I went into Union Films’ Halloween All-Nighter event with high hopes. 12 films over two screens, all-night refreshments, free video gaming: what’s not to love? The reality was a few ridiculous films, one very effective disturbing horror, and a seriously knackered body.
Before the event, I drafted an agenda of what films I intended to watch throughout the night: four on the main screen (which showed the ‘scary’ films) and two on the alternative screen (which showed the more comedy-based horrors). After the first two offerings I thought I might as well remain in the horror realm, and made it through two more before throwing in the towel and going home to bed. Of the four films I saw, one was hilariously poor, one was the crap beginning of a decent series, one was a bit of a boring ‘classic’, and one was extremely disturbing and almost vomit-inducing.
First up on the main screen was Trick ‘r Treat, a straight-to-DVD release from 2009. Sold as a four-chapter anthology of Halloween stories, Trick ‘r Treat really intrigued me and promised an interesting start to a long night of frightening films. In reality, it was an hour and a half of confusing, silly and boring nonsense, almost offensively slated as a horror. Throughout this snore-inducer, most of the decently-filled Union cinema was laughing uncontrollably at the unbelievable plotlines and comical characters, while sipping on our lovely cold toffee apple ciders. The film made no sense to anyone, which was a shame because it meant from the off that viewers were disappointed. The best parts of the movie were the inclusion of some really hot teenage girls (with breasts on full display at points), the decent acting of some of the young children in the stories, and a small plot development at the end which tied two of the stories together nicely. To be honest, when I came out for the intermission I was pretty bored and unsatisfied. Well, maybe Saw will quench my thirst… right?
Well, wrong. I forgot how piss-poor the first of the infamous horror franchise is. The main actors, namely Cary Elwes as Dr. Lawrence Gordon and Leigh Whannell as Adam, were really terrible, and the dialogue and emotive scenes were truly cringeworthy. Once again, the audience were in fits of laughter. The story is strong, and that has always been the main strength of the Saw series, at least in my opinion. The plot developments work well, and the ‘games’ enforced on our protagonists by the villain Jigsaw are inspired. I was happy when the pathetic Dr. Gordon finally sawed his foot off in order to escape, and when the plot twist at the end (which I had also forgotten) was put into action. I also enjoyed the amount of now-famous actors in the cast (including an odd amount from TV series Lost), who interestingly massively outshone the main characters: the intense Danny Glover as Detective David Tapp, Ken Leung (Miles Straume in Lost) as Tapp’s partner Steven Sing, and the ever-incredible Michael Emerson (Benjamin Linus in Lost) as Jigsaw’s dirty work man Zep Hindle. But yeah, Saw II definitely saved the franchise.
Again disappointed, and by now on my third cider, I was dragged back into the cinema by my friends to watch John Carpenter’s The Thing, despite having heard incredible things about The Frighteners which was then showing on the alternative screen downstairs. The film follows a bunch of researchers (I think) who are stationed in the Antarctic. They are attacked (randomly) by Norwegians, who are later found to have discovered a mysterious organism in the ice. This organism is “The Thing”, which came from outer space and can take on the form of anything it touches. It was pretty interesting seeing the creature transform into a bunch of dogs it killed, and for a film released in 1982 the effects were pretty top-notch. The way the movie was shot was pretty cool: nothing fancy, just some nice effective shots, and the story of loss of trust and paranoia was built up really well. The disappointing thing was that you only really saw The Thing in action a few times, although to be fair when you did it was awesome. The way the creature transformed and moved (aside from an hilarious bit where it’s a crawling head…) was genuinely frightening, and would have been especially chilling for the 80s audience for which it was made — an audience firmly in a period of ‘thriller mania’, evidence by Michael Jackson’s uber-famous Thriller album, song and video. The film lacked action a lot of the time, but overall was a really cool film. The music, by well-known composer Ennio Morricone, was also very effective.
So, impressed with the third film I decided to stay and check out the undisclosed title Union Films called the “scariest film of the night”. The film in question was a 2007 French movie called À L’intérieur, which in English translates simply to Inside. It’s a story about a pregnant woman called Sarah (Alysson Paradis) who crashes her car, the accident killing her husband, who is then terrorised by an unidentified (until the very end) woman (Béatrice Dalle) who tries to steal her unborn child from inside of her. While initially a psychological thriller, the film quickly descends (or ascends, whichever way you prefer to look at it) into an incredible bloodbath of murder and corpse-butchering. The baby-hungry woman is presented with countless obstacles in her attempts to steal Sarah’s unborn child, all of whom she murders brutally (mainly with a pair of scissors). Sarah has locked herself in the bathroom, with the crazy woman outside smashing the house to pieces in her rage. Eventually the two come head-to-head, at which point the tale descends into absolutely disgusting territory, with a truly horrifying climax of gore and disturbance. Honestly, Inside is an incredible film, but it’s not for the weak-stomached. And I say that as someone who has watched A Serbian Film (review pending). The goriest and second most disturbing film I’ve ever seen. A success for Union Films.
Despite promising to stay until the very end of the all-nighter, it was at this point that I decided to call it a night and turn in, determined to make my 12 o’clock seminar the following day. The majority of others followed suit, with probably around half of the strong audience sticking around for the fifth and sixth films, [REC] and Triangle respectively. I would have liked to stay for these films, but when I heard that the first was a zombie film I pretty much gave up. Despite the promises of some awesome camera work in [REC] and a “mindfuck” plotline in Triangle, I figured it was probably best to fall asleep at home rather than in the cramped, uncomfortable cinema.
So overall it was a pretty disappointing set of films. Don’t get me wrong, the night was absolutely epic: Union Films pulled out all the stops to make this year’s Halloween event memorable, and the provision of toffee apple cider, doughnuts and refillable popcorn was definitely a winning move. The choice of films, though, was questionable: Trick ‘r Treat belonged on the alternative screen, Saw II may have been a better choice (although it made sense to show the first in the series for those unfamiliar with the later installments), The Thing was perhaps not the obvious choice for a classic, and Inside was stunning. So a mixed bag, really. Like I said, I salute Union Films for the night, but perhaps next time they should consult us punters before finalising the film line-up.