The Night Before Easter (2014)
Written and directed by longtime horror fans and podcasters, Joseph Henson and Nathan Johnson, The Night Before Easter was produced on a tiny budget, as an homage to their favourite movie sub-genre.
It follows the classic 1980s slasher template. We have a bunch of young people in one location, who one by one get killed off by a recently-escaped-from-a-lunatic-asylum masked murderer, until a final girl is left alone to battle the killer. It's even set around a public holiday (why should Halloween and Christmas get all the psychopaths?). There are false jump scares, chase sequences, and a few slightly dodgy acting performances. All of which are fondly remembered features of my VHS-renting younger years!
Some of the photography is unusual and interesting. Filming the corridors of the storage depot at a 45 degree angle helps create a sense of disorientation, for example, and there are some nice uses of mirror reflections. The music (by Scott Henson) and titles are slick and impressive. The plot is simple, but has a nice final twist that ties the events of the film together. And there are some amusing in-jokes to spot, if you know what you're looking for.
However, it is a low budget production, and also the first feature length film by the writers/directors, so inevitably it has a few problems. For me, the biggest issue is the dialogue-heavy first half-hour. Focussing on dialogue rather than action slows the pace right down, and the long sequences of talking draw attention to weaknesses in some of the acting performances. Fortunately the action does pick up in the second half, and the movie becomes a lot more interesting because of it. There are also a few technical problems with sound, and once or twice with the camera focus. And the bright fluorescent lighting of the location makes it more difficult to build atmosphere.
But I don't want to be overly critical of The Night Before Easter. It has been created by fans of the genre, not professionals, with lots of enthusiasm and very little budget or experience. The fact that they have created a movie at all is admirable in itself. There are some good ideas here, and I look forward to seeing their work develop with future productions.