Monday, November 19, 2012

Hauntedween (1991)

... aka: Haunted-ween

Directed by:
Wm. Douglas Robertson

On Halloween night in Reguaws, Kentucky, a mentally-disturbed little boy named Eddie sneaks into a spook house, lures a little girl away from her mother and decapitates her with a machete. When he returns home, his mother informs him that they "... need to go away for a little while." 20 years later, Little Eddie is now Big Eddie (Ethan Adler) and he's living out in the sticks with his mama. After she keels over from a heart attack, Eddie sticks her body in his van and decide to make a return visit to his hometown. Cut to a college campus where a very 80s kegger party is taking place. B.M.O.C. frat president Kurt Simmons (Brien Blakely) has just received a letter from their national headquarters telling them they're going to lose their membership unless they come up with past dues to the tune of 3,700 dollars. Having just 30 days to return payment, Kurt gathers his brothers together for a meeting. They hatch a plan to throw another beer bash ("the fundraiser hellraiser") but charge 3 dollars at the door this time. That means they'll need 1,233.333333333 guests to make their past dues. Judging by the turnout of the party we just saw, they'll be falling well short of their goal.

Kurt's girlfriend Mel (Blake Pickett) is upset that she's being neglected for the fraternity so he decides to take her out to a lake for some alone time (read: topless sunbathing). After it's interrupted by a pontoon boat full of doofy frat guys and plump n' trash sorority chicks, Kurt and Mel take off and run across the old haunted house attraction ("the Burber House"), which has long since been abandoned. Kurt comes up with an idea to run the Sigma Phi fundraiser there instead. He and his brothers go along with their original plans of a regular party complete with a performance from a band called The Side. When that falls short of expectations, and some mysterious man shows up at the frat house claiming to be a fellow brother and gives them the key to the Burber place and permission to use it, Kurt and company head on out with some nails, paint and, of course, some beer to whip the place back into shape. Melanie's friend Sally (Leslee Lacey) suggests she dump Kurt; for if he truly loves her he'll come crawling back. Melanie proves how insecure, needy and annoying she is by dumping Kurt and then flaunting some new guy (Bentley Tittle) she's seeing in front of him to try to make him jealous.

The night before the opening, a couple sneaks off to a nearby lake to skinny dip and run afoul on the killer, who sticks his machete in the guy's neck and cracks the girl's neck. The one-night-only "Hauntedween" event is finally underway and becomes a huge success. Unbeknowst to both the frat guys and the patrons, Eddie has built his own Grand Guignol-style attraction onto the haunted house which he calls "The Kill Room." He sneaks out of the building every so often, knocks people out, drags them back to the room, ties them up and then tortures and murders them in front of a live, cheering audience. One girl has the back of her neck chainsawed, a guy has his head knocked off with a baseball bat and others are sliced up, hung and strapped down to an electric chair.

Filmed around Bowling Green, Kentucky and the Western Kentucky University campus, there's regional charm, leftover 80s era tackiness and amusing Southern accents to spare. Enthusiasm can sometimes partially make up for a general lack of funds and talent and this is a prime example of that. It's the kind of upbeat low-budget movie where everyone runs around smiling and laughing and looking like they're having a blast that you just can't totally hate regardless of how dumb the whole thing is. Sure, the acting is pretty awful, there's some annoying comic relief (primarily in the form of a goofy Jim Varney knock-off frat brother), it takes 50 minutes to get to the first murder scene (discounting the opening one) and the whole shebang looks really, really cheap (it was shot-on-video and later transferred to film), but it's pretty enjoyable mindless entertainment, anyway. There's plenty of cheap gore fx, a little nudity, a theme song, a clip of the game show Press Your Luck, some baaaaad dancing, even worse clothes and campfire renditions of "Free Bird" and "Why Don't We Get Drunk and Screw" (!!) More scenes inside Eddie's torture room and a better finale would have improved things considerably.

The only cast member who appears to have gone on to do much else in showbiz was the leading lady. Pickett apppeared in a handful of Scream Queen roles: this, THEY BITE (1991), VAMPIRE TRAILER PARK (1991), DARK UNIVERSE (1993) and a few others, became a game show hostess (TNN's short-lived Top Card) and then went to Hollywood to act in soft-core movies.

It doesn't appear that this was very well distributed. Of all the video stores I visited in my youth, I never saw this one for rent. Could have been because this was made after the slasher boom had already gone out of favor, but it's most likely because it was self-distributed (this was the only release from the label Consumer Video Distributors). There's no DVD.

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