Hauntedween 1991 Review
Directed by: Doug Robertson
Starring: Brien Blakely, Blake Pickett, Michael Schwitzgebel
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
The nineties certainly didn’t begin with a bang for the slasher genre, which was to be expected after its prolific population of horror cinema throughout the previous decade. Censorship restrictions and an extreme lack of originality meant that the category had become a dumping ground for low-budget and lower-quality independent movies that had lost the allure that made them popular in the first place. It is widely considered that the last glory year was 1988, because the dying breath of the cycle unleashed solid titles like: Maniac Cop, Intruder, Evil Dead Trap and Edge of the Axe. From then on it was a downward spiral into mediocrity, as throwaways like Zipperface and Live Girls put the final nails in the sub-genre’s coffin. Hauntedween was another feature from the ‘lost years’ – a term that describes the gap between 1988 and the Scream rebirth in 1996.
If you check on the web, you will find a lot of Hauntedween reviews and a large number of them praise the flick as if it were the slasher equivalent of Citizen Kane. Closer inspection however, shows that the majority of these positive comments are from the vicinity of where the feature was shot because it has a somewhat legendary status amongst locals. Almost all of the actors were picked up from West Kentucky University and the producers held casting days in the town centre. Many residents were given parts as extras and local businesses got involved with the marketing. It reminds me so much of my home town, Aracena, where community projects are exactly like that.
In the prologue the camera heads along a country road that leads to a haunted house. There’s a young child at the gate collecting an entrance fee from revellers that all comment on his Halloween mask. Eddie Burber looks like a great prospect to become a junior serial slasher, mainly because he doesn’t speak too much and as we all know REAL bogeymen are inexplicably muted. The point is proved when he enters the house of horror and chases a young girl until she ends up impaled on a bizarrely misplaced spike. Accidents do happen, but that can’t be the excuse for young Eddie. He confirms his murderous intent by finishing the job with a huge machete that he conjured up from thin air. He escapes the scene of the crime and heads back home to his mother who informs him that they’re going to have to go away for a while.
Twenty years down the line, we bump into the fully-grown Eddie and his mum living at a secluded ranch. Whilst chopping some firewood with a huge axe that I presume will play a part later in the feature, his mother drops to the floor, seemingly suffering a heart-attack. The still-unseen bogeyman picks up the corpse of his parent and tells her “It’s time to go home“.
Reguaws, Kentucky hasn’t changed much over two decades, except now there’s a new gang of thirty-year-old students in the Topshill State College. They’re struggling with the threat of having their Sigma Pi fraternity closed if they can’t come up with 37, 000 dollars in the next couple of weeks. Despite some bemusing moneymaking plans that include car washing (I estimate that they’d have to scrub about 20,000 cars!?), they settle with the idea of a haunted house at the home of the murderous child from the prologue. We all know how much Eddie enjoys attending these events, and he doesn’t disappoint when he turns up with a creepy mask and a few tricks up his sleeves…
Whilst watching Hauntedween for a second time, I noticed that my opinion has changed considerably over the twenty years since I last gave it a viewing. Back then, I remember thinking that it was boring and badly shot; but today I found a lot more to appreciate. When rating a small production like this you have to take into account the meagre budget and inexperienced crew, which probably amounted to little more than a few men and a dog. They do however go about things with a dollop of self-referential humour and I found it easier to see that Hauntedween is as subtly tongue in cheek as the imaginative title would lead you to believe. Horror/comedies never really click; and aside from the odd stand-out addition, they generally struggle to achieve the feat that they set out to. Thankfully, Hauntedween manages to avoid falling into the realms of slapstick, because the laughs are not forced and come across more as a production team that realise that their movie is never going to be anything more than a cheesy slasher. I think that they just wanted the viewer to join in with the fun that they were having and it’s hard to criticise them for that.
When the killer starts his rampage, he proves to be a real showman by murdering victims in front of a baying crowd that believe they’re watching a ‘theatrical performance’. Luckily for him, he can keep up the act without any fringe of suspicion, because the special effects are as hokey as a Rolex at a car-boot sale. There’s an ambitious decapitation and half a dozen or so victims that all get their chance to thespian-up their final breath whilst covered with a gallon of fake blood.
The movie stays true to its slasher heritage and writer/producer/director Doug Robertson was definitely a fan of the genre. Despite the title, ‘Ween doesn’t mimic Carpenter’s classic as much as you’d think, and instead it tries to spice things up a bit with some slightly different branches to the plot.
You can almost feel the enthusiasm of the whole crew streaming out from the cheap plastic video cassette because it is that contagious. It’s clearly evident that a good time was had by all behind the scenes and whilst this is no substitute for great filmmaking, it allows you to accept Hauntedween for what it is. I mean, let’s make no mistake about it, this is a shoe-string movie. It’s a shoe-string movie though that knows its limitations and makes the most of them, without trying to achieve more than could be possible. That doesn’t make it worthy of the inflated purchase price that it sells for on VHS, but if you come across it cheap, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t give it a whirl. The final twenty minutes of mayhem are worth seeing for some cheapskate slasher shenanigans and at least this flick managed to capture some of the eighties charm that for us, is generally so hard to find. I’m not sure if I am breaking any copyright laws by telling you this, but hey, whilst looking for more info I noticed that it is on YouTube. Sssshhhhh!!
A few buckets of blood, some topless chicks and a masked killer – what can be so bad about that? Take it with a pinch of salt and it might be worth a look…
Killer Guise: √√√
Final Girl √