(2014, US)
3 stars 
directed by: Joseph Henson and Nathan Johnson
starring: April Sinclair, Emily Chidalek, Alyssa Matusiak, Bonnie Marilyn Jean, Eric Wyatt, Keldon Flint, Michael Eragon, Gemma Hardy, Chelsea Regina, Madeleine Hicks, Jason Gonzales, Barbara Prince, Nathan Johnson, Rick James Willis, Joseph Henson

choice dialogue:

“Wishing you all a safe Easter holiday!”

- that voice sounds familiar ...

slash with panache?
[review by JA Kerswell]

First things first, my opinion of this may be a little biased. I am friends with the directors of THE NIGHT BEFORE EASTER. Indeed, Joseph and Nathan are two of my co-hosts on the The Hysteria Continues podcast (and my other co-host, Erik Threlfall, makes an audio cameo). Hell, I even make a cameo appearance (albeit just my face in a Polaroid like Jamie Lee in HALLOWEEN 4). Not to mention that I'm listed as a producer. So, all I can say is move over Rob Zombie a new slasher franchise is born!

  THE NIGHT BEFORE EASTER opens with tongue firmly planted in cheek

OK. That may not be the case, but I'm pleased to report that THE NIGHT BEFORE EASTER, despite its limitations, is a lot of fun. I was worried I'd have to sugar coat this review, but I'm happy I can give it to you straight (as it were). This a film made for fans by fans and anyone with a love of the subgenre should get a kick out of it.

The story is simplicity itself. A local man, who found his wife cheating, dresses up as the Easter Bunny and takes an axe to her one night (another Polaroid cameo, this time by scream queen Lesleh Donaldson). Alex Sykes is committed, but escapes to kill a young couple before being captured again only to now escape 14 years later on the eve of Easter. His second escape coincides with a get-together by a group of early twenty-something's at a storage unit owned by one of their Dads. They are gathered by their friend Kelly (Emily Chidalek), who announces that she will soon be leaving for a job in London. 

The group is also soon joined by uber-bitch, and Kelly's nemesis, Melissa (Bonnie Marilyn Jean) (and what slasher movie would be complete without an uber-bitch?). And despite the fact they know that Alex Sykes is on the loose, some bright spark suggests they split up and play hide-and-seek in the maze of white corridors and dark lockers. However, what they don't know is that someone has locked all the doors and there is no way out. Plus, that someone - regaled in a bunny costume and mask - is prowling the corridors, axe in hand, intent on a very different type of Easter hunt. Is Sykes here or has one of the group snapped? 

  The film benefits from devilishly handsome cameos

Despite many good points, what is difficult to avoid with THE NIGHT BEFORE EASTER is that it is a low budget production and allowances should be made for that. Sound issues, especially, plague some of the dialogue resulting in some distortion and muffling. However, it is never impossible to hear what is going on. The saturated look of the film works well and the high definition of the digital video gives the production a professional sheen that belies it's budgetary constraints. And although the performances are variable, most obvious in an awkward start where people talk over each other, the cast are likeable and for the most part well played. Thankfully, the directors know that people are fed up to the back teeth with annoying characters and we would much rather enjoy being in the presence of people we like - at least until we see them die, of course. The one exception is Melissa the bitch. However, just like her namesake from FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD (1987) it is a lot of fun watching her be so nasty (she even has the pearl necklace). Plus Jean can certainly run on hight heels!

If I'm honest, the film could have used more suspense in the first half. The kills are sudden and without much, if any, build up. However, the makers know that a good chase scene is vital to any good slasher and they don't stint on the chase action in the final third of the movie; with not just one but several exciting chases. This is definitely where the film comes into it's own and zips along at a fair old clip with assured direction.

  A bunny with an axe stalks the corridors in THE NIGHT BEFORE EASTER

Also, although Tom Savini can sleep safe in his bed tonight, THE NIGHT BEFORE EASTER doesn't skimp on the red stuff without becoming overly gory or mean spirited. One of the film's strongest aspects is the excellent '80s inspired soundtrack by Scott Henson. It wouldn't have sounded out of place in a production with many times the budget.

The film opens with a hilarious sequence featuring one of the film's directors (Nathan Johnson) playing one of two gay guys bickering over whose plain white t-shirt is more fashionable before they are hacked to death by a killer in the woods (played by Joseph Henson). It turns out that the film's real first victims-to-be are watching the scene on a VHS tape; only to give up after they realise that someone has tried to tape over it. It is this playful vein that helps make THE NIGHT BEFORE EASTER a consistently fun watch despite the already mentioned limitations. That playfulness extends to some witty in-jokes (the VOODOO MASSACRE fetish doll that appeared in several of Nathan's previous shorts pops up here, too). Yet it never gets too much and those not in on the joke won't feel excluded.

Many of us dream about making our own slasher movies, but Nathan and Joseph have made it a reality. That is to be commended and their love of the early '80s slasher shines from every scene. As a first effort this is really pretty good if you are willing to make allowances for the lack of finances and occasional technical flub. Put it this way, I'd much rather watch a film like this with (bloody) heart, passion and enthusiasm than any number of soulless genre rehashes cluttering up the Netflix queue. Looking forward to what they do next, but next time I need a bigger part!

Watch the film online now!

BODYCOUNT 13  bodycount!   female:6 / male:7

       1) Male stabbed with knife
       2) Male killed (offscreen)
       3) Male found castrated
       4) Female killed (offscreen)
       5) Female hacked up with an axe
       6) Male killed with a saw blade to the back
       7) Female choked to death with a chain
       8) Female has throat slit
       9) Female decapitated
     10) Female hacked up with an axe
     11) Female hacked up with an axe
     12) Male found with eyes gouged out
     13) Male hacked up with an axe