THE NIGHT BEFORE EASTER
Director: Joseph Henson & Nathan Johnson
Year of release: 2014
Country of origin: USA
Running time: 65 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: DVD only
Also known as: Happy Easter
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: Things begin with the news that a killer named Alex Sykes has escaped from a prison/psychiatric ward during the Easter holidays. We learn that he was arrested the year before for murdering his wife whilst dressed as the Easter bunny. Two teens meet their end at the hand of Sykes with the story then skipping forward 14 years. Sykes was apparently picked up by police before he could do any further damage after killing the teenagers but now all these years on has managed to escape again on the night before Easter and is at large once more. This coincides with a get together of a group of young people being held at a storage facility which is a building owned by the father of one of the group. The occasion is a going away party of sorts for one of the kids who announces she is moving away to London. As you do the kids decide a game of hide and seek within the confines of the vast storage facility would be the height of fun so they split up either on their own or in pairs. As people start getting bumped off by a hulking figure in a bunny suit it looks as if escaped loon Alex Sykes may have crashed the party.
Good points: There is some diversity with the characters which adds to the realism. We have a black character (not that this is unusual for a slasher), an Asian (or maybe Hispanic) girl, and a lady with a more curvy figure. On top of this some of the characters aren't really what you would call attractive or at least not in the traditional sense so I liked that as it made things seem more real. Too often in slasher films I think the cast is too attractive.
For a film made on a very very low budget a couple of the kills are quite well done. There is a throat cutting and something involving a severed head that look very good. There is also an effective kill where someone looses their glasses and can only see a blurry image as the killer approaches. An old chestnut this one of course and a bit of a cliche but still kind of fun at the same time.
Towards the end of the film there are a couple of good chase scenes that are actually pretty exciting and suspenseful. Proof I guess that you don't need a big budget to create one of the key ingredients for a slasher.
There are a couple of in gags and nods to the slasher genre such as the weird janitor that is sort of a red herring in the early stages which is reminiscent of Prom Night and the fact that some of the kids look way older than they are supposed to be which I assume was on purpose as this is something of course that is often seen in slasher films with people in their late twenties or even early thirties playing teenagers.
For a couple of closing points it is a seasonal slasher of course being related to Easter so that is always nice as it is one to bring out around that time of year and at only just over an hour in length it never outstays it's welcome.
Bad Points: A lot of the dialogue between the characters during the early party scenes is quite boring and also hard to follow. I actually didn't have a clue what they were talking about at one stage. It was coming from a good place I suppose as they were trying to build the characters up and give them a bit of depth but the way it was done it was hard to follow who was saying what and the script didn't hold the interest.
At times due to the obvious budget restrictions a lot of the gore effects come across as very cheap looking and poorly done. This is balanced out as mentioned before with some good moments but on the occasions where the gore effects are bad they are bad to the point of hurting the film so they would probably have been better off showing nothing in these instances.
There were some sound issues at numerous points throughout the film which resulted in me missing some of the dialogue. There was one point for example where final girl Elizabeth is saying something to her friend Brooke which prompts Brooke into sympathy and in turn she shares something that had been traumatic in her past. Due to the sound issues though I didn't catch what Elizabeth initially said that prompted what Brooke revealed. This was while watching on YouTube though so maybe the DVD audio quality is better. I've since bought the DVD but haven't watched it yet. Saving it for next Easter! Edit: I watched the DVD and the audio though clear for the most part does drop in and out at times. The part with Elizabeth revealing her troubles is not shown properly on the DVD either.
The ending although quite good is slightly confusing in regards to it not being as clear as I would like. When it said "the next morning Easter Sunday" it wasn't immediately apparent that it meant in the past when Sykes escaped the 1st time. I know it was black and white like it was for the twist reveal we had just seen which I guess did hint it was in the past but it still wasn't 100% clear. It would have been better I think if it had been made clear in the radio broadcast near the start that Sykes was found wondering in the road the morning after killing the teens the night before. That way it would have been obvious the last scene was supposed to be in the past. I did like the idea though of the Sykes character handing out eggs.
Edit and spoiler: I recently rewatched this and I'm not actually sure the scene at the end I was talking about here was supposed to be in the past. Either Sykes handed out eggs to both Riley and Elizabeth when they were young and it was indeed in the past as I said or perhaps it was just supposed to be the next morning and Elizabeth herself was handing out an egg to a random girl, having been sent a bit mad by her ordeal. It wasn't all that clear. There was also some slight continuity confusion in the explanation scene with Riley being revealed as the younger brother of the girl killed at the start. It shows both sister and boyfriend checking on him but we saw the boyfriend go up the stairs alone earlier with the sister only following after he had been killed. I suppose they could have gone downstairs after checking on the brother to watch TV but the way it was presented made it look as if they were heading to the bedroom.
A minor thing but the game of hide and seek was kind of disregarded and forgotten shortly after it begins. It was only a plot device of course to divide the group but it was a bit weird how many of them seemed to loose interest in it before it even became apparent that there was a killer loose in the building.
Verdict: Taking into account how small the budget was it was a decent effort with some cool chase scenes and one or two effective macabre moments. I think it may have been a first time project as well by the directors so considering that it could have been a lot worse. The low budget was very evident at times which did spoil things but after a slow start it did pick up towards the second half building to a more exciting finale. The DVD also has some extras which is a bonus for such a low budget independent film.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1) Male teen: Found with a wound on his groin.
2) Female teen: Killed off camera.
3) Female with glasses. Killed with an axe.
4) Male: Killed with a circular saw type thing thrown into his back.
5) Girl: strangled to death with a chain.
6) Blonde girl: Has throat slit.
7) Janitor: Killed with an axe and her head is later found in the mini fridge/cooler box
8) Brooke: Killed with axe.
9) Melissa: Axe treatment as well.
10) Dante: Killed off camera, found with eyes gouged out.
11) Riley: Killed with his own axe after a blow to the face by final girl Elizabeth.