Thomas Crane’s horror short film Halloween Party sets the mood early on, as an illustrious firefighter named Ben (Sean Gloria) is carving a pumpkin with a threatening knife that’s emphasized in the beginning and the end of the opening title sequence. The date is soon revealed to be October 31, 1995, the time before everyone had smartphones; the time before anyone could easily pick up the phone and call 911. One step into the wrong house with a masked madman, your fate is sealed in blood. So when a woman named Judith (Alanna Dawn) shows up at Ben’s place, hands drenched in blood and muddled state of mind, she must have done something reckless — little does she know, stumbling into Ben’s place is the most ill-advised decision she could ever make.
From the very first scene, Ben is clearly upholding a veneer of conviviality. And Judith, with a wound on her head and lugging around a suitcase, also carries an enigmatic presence. Ben, being a good party host, welcomes Judith into his home and tends to her, leaving all of the other guests in a room in which we never see its interior (until the climax, of course). Judith forbids Ben from touching the suitcase she hauled over, while Ben is frightfully invested in the Halloween spirit. Ben rambles about the true meaning of Halloween and the origins celebrated by the pagan tribes of the Celtics. During Ben’s vivid description of Halloween lore, Judith is stuck in an eternal haze, likely not registering any of Ben’s knowledge because she’s in a state of confusion, or she just doesn’t care.
“After a spellbinding setup — a suburban house, two perfidious characters, a taunting knife, a concealed room of guests — the bloody gambits that ensue are horrifically gleeful.”
A letter of laudation sits on Ben’s wall, an award given to him for his work as a firefighter. The certification serves as a sign of pluck and humanity, but within Ben lies a vicious alter-ego that seems to consume him deeply during the Halloween season. Sean Gloria’s leading performance isn’t terribly convincing, but his striking leers and murderous cravings are still enjoyably vile. Alanna Dawn’s Judith is constantly in an inexplicable daze, and she adequately exudes the killer intrigue of her character with puncturing silence. If anything, the hokey dialogue hampers the inward terror of their characters to release more effectively.
After a spellbinding setup — a suburban house, two perfidious characters, a taunting knife, a concealed room of guests — the bloody gambits that ensue are horrifically gleeful. Frederic Bernard’s eerie, piano-infused score is deliberately on-the-nose, replicating every other slasher flick ever made. Thomas Crane assembles moments of the film with color and black and white photography, cheaply emulating the aesthetic of old school horror in an untidy manner. The blood-laced antics that transpire are quite predictable. Even so, the execution is self-aware enough to deliver some ridiculously fun terror. Arriving at Ben’s party, you expect hell to break loose. And for 37 minutes, just let the sheer madness of this party befall without being a party pooper.
"…hands drenched in blood and muddled state of mind, she must have done something reckless..."