Grimmfest Presents: Halloween Horror Nights – Review

Grimmfest 2020 may be over, but don’t despair—for on Halloween weekend, it returns as Halloween Horror Nights. On October 30th and 31st, you’ll get two features each night, along with five short films to keep you busy. The viewing time starts at 6pm sharp, but if you check in late, you still have eight hours to watch everything. 

The features are Homewrecker and Beast Mode on the 30th, and the 31st, it’s Bad Candy and Spare Parts. I only had access for the Friday night films, so this preview will only review those—but I’ve got to say, based on what I’ve heard, the Bad Candy and Spare Parts double bill sounds like a total blast. Both nights are £10 for two feature films plus shorts, and with only 200 tickets per night, you’d be smart to book your place for this virtual screening in advance!

Homewrecker is savage send-up of Canadian politeness gone astray. Alex Essoe, who audiences have seen as the Shelley Duval stand-in in Doctor Sleep, plays Michelle, a newly-wed interior designer. She takes classes with Linda (Precious Chong), who seeks to befriend her one afternoon. Soon enough, she is reluctantly convinced to check out Shannon Doherty’s cinematic debut Girls Just Want to Have Fun on an old VHS tape at Linda’s. Linda seems eccentric and annoying, but soon it turns dangerous and a game of cat-and-mouse ensues over the film’s wonderfully brisk 76-minute running time.

Zach Gayne directs with some flare in his feature debut, he also wrote the script with the two leads. Both of the two actresses are great: Precious Chong probably gives the best of the two performances, but she has the more extreme role. The whole thing plays somewhere between Misery and Serial Mom. Not too twist-heavy, but when the surprises arrive, they are rapid and feature solid SFX, which can be the kiss of death for these films. They also actually licensed real songs, and even that aforementioned film—the film ends with a Robert Gordon song, which finally got me off my ass to check out some of his early records, which is a good thing. Homewrecker is an assured feature debut that I’m sure will be real crowd-pleaser. It’s also about time that someone made a film about the dangers of Canada’s extreme politeness!

The second film is a totally gonzo Hollywood satire turned monster movie, Beast Mode! James Duval, of Frank the Bunny fame in Donnie Darko plus Independence Day and tons of Gregg Araki films,plays scumbag movie star Huckle Saxton. C. Thomas Howell is his agent, Breen Nash, who accidentally kills his client. Now he has to scramble to find some way to revive or replace Saxton, and it ends up with supernatural consequences. It’s kind of like if Sam Raimi directed Bowfinger.

The supporting cast is full of “THAT GUY!” actors like Ray Wise and James Hong, amongst many others. Everybody is clearly having a great time: both Duval and Howell are outstanding in their roles. Howell pulls off being a total dick, but at the same time being sympathetic enough for the audience to not totally despise him, which is a hard balancing act. The script by Drew Fortune and the directing duo of Chris W. Freeman and Spain Willingham is full of outrageously quotable one-liners. 

Beast Mode is surprisingly gory, but has enough of a satirical take on the cesspool known as Hollywood to not descend into just being a boring gorefest. The creature design is pretty cool: the ‘Beast’ of the title comes out as impressive, even though they were working with a small budget.

It’s a little longer than the other film at 89 minutes, and certainly not as well-disciplined, but that’s a part of its EC comics charm.

Tickets Available Here

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