Hauntedween (1991)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2012-10-31 03:14

Written by: Kurt Andrew Swauger, Doug Robertson
Directed by: Doug Robertson
Starring: Brien Blakely, Blake Pickett and Brad Hanks

Reviewed by: Brett Gallman

ďWelcome to the house of horror..."

Halloween riffs were a dime a dozen by 1991, but very few (if any) were as Kentucky fried as Hauntedween. Shot on location in Bowling Green by an amateur cast, this homemade slasher was also just the latest in a long line of community theater styled splatter movies that populated video stores by the time the sun had set on the 80s. No matter--given the volume of Survivor T-shirts and mullets, Hauntedween might as well have been shot in 1985 anyway. Since my home state is practically border cousins with Kentucky, Iím guessing it was just as behind on the times, which, in retrospect, was an incredible boon for slasher enthusiasts, as Hauntedween stands as one of the most charming relics from an era full of backyard productions.

Halloween night 1970 is a pretty rough night for little Little Eddie Burber (Craig Bitterling). As dozens of yokels stream into his familyís haunted attraction, heís left handing out tickets at the gate since heís a youngun who isnít ready to ply the family trade. He canít help himself, though, as he sneaks in, lures an unsuspecting girl into an empty corner, where he ends up impaling her. Mama Burber surveys the scene, tells little Eddie to scoot, and they apparently live out the next twenty years without consequence. Just down the road, however, a local fraternity chapter is in dire straits. Despite having just sent a check four 4 bucks to pay its dues, they still owe a few thousand bucks, so they naturally devise a solution that involves a seasonal kegger and a haunted house at the old Burber place.

Herschel Gordon Lewis never directed a movie in the 80s, but Hauntedween gives us a good idea of what it might have looked like. Intensely regional, soused in thick accents and even thicker skulls, yet still marginally competent, itís difficult to deny its brain-damaged allure. Most homemade slashers represent a bit of an endurance test for even the most seasoned genre fans, and Hauntedween will assault your threshold level for several things: banal love subplots involving the frat leader and his nagging girlfriend, repetitiveness (the guys hem and haw over their options and decide to throw like three parties in the meantime), and utter stupidity. Few slashers can escape that last point, but Hauntedween proudly rolls around it like a pig in shit; not only does the frat house knowingly throw a party at an abandoned, creepy old murder house, but one of the ringleaders thinks itís a good idea to take the suggestion (and the house key!) from a creepy, mysterious guy who shows up at their doorstep one day (hint: itís little Eddie, all grown up and probably even more psycho now that mamaís dead).

Totally amateur, yet completely, unwaveringly earnest the entire way, Hauntedween even works when itís practically bludgeoning you with all of this for a long stretch where itís easy to mistake it for a hayseed Girls Gone Wild precursor. Random sunbathing, a raft full of naked chicks, and some painful attempts to by our hapless dimwits to woo them are arguably more horrific than anything that awaits in the Burber house. One of the guys is a real hoot--Iíd call his high-pitched drawl ďexaggeratedĒ if I werenít convinced it was totally, completely authentic, bred from a lifetime of living in the wilds of Kentucky. I assume the same is true of most of the cast, which feels entirely comprised of locals, most of whom seem to be happy to be there, so thereís a bit of liveliness and charm even when there shouldnít be any.

Hauntedween truly comes alive during the last act, though, when Eddie finally starts exacting revenge in the haunted house. Even if he never showed up, itíd still be a neat finale, as the Sigma Pi haunted house has a really cool homespun quality to it. Growing up, Halloween was synonymous with these rural, backyard haunts that pepper the countryside, and Hauntedween looks like it started from the inside out, with the cast and crew devising this wickedly authentic haunted house and then devising a movie around it. Decked out with the typical dime-store trimmings and cheap masks, itís a cozy little house of horrors until Eddie arrives and starts decorating the walls with the inhabitants' splattered remains, much to the unwitting delight of the guests, who think itís all part of the gag. Playing out like Two Thousand Maniacs filtered through a meth-induced nightmare, itís ridiculous and over-the-top but also quite unhinged thanks to the superb hand-crafted effects. Its ability to replicate and thoroughly pervert the haunted house experience is commendable, especially since itís so gonzo about it, right up until its nutty final shot.

Amateur though it may be, Hauntedween has a bit of a leg up on many of its contemporaries. Unlike a lot of homemade slashers, it was shot on 16mm and converted to video for its eventual VHS release, which hardly did justice to its surprisingly effective photography. The haunted house finale is particularly atmospheric, as itís awash in candy-colored lushness that clinches the Halloween vibe that carries the day here. Luckily, the guys behind the film recently managed to put together a DVD release for the film that even features a ton of extras, including a 45 minute making-of documentary, a commentary with the producer and director, a trailer, and an unseen Hauntedween music video. A true treat in an arena full of tricks, Hauntedween is a pretty good entry in the amateur slasher canon. I can see myself dropping by the Burber house on a yearly basis every October. Buy it!

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