Does a horror movie need to be scary to be good? Depending on your answer, you may really enjoy Jay Dahl’s Halloween Party, or you’ll be frustrated and annoyed by it. See, Dahl’s third narrative outing as writer and director is never chilling. Intriguing, mysterious, absorbing, and entertaining? Absolutely, but never bloodcurdling. However, as it is a horror movie, some might consider that its death knell, akin to having terrible songs in a musical (I’m looking at you The Greatest Showman). But if you don’t mind the genre trappings sans scares, then you’re in for a good time.
Grace (Amy Groening) is hanging out in her best friend’s dorm room. Zoe (Marietta Laan) tells Grace about the meme’ Halloween Party,’ which asks the recipient about their worst fear. Failure to answer, or an untruthful one, means their fear kills the person. The next day, to her horror, Grace discovers that a pigman killed Zoe. Her investigation into what happened leads her to Spencer (T. Thomason), a genius about all things IT.
“…the school was once a hospital, and Zoe’s dormitory was built over a section that housed deformed children.”
They discover that the school was once a hospital, and Zoe’s dormitory was built over a section that housed deformed children. Grace and Spencer then decide to track down the doctors of that wing to understand its history. What they learn, and how it’s connected to the meme, will shake them to their core.
As made abundantly clear in the opening paragraph, the biggest flaw of Halloween Party is that it is never scary. Heck, a sense of eeriness never permeates even one single frame of this movie. The other issue is much more minor, and that is the occasional exposition dump. For the most part, the screenplay cleverly avoids, or side steps, endless explanations. But, when talking to a librarian about the old hospital, despite an absolutely killer punchline near the end of the scene, it is almost entirely exposition, which hurts the brisk pace. A bit later on, a scene involving one of the doctors could have easily covered the same ground, while feeling more organic. That earlier scene sticks out so much precisely because it is the only one.
"…Intriguing, mysterious, absorbing, and entertaining...never bloodcurdling."