Here’s a no-budget Canadian thriller that comes oh-so-close to being the “Little Horror Engine that Could.”
“Halloween Party” almost gets by on just-enough character development, a workable plot — if they’d stick with it — and Classic Canadian Comic Banter.
It “almost” makes you forget how long before writer-director Jay Dahl (“Boyclops” and “There are Monsters” were his) makes us wait before even trying to scare us.
We have to forgive the generally blase means of killing off coeds and frat bros. We must shrug off that the killings are off camera.
And let’s not mention how it starts promisingly, picks up steam, and then sort of stumbles to a halt for a long stretch leading into the final act.
Coeds Grace (Amy Groening, yes related to Matt) and Zoe (Marietta Laan) are chatting away, looking at Zoe’s vacation photos, when a virus pops up on Zoe’s computer.
“Hello, Grace,” it says, in graphics anyone who sees it will say, “Hey, that looks like Nintendo!”
Before she can blurt out “How’d it know my name?” the “meme” has asked her to type in “Your greatest fear.” And she’d better do it in like 40 seconds. Or ELSE.
“Your greatest fear will come true!”
Grace beats the clock, but when the viral virus demands the same of Zoe, she’s slow on the uptake. An ’80s computer generated witch accompanies the words “Your worst fear is coming to get you!”
As Zoe’s fear was “pig people,” and every “greatest fear” in the movie has a back story, we have an idea of what’s coming.
Grace? As long as she types in “vagina spiders” quick enough, her doom can be postponed.
The cops (unseen) don’t buy this, so Grace does what heroines always do in horror movies. She visits Nerd Central. That’s where Spencer (T. Thomason), long-nicknamed “Special” as in “special needs,” begins their deconstruction of what they’re dealing with.
These early scenes of electronic sleuthing, investigating and reasoning out the supernatural thing they’re up against are the film’s best. That’s partly because of the snappy and snippy exchanges between them, and between the campus “bros” who tolerate but look down on “Special.”
“This where the roofies party’s at?” “Yo, broheem, looking SEXUAL.”
Their investigations take them to the library, where there are clues on film. NOT on a DVD, or even a VHS, either. Got to check out a projector and a screen as well.
“How did folks WATCH stuff in ‘The Old Days?'” “Seriously, people were just ANIMALS before Netflix.”
If this snark had continued all the way through “Halloween Party,” if the cute nursing student/nerd “relationship” had played around a lot more with the “Will they f—?” 1980s movie formula that Spencer tactlessly lays out of out-of-his-league Grace, “Halloween Party” could have been the horror sleeper of the season.
Even the unwieldy story and cheesy effects could have been assets, not liabilities.
As it is, this “Party” comes ever so close for ever so short a period of time, and then rims out.
MPAA Rating: unrated, gory horror violence, profanity
Cast: Amy Groening, T. Thomason, Marietta Laan, Shelley Thompson, Scott Bailey and Zach Faye.
Credits: Written and directed by Jay Dahl. A Red Hound release.
Running time: 1:35