Halloween, and the owner of the attraction is determined to make some money whether the attraction is closed to the public or not, so he hires a team of ghost hunters to see if the building really is haunted. Throw in a few more bumbling characters and they all get locked in for the night. Sure enough, people soon start keeling over and its up to the remaining survivors to find out who or what the killer is.

When the main inspiration for a film  is Scooby Doo, you know you have a problem. Everything, from the characters names, way of dressing, demeanor, etc., to the hokey reveal of the killer seemed like they were paying homage to a Scooby Doo episode. I mean, this just went too far and made the film even cornier than it already was. Instead of focusing on a cartoon, why not focus on the season of Halloween and add some atmosphere that way?!

If this film needed anything (besides a decent story, that is), it was some atmosphere. The building where the (lack of) action took place didn’t look anything like a haunted attraction, unless a successful haunted attraction in a small town consists of a bunch of skeletons strewn about a room. The film didn’t evoke any kind of creepy atmosphere when THAT should have been its strong point. Any film that is set around October should have a very strong Halloween vibe, but Hallows Eve had no such atmosphere going for it.

Furthermore, there were some really awkward camera angles used throughout filming. Either they didn’t have much room to shoot or someone didn’t know how to aim a camera properly. Either way, they should have learned to work with what they had, instead of showing closeups of chins! The camera work also did nothing to create any kind of tension. You could tell a “scare” was coming a mile away (hey look, the lights have gone out again…time for someone to die!) and there was nothing shocking or anything to make you jump, even a little, over the course of the entire film.

As for the special FX, you could tell that with a low budget they tried their best…but most of the gore gags just weren’t shocking enough to illicit any kind of response from me except for, “eh” (and that was for the most decent ones). We don’t see anything new here, with the usual stabbings, impalements, disembowelments, etc. I really wish the kills had been more inventive or at least more eye-catching to keep my attention.

Speaking of kills, this film really needed some better actors who could actually react when someone died. When any of the characters discovered one of their friends butchered, they were just like, “eh, so what do we do now?” Their reactions were so preposterously indifferent that I just wanted to reach through the screen and slap them! For heavens sake, show some shock, sadness, panic, anger…anything!! Most of the actors were this monotone throughout the majority of the film as well, whether they were the ones being killed or the ones discovering the kills. I can’t entirely blame the actors, though, because the dialogue was so atrocious! I can allow for the corniness of some of the jokes, but the rest of the dialogue felt archaic and unbelievable.

The BIGGEST problem this film had, though, after its many flaws we just discussed, was the story, written by director P.J. Starks and Rodney Newton. From the opening scenes where people are seemingly getting butchered for no reason to the end where the “evil” continues, we are never quite sure what is going on. The film really could have used some sort of establishing storyline to set the whole film up or offered a more in-depth history of the “haunted” building. Even the wrap-up after the uncloaking of the “killer” felt sloppy and vague. There also needed to be some serious editing, where many pointless scenes or scenes that ran on too long ought have been left on the cutting room floor. These pointless scenes just bogged the film down further and made it a real snoozefest.

Hallows Eve: Slaughter on Second Street is a very poorly constructed film that is almost entirely composed of problems instead of offering any kind of entertainment. Besides its misleading title and having little to do with the actual holiday of Hallow’s Eve, it has a sloppy story, bad acting, lackluster effects and becomes almost a parody of itself as it borrows so heavily from Scooby Doo cartoons. In my opinion, horror films should really aspire to be more than just silly homages to cartoons that feature stoner dogs.

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