It is still a bit early yet to think about but, believe it or not, Halloween is right around the corner. In the spirit of that horror-themed holiday which is so near and dear to our black hearts, I decided to review the 2013 short The Last Halloween.
The film was written and directed by Marc Roussel and tells the story of four kids trick ‘r treating in a post-apocalyptic town that has been decimated by an unknown epidemic. Despite the dismal setting the evening seems to be progressing well enough for them. That is, until they get to the last house where the owner, Jack, (Ron Basch) is less than welcoming.
For an indie short, the film certainly does have good production values and the decrepit town is well designed and detailed. The story is also interesting and Roussel does a good job building tension in a short amount of time. There are also nice touches throughout, such as Jack’s wife Kate (Emily Alatalo) looking forlornly at an empty crib which is genuinely sad moment that is subtly and effectively executed. In addition, I would be remiss if I didn’t properly acknowledge the excellent sound design which adds a level of professionalism to the production.
All that being said however, there were some significant issues to be found with the film as well. I don’t like to call out particular actors but I have to point out that while Basch’s performance was fine, it wasn’t quite to the level where he was fully selling the suspension of disbelief. During his screen time I felt quite aware that I was watching someone act and as a result wasn’t able to be fully immersed in the story.
The next issue involves the climax of the film and is simply too big to be ignored. I won’t give full on spoilers but if you are insistent on going into the film as fresh as possible I recommend taking the ten minutes now to pull the film up on YouTube before finishing the review.
Alright, all set now? So, suffice to say, the climax involves several monsters which, and there’s just no other way to say this, aren’t realistic enough to look scary. In fact, the scariest and tensest moment of the film was right before the monsters are revealed. After that, there is no denying you are looking at people in latex masks, quality ones certainly, but clearly masks nonetheless. In fact, at this point in the film the tone shifts to something more closely resembling a haunted house at an amusement park then a genuinely scary horror film.
Now, of course I understand the limitations of indie budgets but I feel that if the scene had simply been shot in a different way the end result could have been drastically different. For instance, obscuring the creatures in the shadows more and favoring quick edits rather than drawn-out closeups may have helped to create an atmosphere of genuine menace while also hiding the imperfections.
Overall though, a solid film that is definitely worth taking ten minutes to check out especially if you want to get into the spirit of All Hallows Eve as it draws ever closer.