The Day After Halloween (1979)
WRITERS: Screenplay by Chris & Everett De Roche
DIRECTOR: Simon Wincer
STARRING: Chantal Contouri as Madeline
Robert Bruning as Elmer
Sigrid Thornton as Angela
Vincent Gil as Daryl
Hugh Keays-Byrne as Linsey
QUICK CUT: In what may be the worst abuse of an inappropriately named movie ever, a movie that has absolutely nothing to do with Halloween, or November 1st, and instead follows the adventures of an up and coming model as she tries and avoids a deadly stalker.
Angela - Our lead, a rather shy, mousy, quiet girl that eventually gets sucked into the world of modeling, just in time for her stalker ex-boyfriend to come back around, and her to find her backbone. She has it rough with her controlling mother, and is your typical good girl trying to find her way.
Madeline - Angela's best friend and the person who pulls her into the world of modeling so she can make some extra cash. She does her best to look out for Angela and show her the ropes, while also warning her of which dudes are skeevier than most.
Daryl - Angela's ex, whom you are never quite sure if he is an evil stalker, or just a guy who is still deeply, madly, crazily in love with his girl...and thus just bordering on being an evil stalker.
Linsey - A photographer friend of Madeline's who has a studio slash apartment complex for aspiring models to stay and pitch in as a group when others can't pay the rent. Seems like a nice guy, but he also photographs dead mice, so he's a bit off.
THE GUTS: So yeah, that's gonna take a bit of explaining, isn't it? The movie known as "The Day After Halloween"? That's not its real name. But they decided to call it that for its US release to cash in on the popularity of a certain little movie by some carpenter. It's very similar to how the movie Frightmare became popular on VHS in the 80s, so a much earlier movie got the name Frightmare 2, despite being older, for a VHS release. Naming conventions can be really weird sometimes.
Quite why the DVD release is called The Day After Halloween despite the actual movie on the disc still being called Snapshot...eh, whatever. I suppose the best version of the film is the Snapshot version, but the name most people know it by in the US is Day After. Weirdness abounds.
Anyways...we kick off innocently enough with the scene of a fire, and some nice atmospherics of firefighters walking through smoke. Which is followed with people investigating the charred remains of the building, and bodies.
The film fades from the arson investigation to the past, with Angela in a hurry. In a hurry of being chased by an ice cream truck. Oh no, Clint Howard is after her! Once she arrives at work, Madeline turns up demanding she be the one to work on her hair and to try and convince her to run away and become a model herself.
Ahh, one of my favourite movie tropes, the movie star who doesn't think she's attractive. It's always fun watching ANYone in a movie complain about how woefully ugly they are, when they're clearly not. Simply by being IN a movie, right? On the upside, Madeline calls Angela out on her low opinion of herself almost immediately, which is a good inversion on the trope.
Madeline is so insistent on getting Angela some time off, she pretty much gets her fired on the spot. With friends like these, who needs a stalker?
Angela gets introduced to Linsey, a photographer, as he's creating some art using a dead rat, called still death. Yeah, you can kinda get an idea of what sorta guy he is from that alone, can't you? He's a bit manic and scattered to boot. Or overly focused on the wrong things. After some hasty introductions, he arranges with Ange to meet tomorrow for a beach shoot in the middle of winter.
When they exit the studio, Angela notices the ice cream truck creeping about, and gets Madeline to drive away quickly. She explains the truck is being driven by her ex-boyfriend who is needy and desperate to get back together. Angela asks if they can lose the truck, and I feel ripped off to not being treated to the weirdest car chase ever as they immediately cut to Angela walking up to her mom's home. Where the truck is already waiting anyways, so much for losing it. Sadly, no one shows up at the front door asking for candy.
The photoshoot doesn't go spectacularly well, what with Angela being thrust into a topless beach shoot for her first job. She's unhappy, she's grumpy, but they plug through all day long taking photos. It's your typical montage to music, a song actually ABOUT Angela "going too far this time" and about no going back, but I almost wish we got to spend some time with the actual emotion and frustration of the day, rather than speeding through it from afar, this feels less effective. Still, we see the frustration, and it works well enough.
After the montage, Ange and Maddy hit the clubs to unwind, where Angela meets a mildly skeevy guy who offers her a job, but there's possible subtext of more. Most of that is played out through Madeline's suspicions, so it's hard to tell just how on the up and up he is. Once they send him on his way, they head out, but find someone has smashed the windscreen of Madeline's car.
