Day After Halloween, The (1979)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2012-08-08 08:57

Written by: Chris de Roche, Everett De Roche
Directed by: Simon Wincer
Starring: Chantal Contouri, Robert Bruning and Sigrid Thornton

Reviewed by: Brett Gallman

“How does a 16-year-old virgin get mixed up with a 30-year-old ice cream freak?"

As you’ve probably gathered from the discrepancy in titles here, this is another one of those movies whose name changed in order to cash-in on a better, more successful film. At some point in 1978, Simon Wincer made a movie called Snapshot down in Australia; during that time, Halloween came along and made lots of money, so whoever picked up Snapshot for distribution in America had the bright idea to change the title to The Day After Halloween in the hopes that they, too, could make a lot of money. Usually, this sort of thing is charming in retrospect--yeah, back then it probably conned a lot of people out of money, but at least the movies that typically pull this trick at least somewhat resemble whatever they’re riffing on. Not so with Snapshot, a film that’s barely a horror flick in general, much less a slasher, and it’s not even close to being on or around All Saint’s Day.

Instead, it’s set in the winter, which falls well before Halloween Down Under thanks to their placement on the other side of the equator. Teenager Angela (Aussie starlet Sigrid Thornton) works a dead-end job at a hair salon until she’s lured into the world of modeling. She gains some fame with a rather successful ad for men’s cologne that lands her face and boobs all over the country, but it doesn’t please her mother too much, so she’s left to fall back on her new circle of friends, specifically fellow model Madeline (Chantal Contouri), who might want to take the relationship further.

Where’s the horror here? As it turns out, for most of the runtime, Angela’s biggest problem is that she’s gorgeous and everyone wants to hit on her: seedy old men, her creeper ex-boyfriend who’s nearly twice her age (Hugh Keays-Byrne), and Madeline herself. Occasionally, one of these people is presented as a more malicious suspect, as Angela is sure she’s being stalked by someone. The ex makes the most logical suspect--after all, he does drive an ice cream truck and…well, aside from being a borderline pedophile, he seems like an okay guy for the most part. The real weirdo is her photographer, a guy who gets off on photographing dead animals and attempts to justify it with some bullshit artiste mumbo jumbo. There’s really no shortage of perverts in Snapshot, which might lead you to believe that a bunch happens in the way of body count.

Unfortunately, that’s not really true either, as the film is bogged down by interminable sequences, such as the big photo shoot and a nightclub scene featuring an Elvis impersonator whose lip curl might be the most horrifying thing the movie has to offer. When Angela isn’t worried about being stalked, her biggest problem arises when her face appears in the actual ad (she’d been promised that this wouldn’t be the case). This is problematic because it’ll upset her mother, who is described as “puritanical” by the film’s synopsis, but ends up coming off as a pretty decent parent. She’s not so much an overbearing prude as much as she’s just concerned that her teenage daughter is banging a thirty something guy who drives an ice cream truck. Typically, movies like this would make the mom psychotic and firmly put you on the kid’s side, but, I don’t know, Angela kind of comes off as an ungrateful tart. Maybe she doesn’t deserve to have a severed pig’s head show up in her bed (an event that causes this film to have more in common with The Godfather than Halloween), but she could probably be knocked down a peg or two.

What makes Snapshot especially frustrating is how decently made it is; like a lot of these rough and tumble Ozploitation movies, it’s shot with big, smooth scope compositions, and composer Brian May turns in a nice gem of a score (the moody, clanking keys might subtly evoke Carpenter’s own score). The cast is largely impressive and composed of loads of familiar faces, particularly if you’re familiar with the Aussie scene. A lot of the cast and crew here were involved in superior exports like Patrick and Thirst. Thornton is one of the country’s more famous screen stars, and you can see that talent on display here in an early starring role; her Angela is written pretty terribly, but Thornton softens the character with a natural sweetness and the slightest hint of innocence. Everyone surrounding her is sufficiently creepy when they need to be, which really isn’t often enough since Snapshot never sustains any sort of real tension and instead plods along before stuffing in a couple of twists at the very end.

By the end, it feels like one’s watched a pretty bad soap opera (probably a redundant turn of phrase), only just about nothing really happens. I imagine it wasn’t pleasant to be a theater manager when this one bowed because no one likes being duped. I expected it to happen, but this still might be the most egregious re-branding I’ve ever come across, so Snapshot accomplishes that bit of infamy. The film has (rightfully) stayed pretty obscure, with its title really being its biggest talking point, but Scorpion recently issued it on DVD (using that title, of course). In typical fashion, they’ve gone on out for a pretty mediocre movie, as the film is presented in its original scope aspect ratio for the first time and looks rather sterling; if that weren’t enough, they also threw in the international version that runs what must be an insufferable nine additional minutes. It should be noted that this cut is presented in a compromised 1.78 ratio instead of the original 2.35. Extras include the usual Katarina’s Nightmare Theater mode, an audio commentary with producer Anthony Ginnane, and the alternate Day After Halloween title card. That last feature sums up Snapshot since it owes so much to it. Without a savvy distributor, the film would have settled in the middle of the Ozploitation pile, where it should stay. I wouldn't bother keeping it around for a post-Halloween hangover viewing, that's for sure. Rent it!

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