(A.k.a. CAESAR AND OTTO'S PARANORMAL HALLOWEEN)
Caesar (Dave Campfield) is babysitting round a friend's house one evening, dressed entirely in drag. The reason? He's rehearsing for a role in an upcoming horror film. It doesn't stop half-brother Otto (Paul Chomicki) from perving on him through the windows.
Eventually, Otto is allowed to join Caesar - but only if he too puts on a frock and wig. Settling down in front of the TV, the two cross-dressers become alarmed by a newsflash warning that a psychotic killer called Michael Miles (Evan Seidlitz) has escaped from the local asylum and is most likely headed for the house he grew up in. Hey, that's the house Caesar and Otto are sitting in right now!
Sure enough, Michael soon turns up - complete with a dagger and plain white mask - and mayhem ensues. Ultimately, the boys get the better of their assailant and become the darlings of local governor Jerry (Ken MacFarlane). Upon hearing that they're currently looking for somewhere to live, he tells them he has a second home that needs looking after between October and May.
Taking their Dad along for the ride, the boys accept Jerry's offer and move into his plush accommodation. The neighbours are hotties, the maid isn't too bad either. All seems well. But it's no time at all before Caesar and Otto start having second thoughts about their new job. Levitating furniture; tales of the building being built on an Indian burial site and former tenants who've gone crazy; a film reel found in the attic that finds former occupant Guy (Vernon Wells) warning of the house's evils: the signs are not good.
Clearly, their spell there is not going to go unhaunted. Indeed, the tribulations that the brothers go through come thick and fast, taking in demonic possession, ghostly twin girls (played by Tiffany Shepis), spooky found-footage occurrences ... you name it, it's here.
It's impossible to talk about PARANORMAL HALLOWEEN without referencing the SCARY MOVIE franchise. If you've seen any of the previous Caesar and Otto films - CAESAR AND OTTO'S SUMMER CAMP MASSACRE, CAESAR AND OTTO'S DEADLY XMAS - you'll know what to expect: a silly, joke-ridded pastiche of horror movies.
I don't like horror comedies in general. But I have to concede, this won me over. Not only is it directed with considerable flair by Campfield (who also wrote the screenplay) but its 89-minute running time is stuffed to the rafters with gags. Not all of them work, granted, but the sheer creativity in evidence means it's never long before one of the punchlines hits the mark.
Campfield and Chomicki are crucially amiable leads. We like them, we get along with them, we'd quite like to have a pint with them some time. They're dumb, but they're fun and - most importantly - good-natured. In fact, everyone comes across well. The enthusiasm with which the cast attack their daft script is infectious.
Speaking of the cast, we get some great names here. Along with Vernon Wells (MAD MAX 2 [which he apes in his film reel monologue]; COMMANDO) and Tiffany Shepis (TROMEO AND JULIET; TERROR FIRMER), we also get Debbie Rochon (THE THEATRE BIZARRE; POULTRYGEIST: NIGHT OF THE CHICKEN DEAD), Felissa Rose (SLEEPAWAY CAMP), Brinke Stevens (SORORITY BABES IN THE SLIMEBALL BOWL-O-RAMA), Beverly Randolph (THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD), Sean Whelan (IDLE HANDS) and many more.
Fast-moving, smart and occasionally genuinely very funny, PARANORMAL HALLOWEEN is well-made and tautly edited, though never enough to make you forget how silly it's striving to be. At 89 minutes in length, it admittedly outstays its welcome, but there's something to be said about a comedy that can still raise the odd titter during its closing titles - as is the case here.
Horror fans will no doubt get a kick from trying to spot all the references: THE SHINING, SINISTER, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, HALLOWEEN ... that's just the tip of the iceberg...
Campfield's film looks great in a warm, colourful and sharp 16x9 widescreen presentation on Wild Eye Releasing's region-free DVD. English 2.0 audio is a strong, consistent proposition too.
The disc opens to an animated main menu page. There is no scene selection menu.
Bonus features begin with an enjoyable, fact-filled commentary track from Campfield, who's joined by actresses JamieLee Ackerman and Josephine Lannece. It's a great chat, with Campfield on top form when it comes to sharing trivia, explicitly describing behind-the-scenes shenanigans and pointing out the numerous references to other horror films throughout. The girls are amiable, clearly fond of their director, and all are in agreement that the shoot was a lot of fun.
A second audio commentary comes courtesy of Chomicki, producer Rich Calderon, and several other actors. It's another entertaining listen though not quite as informative as the Campfield-led one.
A 3-minute gag reel and 4-minute video diary-style behind the scenes featurette are enjoyable throwaway items. Check out the 53 minutes worth of on-set podcasts - also contained here - for something more substantial.
"The Son of Piggyzilla Trilogy" are three short films from Campfield and Chomicki which make good use of a faux distressed "grindhouse" aesthetic and monochrome photography to evoke terrible B-movies of old. Want to see civilians savaged by an oversized guinea pig? Look no further. This three-part, 6-minute burst of pure silliness even comes with its own optional filmmakers' commentary track.
A 5-minute tribute to the late Robert Z'Dar (MANIAC COP etc) is fittingly more serious in tone than anything else on this disc. It finds co-producers Joe Randazzo and Sean Steffan speaking with affection about working with the big fella on THE PERFECT CANDIDATE. It's accompanied by some heart-warming stills and behind-the-scenes footage.
We also get trailers for DEADLY XMAS, THE DISCO EXORCIST, MURDER UNIVERSITY, ALL SAINTS EVE, FRANKENSTEIN'S HUNGRY DEAD, THE PERFECT HOUSE, SEXINA and THEY WILL OUTLIVE US ALL.
I would normally recoil from something like this. But, as it was provided for review purposes, I had no choice but to sit down and give it my undivided attention. And, what do you know, I was thoroughly entertained as a result...
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Wild Eye Releasing|
|see main review|