In this, Diabolique’s inaugural episode of FanCam, we delve into the night He came home… again and again and again. The idea of FanCam is a simple one: it is designed to spotlight filmmakers, young and old, paying homage to the intellectual properties they love. This is a testament to the power of well-told stories. We all have films, television shows, books, graphic novels, etc., that we hold dear and when that story is over, we want more. Without official sequels, spin-offs, reboots, etc. the industrious among us are left to fill that void. This is the passion that drives the filmmakers you will see in this, and subsequent, episodes. Much like the vibrant world of fan fiction, fan films take that same passion but push it one step further. Fan films require a group of people to have the desire to create something using characters that they love and spending money on costumes, gear, special effects, Doritos, etc. to that end. Most of the time, they can expect absolutely nothing in return. These films can’t be sold or broadcast. The fan film is an effort borne of love, executed with passion, and delivered with pride. Sometimes, these are horrible displays of cliché with vapid, recycled themes, poor execution, and held together by nothing more than a love of the property. There are others, though, that are still labors of that same love but with an attention to detail and an understanding of the property that transcends their unofficial capacity. These are the films that are worthy of exploration; the films that, outside of their inability to be officially welcomed as canon, are unique, pioneers, or contribute to the world building. Welcome to FanCam.
Debuting this close to Halloween, it would seem fitting that FanCam explores a triptych of films featuring the season’s favorite boogeyman, Michael Myers. It is conceivable that John Carpenter and Debra Hill really had no idea that their simple film would spawn so many imitators, sequels, and homages. Alas, it has, and the pandemic-inspired delay in Halloween Kills from Blumhouse has filmmakers scrambling to bring a little Michael Myers home this October… but, for the past thirty years, Haddonfield’s most famous resident has been a mainstay in filmic fandom.
First, we have an early shot-on-video film entitled “The Shape” (1992) written, produced, and directed by Mack Hail and Jim Mills. This pair would later create Mr. Ice Cream Man (1999), a thoroughly enjoyable video slasher that has its roots in Carpenter and Hill’s original bad guy, available in a new edition from S.O.V. Horror. In 1992, though, the pair teamed up for the first time to tell another story of the night He came home… to Las Vegas. Clocking in at just over 21 minutes, the film doesn’t overstay its welcome. Shot on analog video and using the original score, “The Shape” tells the tale of a young boy and his brother, home alone on Devil’s Night, where they are plagued by one Mr. Myers. The story itself is pedestrian, but that isn’t the headline in discussing Hail and Mills’ fan film. Produced in 1992, this is post Halloween 4 and Halloween 5 and “The Shape” does a very good job of capturing that pacing and look. Due to its age, and the limitations of analog masters over time, there are some murky elements that don’t hold up well, but the lighting and camera usage really tie nicely into the comic-book feel of 4 and the inclusion of a young lead harks to the casting of Danielle Harris. “The Shape” isn’t perfect, of course. In the early 90s, the availability of Hollywood-realistic props and masks wasn’t as prevalent as it is now, but the duo does well with what they have and, as teenage filmmakers, their Halloween short foreshadows a lot of the innovation they would bring to their 1999 feature. The Shape from Hail and Mills is pre-dated by one year by another The Shape, an over hour-long effort written and directed by Patrick Jacobs.
Produced and shot in 1991, re-edited in 2004, and given the HD treatment in 2018, The Shape from Gordon is a time-capsule of early 90s suburbia but, more importantly, it is believed to be one of the first, if not the first, Halloween fan film. Like other efforts, the original score was used but this one channels the sixth sequel and pre-empts themes that Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers would explore. A Celtic band of druids resurrects the Michael that had died at the end of Halloween 5 by absconding with the mask and bringing it to California and sets him on another killing spree. Interestingly, this lets Michael inhabit the mask making that the focal point (as well as leverage the odd ‘Man in Black’ from the fifth entry). Sound issues, poor writing, performance issues, and a lot of padding hamper the effort, but there is something to be said for being first (or nearly first). And the slightly over two-hour sequel, don’t forget the sequel. Oh, and the other sequel from 1996 that introduces a psychic into the terrifying world of Detective Cooper and Michael Myers.
