Cinema/TV, Film Notes

FrightFest Review – Creeping Death

FrightFest Review – Creeping Death

Writer-director-producer-editor-star Matt Sampere seems torn in his debut feature between making a fun Halloween teen-slasher possible-franchise-fiend movie and a more serious film about its hero’s very specific problems as a kid who’s had to miss out on a lot of teenage (and teen movie) fun in order to care for his terminally-ill mother (Monique Parent).  The result is often interesting and affecting – and the monster is a nice design, well realised on a budget – but also often murky and literally hard to make out.  On the same day at FrightFest, That’s a Wrap (also with Parent) and Trim Season try for similar mixes of generic and personal with haphazard results: but they both go for bursts of colour in the gloom which signify an attempt to be fun as well as scary.  The heavy themes of Creeping Death and its overwhelmingly dark, drab look undermine its potential as a thrill ride, even before cynicism sets in and premature embitterment informs character choices made in the last act.

Yet, there is a lot to like.  The dynamics of the friend group under threat are convincing and Sampere does well by a hero torn by responsibilities it’s easy to resent (he probably can’t afford college thanks to Mom’s medical bills and he’s never followed through on a promising relationship because he has to stay home so much) at a time when his peers have petty concerns like who’ll be designated driver or which old dark house to prank on Halloween night.  Tim (Sampere) has a decent best friend Tramer (Ian Brown) who has a slightly less responsible other best friend Isaac (K Cody Hunt) who has an utterly loathsome other best friend Tramer (Ian Brown).  The inciting asshole Tramer is responsible for almost all the horrors rained down on the gang over the evening and never once admits it, making every situation worse with his every move (he can’t go into a room without breaking something) or suggestion (a low point comes when he reasons that getting Tim to stab his Mom will save his own skin).  Also around are Tim’s never-quite girlfriend Danielle (Delian Lincourt) and Isaac’s P.J. Soles-type girlfriend P.J. (Else Rackemann), who fit into the group in complicated ways.

The set-up involves the origins of Halloween and the notion that trick or treating and leaving out pumpkin lanterns or handing over sweets are descended from rituals to fend off malign spirits out to slaughter people.  The theft of a sack of dead animals from a mean old man’s porch attracts the attention of the Aos Si (Alan Maxson), a persistent monster who follows the kids back to Tim’s house (thanks, guys) and won’t be seen off.  Poring through a handy book of Halloween lore only comes up with worse and worse options for survival.  There’s a core of good stuff here, but also a lot of awkwardness.



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