Dear Low-budget Horror Filmmakers: Your low-budget horror opus should not — and I can’t stress this enough, should not — under any circumstances resemble a bad Afterschool Special at any point. The niche audience that buys/rents/watches your movies are not there to dwell on the finer points of why a lesbian won’t come out of the closet or why said lesbian’s ex-boyfriend can’t step out of the shadow of his bullying frat brother. Flash the T&A, spill the blood, show the gore, and throw the one-liners. And that, dear friends, is all you should worry about providing your audience, because that’s pretty much all we care about.
“Hallow’s End” is about a bunch of college students volunteering to run a haunted house for charity. Leading the pack is brutish alpha male Dan (Matt Moore), who is dating closeted lesbian Jill (Brandy Little), who is in love with free-spirited Kira (Amy Jo Hearron). Meanwhile, joining the gig is Tom (Stephen Cloud), Jill’s ex, who is now dating domineering babe Heidi (Amy Morris). Jim Dunn plays The Old Man Who Knows Stuff, appearing just briefly enough to hand an old occult book to the college kids. As it turns out, one of the kids get their hands on the book, and at the night of the party, the kids start to turn into the costume they’re wearing, then going on a killing spree.
Sounds like a pretty good set-up for a horror movie, right? Well, you’d be wrong. Especially if you’re working under the foolhardy assumption that the people who will be seeing a low-budget horror movie is interested in college-inspired melodrama. To be fair, “Hallow’s End” manages one of the criteria — its T&A quotient will get a big hand from genre lovers. Alas there is only one scene of note, but it gets bonus points for being a lesbian tryst between Kira and Jill. As for the rest — well, it’s a good idea not to come into “Hallow’s End” expecting too much.
In fact, it wouldn’t be a good idea to expect even very little, because the movie has trouble meeting even that low threshold. This isn’t a movie for those who requires competent actors or a director who can recognize that the scene is going on for way too long and is getting more and more stale with each dull second that ticks by. Jon Keeyes (“American Nightmare”) fails to properly execute his job as “director”, and as such the movie feels like a bad high school play, with lots of long takes of characters squeezed into the frame swapping endless — not to mention tedious and boring — expository spit.
Not that Keeyes is solely to blame for “Hallow’s End’s” decidedly lack of competence. Writer Chris Burdick has injected many uninteresting subplots into his movie, and yet somehow fails to recognize that his characters are all archetypes, right down to asshole Dan. I suppose the plan was to build up the characters so much, giving them so many Impact Moments, that we will care if they live or die when the killing starts. Unfortunately the killing doesn’t start until the hour mark, and there’s only 25 minute of it. Keeyes and Burdick manage to throw a bone to the audience with a weak kill at around the 30-minute mark, probably hoping to tie us over until the carnage begins.
Even when the carnage finally begins, and the movie justifies its own premise — that is, people dressing up in Halloween costumes turning into their costumes and killing people — things don’t really pick up all that much. If anything, “Hallow’s End” seems to want its cake and eat it two. The first hour leading to the 25-minute Third Act is full of endless interpersonal conflicts between the characters, but the Third Act is mostly camp. Characters run around trying to figure out what’s going on as if they were trapped in a film such as, say, “The Dead Hate the Living”. It’s supposed to be hokey and tongue in cheek, but that doesn’t explain the 30 minutes spent on Jill’s lesbianism and the other 30 minutes spent on Tom’s inability to assert himself.
“Hallow’s End” could have worked better in so many ways. The premise should have showed up much earlier, thus giving the audience a reason to continue watching the movie. Instead, we’re treated to poor acting, lazy direction, inappropriate script decisions, and an hour’s worth of an Afterschool Special cum lame horror movie. And in the world of low-budget horror movies — a genre not known for its high expectations — that just doesn’t cut it.
Jon Keeyes (director) / Chris Burdick (screenplay)
CAST: Stephen Cloud …. Tom Sharp
Brandy Little …. Jill Tremaine
Amy Jo Hearron …. Kira Clemens
Amy Morris …. Heidi Campbell
Matt Moore …. Dan Miller