Execrable: Tales of Halloween

Tales of Halloween (2015)
Directed by Dave Parker; Darren Lynn Bousman; Adam Gierasch; Axelle Carolyn; Lucky McKee; Paul Solet; Andrew Kasch, John Skipp; Mike Mendez; Ryan Schifrin; Neil Marshall
Written by Dave Parker; Clint Sears; Greg Commons; Axelle Carolyn; Lucky McKee; Molly Millions; Andrew Kasch, John Skipp; Mike Mendez, Dave Parker; Ryan Schifrin; Neil Marshall
Produced by Axelle Carolyn, Mike Mendez, Shaked Berenson, Patrick Ewald, Sarah Gorski, Charles Arthur Berg; Mike De Trana, Jace Anderson; Tada Chae, Michael Arter; Vanessa Menendez
Starring Adrienne Barbeau; Cameron Easton, Daniel DiMaggio, Austin Falk, Madison Iseman, Hunter Smit; Barry Bostwick, Marcus Eckert, Christophe Zajac-Denek; Casey Ruggieri, Trent Haaga, John F. Beach, Tiffany Shepis, Mia Page, Marnie McKendry, Clay Keller, Kennedy Fuselier, Sage Stewart, Bianca Rose Miller; Keir Gilchrist, Gracie Gillam, Booboo Stewart, Noah Segan; Alex Essoe, Lin Shaye; Pollyanna McIntosh, Marc Senter; Dana Gould, James Duval, Elissa Dowling; Nick Principe, Amanda Moyer, Jennifer Wenger; Sam Witwer, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Ben Woolf, John Landis; Kristina Klebe, Pat Healy
It’s a fait accompli, so any ordinance dictating that 80% of all motion pictures produced in Los Angeles county must be idiotically infantile and scored to the hacked hilt would meet with sweeping, immediate compliance and probable applause for its foregone success by Ellay’s dim and demented Board of Supervisors. Of course, such a rescript betrays a self-awareness that would forefend the unsatirical majority of those prescribed movies, as this omnibus of ten edgily adolescent chapters about a gluttonous revenant (Easton/Smit), mayhem instigated by a cartoonishly dapper demon (Bostwick), trick-or-treaters (Page, McKendry, Keller, Fuselier, Stewart, Miller) who wreak bloody vengeance on two married couples (Ruggieri, Haaga, Beach, Shepis), revenge realized by the conjuration of a timorous victim (Gilchrist), a single woman (Essoe) stalked by a story’s spirit, the psychotic downward spiral of a wretchedly childless couple (McIntosh, Senter), altercating Halloween decorators (Gould, Duval) who come to blows over their clashing bedizenments, one hulking, rural serial killer (Principe) confronted by a tiny extraterrestrial, abductors (Witwer, Cantillo) who struggle to ransom the seeming son (Woolf) of a wealthy industrialist (Landis), and a police detective (Klebe) who pursues a sentient, rampaging jack-o’-lantern. All of these demonstrate Hollywood’s inability to tickle or terrify, now that it’s overrun by unimaginative drug addicts straining to rekindle but a spark of the magic plied by American wizards like Romero, Carpenter, Raimi, et al. before their output in the ’90s declined, anticipating this dreck. For this, an embarrassment of obvious references to genre classics, lovable Barbeau’s mellow narration and cameos by Barbara Crampton, Stuart Gordon, Felissa Rose, John Landis, John Savage and Joe Dante are more dispiriting than diverting. This is almost unwatchable in toto, an example of what happens when gruesomeness and frivolity are accorded anteriority, absent substance.

Instead, watch Trilogy of Terror or V/H/S.

Mediocre: Beyond the Gates

Beyond the Gates (2016)
Directed by Jackson Stewart
Written by Jackson Stewart, Stephen Scarlata
Produced by Barbara Crampton, Jackson Stewart, Stephen Scarlata, Ian Keiser, Jon Kondelik, Amanda Mortimer, Georg Kallert, Rob Schroeder, Chris Delp, Sarah Stewart, Nils van Otterloo, Brad Wright, Donna Kinni, Lynn Kinni, Ted Kinni, Tim Kinni, Mike Murphy, Gabby Revilla Lugo, Cyrus Stewart, James West, Tony Zika
Starring Graham Skipper, Chase Williamson, Brea Grant, Barbara Crampton, Matt Mercer, Jesse Merlin, Justin Welborn, Sara Malakul Lane, Henry LeBlanc
“To each his own nostalgia” seems to be an unspoken precept of genre cinema created by late Xers and early millennials, which is fated to mine every last phenomenon of pop culture from the ’80s. On the seventh proximo following their widowed father’s last of numerous disappearances, two alienated brothers — an uptight cut of office veal (Skipper) and a scruffy layabout (Williamson) — reunite to liquidate his video rental store and sell their childhood home. In the shuttered shop’s office remains a singular video board game hosted by a theatrically threatening blond (Crampton), and played to preternaturally, progressively perilous interactivity — the only means by which they can find what befell their dad since they left home. Commendably novel, and acted with unexpectedly expressive nicety by its leads, this economically budgeted horror/fantasy skimps on neither gore nor gimmickry when it isn’t dwelling on its fraternal protagonists’ rousing retrospection — much of which justly laments the deterioration of the nuclear family. Alas, Stewart and Scarlata spoiled their momentum with a few too many breathers, and their third act is preoccupied with ridiculous roughhousing when its fantastical and locational potential should’ve blossomed. Brendan Wiuff’s design for the game is also of a mixed caliber: its logotype, and box’s, board’s and cards’ artwork fit their epoch, but their hot pink accents and typefaces are less redolent of Kiddie City circa ’86 than Spencer’s or Hot Topic in ’98. An absorbing montage of a VCR’s working innards during the opening credits is enlivened by Vincenzo Salvia’s synthesized Outrun With the Dead, which overshadows Wojciech Golczewski’s flatly hackneyed score. All its shortcomings notwithstanding, this imaginative and entertaining effort deserves a look; younger viewers will accept all those errors they can’t see.

Recommended for a double feature paired with The Gate or Ring.