For Judge Daryl Loomis, the day after Arbor Day is the most terrifying.
It's there and it wants you.
Australian exploitation doesn't get the same recognition as the sleaze-meisters from other nations, and it doesn't make much sense. We all love Mad Max, and Richard Stanley's horror films—Hardware, Dust Devil—are fantastic, though relatively obscure pieces of entertainment. When you try to get to the low rent sections, though, there's little to choose from. In fact, were it not for the documentary Not Quite Hollywood, one might think this kind of trash didn't get made down under. Thanks to Scorpion Releasing and their Katarina's Nightmare Theater series, we get the chance to witness one example of the genre. The Day after Halloween is a movie that has nothing at all to do with the holiday.
Angela (Sigrid Thornton, The Man from Snowy River) is just an average girl with a hairdressing job, a parasitic mother, and a creepy ex-boyfriend. One day, a client named Madeline (Chantal Contouri, Thirst) offers her a modeling job. Her low self-esteem almost makes her turn it down, until she finds out what it pays, but is mortified to learn she'll have to pose naked. When her mom catches wind of all this, she kicks Angela out of the house, forcing her stay with friends. All the while, Angela's ex—an ice cream truck driver—is stalking her to try to force her back into their old life.
"Ice Cream Truck Driver" should signal an immediate red flag when we're talking boyfriend eligibility, but Angela doesn't ever make the best decisions for herself. The Day after Halloween, originally titled Snapshot (which makes more sense), is an interesting and entertaining piece of horror genre fans will appreciate.
Director Simon Wincer (Free Willy) puts together an efficient, surprisingly tense thriller with a tiny body count. He uses the simple creepiness of an ice cream truck (rarely even showing the driver) and the inherent tension in a beautiful young girl who believes she's being stalked. The funny thing about the movie is that there's no real solid resolution, which is the most interesting aspect. The Day after Halloween presents a series of twists that occupy the final third, and while I won't spoil any of them, they only serve to confuse the plot…which I believe is intentional.
The cinematography by Vincent Monton (Heatwave) looks good for the budget, and features an early score from Brian May (Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare), one of Australia's great film composers. Plus, the lovely Sigrid Thornton—who became a pretty big star in her country—and her co-stars do convincing work. It's far from perfect, but surprisingly entertaining.
Scorpion sent a pre-release screener, but the final product should look similar, which is quite decent. Presented for the first time in its original aspect ratio, the standard definition 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen image looks surprisingly strong. It's not a perfect restoration, colors are a little muddy and black levels aren't as deep as they could be, but given the film's age and obscurity, I couldn't really hope for more. The audio is decidedly average, with a Dolby 2.0 Stereo mix that doesn't have a lot going for it besides a general lack of ambient noise.
For extras, our lovely host Katarina Waters bookends the film with corny jokes, but she's a charmer and it totally works. We also get the original Australian version of the film, which runs ten minutes longer, features a different opening, and more salacious bits. Unfortunately, it's in the wrong aspect ratio (1.85:1) which is too bad, but does make for a decent case study about how much the framing changes a film. This cut comes with an audio commentary from producer Antony Giannane and Waters, which is an interesting albeit standard conversation. Giannane has a good memory for who and what went on with the production, even without having seen the film in three decades.
Katarina's Nightmare Theater: The Day after Halloween is another great release from Scorpion Releasing. It's not the greatest thriller but it is better than average exploitation. It may have nothing to do with Halloween, but I'm happy to have seen it.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Scorpion Releasing
• Australian Cut
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