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: Teenage Cocktail

Teenage Cocktail (2016)
Directed by John Carchietta
Written by Amelia Yokel, John Carchietta, Sage Bannick, Chris Sivertson
Produced by Travis Stevens, Chris Sivertson, Jade Porter II, Nick Zuvic, Jean-Baptiste Babin, David Atlan Jackson, Joel Thibout
Starring Nichole Sakura, Fabianne Therese, Pat Healy, Michelle Borth, A.J. Bowen, Joshua Leonard, Zak Henri, Lou Wegner, River Alexander, Laura Covelli, Isaac Salzman
They could in remunerative repose cam to their hearts’ and PayPal accounts’ content anywhere, but a voracity for relocation to polluted, overcrowded, overtaxed, climatically intemperate NYC spurs two sapphic, Californian ditzes (Sakura, Therese) to an inadvisable tryst with and blackmail of an unstable patron (Healy), which ends in disaster. Roundly good performances, Justin Kane’s cinematography, and a cozily synthesized score by Steve Damstra and Mads Heldtberg comprise the substance of this capably made but vapidly anaphrodisiac drama. Healy’s always convincing as a picayune miscreant, and creepily outshines his co-stars. Conflicts and motivations of Yokel’s story are equally musty, until all plausibility is jettisoned during a ludicrously bloody culmination. This is barely recommended for completists resolved to see everything in which perennial transgressors Healy and Bowen (who has nothing of interest to do as a platitudinous principal) appear.

Instead, watch Rita, Sue and Bob Too.

Palatable: The Innkeepers

The Innkeepers (2011)
Directed and written by Ti West
Produced by Ti West, Peter Phok, Derek Curl, Larry Fessenden, Greg Newman, Badie Ali, Hamza Ali, Malik B. Ali
Starring Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, Kelly McGillis, George Riddle
To Ti West’s detractors, he’s a talented but tedious aesthete indulging his cinematic visions in jejune abuse of the horror genre; to his small and swelling fan base, he’s it’s last great Anglophone hope during the decrement of Hollywood’s remake trend and a vacancy of quality American horror flicks. Any cursory screening of his oeuvre seems to falsify either opinion: West’s output is too capably crafted and ultimately underwhelming, and this story of two trifling clerks (Paxton, Healy) who investigate their storied old hotel’s putative phantoms during the final days anteceding its closure personifies its ambitious director/author/editor’s artistry and failings. Splatter aficionados haven’t patience for such prolonged deliberation, nor have connoisseurs of the psychological idioms plied by Polanski or Kurosawa for comedic elements in such plenty. Nathless, this is a filmmaker almost alone among his western contemporaries who appreciates the power of performance, oracularity, location and fundamental craft, staging each scene with smoothly restrained technique and provoking from his stars finely unflattering interpretations — especially Paxton, no stranger to this fare and physically suiting her graceless role. Most millennials can’t overcome their generation’s inborn infelicity, but West exploits it cunningly, cognizant that unsympathetic protagonists are more intriguing when imperiled than others appealing. Ironically, “disgusting, quivering mass of horror” Lena Dunham’s only appropriate turn to date is realized here in a cameo as an obnoxiously garrulous barista; was she in on the joke? Despite persisting distractions by Jeff Grace’s palatable yet overapplied score, Graham Reznick’s superlative sound design contributes nearly so much as West’s visuals to his picture’s redoubtable miasma, and the latter raises a few great chills and scares in the confines of a Pennsylvanian inn locally infamous for its reputed hauntings. He works a few frightful wonders, but during a feature’s span of 100 minutes, he ought have done more.