Twenty-eight years in the future, and after three more sequels, a reboot with a sequel and a sequel to the original that invalidates all of that, Halloween Night debuted in March of 2020. At an hour long, it is nearly feature length and that is no small feat. Written by Zach Salazar and directed by J.P. DeStefano, this entry really leans into the mythology of the Halloween franchise, specifically the legacy of Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance). In our story the year is 2020 and Haddonfield had largely put the past behind them. Michael Myers was locked up, for good, and the collective sigh of relief allowed the town to begin to celebrate Halloween again. Loomis’ grandson, Jon (DeStefano) and fiancée, Samantha (Ainura DeStefano) are menaced by the boogeyman after his escape from Smith’s Grove, one more time, and realizing that the Loomis family was ripe for slaughter.
The production value on this Thunder Knock Studios production is relatively high. There is a good variance in locations and solid performative value from its players, including the DeStefano couple, who navigate the director/producer/star roles fairly well. For completists, there are a few fun Easter Eggs, including a Tommy Doyle appearance and fun Lyndsey Wallace gag. That, alone, would fit Halloween Night into the Blumhouse timeline, and that is bolstered by the use of music from Halloween (2018) as well as a bevy of appropriate classic rock with Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper” used to great effect.
Again, clocking in at an hour is difficult if one isn’t padding and maintaining the suspense. Therein lies Halloween Night’s greatest strength – it channels suspense well (a few hiccups aside) and feels like a film in the franchise, albeit tangentially (more Mork from Ork than Laverne and Shirley, if Happy Days is our baseline). All in all, young craftspeople using their love of the original film, and sequels, to hone their skills results in a fun, substantial entry.
If our first two FanCam spotlights were on tangential stories, the third, “Happy Halloween” (2020), sets itself apart a bit in the billing. This thirteen-minute short declares that it is a cut scene from the Halloween (2018) return, which is a fun way to approach it. Written and directed by Courtlan Gordon and Jimmy Champane, this is another film that really gets the feel of the original and is, of course, using the 2018 follow-up as a springboard. Halloween Kills, as mentioned earlier, has been delayed, but that didn’t stop Gordon and Champane from, again, filling the void.
“Happy Halloween” sees a lonely trick or treater, a county sheriff’s deputy, and a group of partying high schoolers run afoul of the main man. The interrelation of the characters to one another is fun and the filmmakers took a non-linear approach to the presentation that provided a satisfying ‘ah-ha’ moment in such a short run-time. The production values are there and, like Halloween Night, the material is well-loved by the principles and cast, it just comes out in the care they take with Michael and the wholesale slaughter of innocents (and near innocents). This entry is gorier than most with some very well-done practical effects and a brutality for Michael that is more akin to his slasher brethren, like a Jason Voorhees. It doesn’t detract from the overall presentation and if there were better performers and continuity in camera, one could probably argue that it was a real group of cut scenes. Regardless, a yeoman effort and a fine love letter.
And that would be… wait, did you say trick or treat? We know three were promised and, by last count, six films had been discussed but we’re feeling mischievous in the FanCam offices and here is one more… a Halloween trick! Nationally, the idea of cancelling Halloween and various festivities impacts the enjoyment of the holiday, especially for Michael Myers. With no one out and about, his kill quota is going to be greatly impacted… until he runs into a woman who doesn’t believe in wearing a mask in the age of COVID. Directed by Andrew Kasch and featuring genre veteran Tiffany Shepis as Karen, complete with a wonderfully conspiratorial rant about Michael’s sheeple status due to his mask usage, this three-minute fan film is just plain fun.
Remember, you can’t have “fanatic” without “fan.”