One of the coolest things about the Atlantic International Film Festival is the ability to meet the director of a film before its screening. For Halloween Party, we were lucky enough that director Jay Dahl gave a brief speech before the screening, where he revealed that Halloween Party actually is not a complete film. What we saw was the most recent edit of the film and Jay Dahl encouraged us to provide feedback since there was still time for additional changes, which he gracefully accepted after the screening in a small question and answer session.
Halloween Party follows Grace, just an average nursing student, on a quest across campus to figure out how to stop a Halloween themed “meme” that threatens to kill anyone who sees it. While searching with her nerdy friend Spencer, they discover a horrifying secret deep within their school’s past that leads back to one question, “What is your greatest fear?”
The best part of Jay Dahl’s Halloween Party is in its mixture of horror and comedy. Although a very popular combination, few are able to successfully create genuine laughs while still being able to give good scares. Halloween Party is definitely a comedy first and features characters that are self-aware, leading to fun meta-humor, but it also provides intensely disturbing and grotesque imagery that lingers in your mind long after you’ve left the theater.
Aside from the visuals, Halloween Party’s scares are based on a build-up of tension followed by jumpscares with middling results. Although the tension during the night vision sequence was expertly used and had my heart beating much faster than usual, whenever that final payoff of the jumpscare happened it was never as effective as the other elements of horror were. I think this can mainly be attributed to the sound mixing. In contrast to Halloween Party, other horror films make you jump, even at predictable jumpscares, due to the difference between the quiet before and the piercing sound of the scare. Halloween Party’s jumps aren’t loud enough and a few times the ambient noise of the scene is already slightly too loud and distracting, not making a strong enough difference between the quiet and the scare.
The lead characters of Halloween Party are both wonderful and very enjoyable onscreen for this type of movie. Grace and Spencer are not exactly deep characters, but are made very likable and relatable by virtue of both performance and writing; both actors have good comedic timing and have strong chemistry. During scenes that saw both of them at risk, I found myself not wanting anything bad to happen to either of them, increasing the level of tension already in those scenes. Side characters like the fraternity bros are mostly used for comedy and to increase the body count, but they serve this purpose well.
Halloween Party is a very fun movie, balancing both horror and comedy effectively, and including some captivating creature designs. Though not without its flaws, Halloween Party is well worth the watch for any horror fan looking for both a scare and a laugh.