They take a cab and drop Angela off, but she finds her mom has changed the locks on the front door. Well, that's more of a trick than a treat. Or possibly she's just too drunk to be sure she's at the right house, but most likely its the former. So, not a good day for Angela, all told. And it gets even worse when she walks off and runs right into her ex.
Daryl moans and whines for Angela to come back to him, or give him another shot, or at least not run screaming into the night, or maybe just make a cute couples costume together, and she talks him into taking her to Madeline's. This leads to an oh so fun discussion on if she's gay or not, and Daryl being NOT CREEPY AT ALL in revealing he saw the two women kiss. Yeah, that's not stalkery.
When Angela arrives at the studio/apartments of Linsey and friends, he's the only one up, geeking out obsessively over photos as he works. He shows Angela the results of her day's work, which basically amounted to him taking a shot of the water, WITHOUT her, and slipping a shot of the cologne the ad is for into the image. At least that's how it looks here, and I would be insulted if I was Angela, but we see the whole thing later.
Linsey shows her to a room, and now that he's away from his cameras, he actually seems focused and coherent, and nice, able to convey a thought and explains he likes shooting dead things, simply because no one else does. And because they're easy to work with and do as they're told. It's a nice character moment, and a good pause, although the movie's not exactly fast paced.
The next day has Angela setting in at the studio, and meeting the rest of the girls, and Linsey showing off the finished ad in a magazine. Still, Angela isn't happy that her topless body is so prominent, and that her face can be seen.
Although, once she's alone, she starts to appreciate it more, getting a chance to see herself the way others do, gaining confidence. More great character work...which is then quickly taken away when she notices one of her dresses has been slashed up while she was getting breakfast.
Back at the club, Angela meets a man from the ad agency, who teases her a bit about the photo, and starts to relax her a little. He might have some more work lined up for her, but things take a nasty turn when she returns back to the flat and finds her mother waiting.
She's shown up to tell Angela that her sister was in an accident...oh, and to tell her daughter how much she disapproves of her new lifestyle, and makes assumptions of her having tons of sex because of all the money she's making. The topless photo didn't help that assumption any. Oh, and to top things off, she takes her daughter's hard photographed money when she leaves.
That weekend she heads out to the party at Elmer's place, but it's been conveniently called off. He offers to at least feed her though, and keep her company for her trouble.
He offers to set her up with an acting gig, but as the night wears on, he sets up a fake phonecall from Madeline, saying she won't be showing up. Elmer says she'll be by first thing in the morning to pick Angela up, and she should stay the night. Angela sure knows how to attract the creeps.
While Daryl shows up at the studio looking for her, Angela is still busy being further creeped on by Elmer. He tries to convince her that they can rush the response of the acting job by taking a few shots now, and he can get them to the agency as soon as possible. Because late night drunken photography sessions on a Saturday night always end well, right?
He actually takes a few classy shots, but then things turn down Expected Boulevard and he asks her to take her top off. She seems initially reluctant, but Elmer shames her by saying he's used to working with serious, experienced actresses that are used to what he's talking about, and she pretty much can't strip that top off fast enough to please him.
And the movie totally didn't need it at this point, but sure, let's add in the really creepy music to underscore that Elmer is the creepiest creep to have ever creeped! Creep!
It's at that moment that Angela actually shows some intelligence and realises that Maddie is not coming by at all, and didn't even call. Hooray for smart women, even if it took her awhile to get there.
She runs out before things can go any further, and gets a pretty cold reception back at the studio, where it looks like someone has crashed in her bed. She wisely grabs some scissors and tries to wake them up, eventually pulling back the blanket and...well, that was unexpected. Which is a plus, that's for sure.
The next day, Angela finally finds Madeline, who indeed did not have work, but is well versed in Elmer's little scheme, and brushes it off. Oh, the creepy old perv! He does this ALL the time, that makes it perfectly okay! Sigh.
Madeline does her best to take Ange's mind off her troubles by hitting up the bar for a bit, and Angela ruminates about where she's ended up in life, and how she's pretty, and shouldn't be here, and geeze. You've been 'modelling' for what? A week? If that? Your career, let alone your life, is far from over! Tone down that drama.
And just a few days ago, you had so little confidence, this is almost too fast of a switch. They did a little bit of trying to show her change in the way she saw herself, but it was annoyingly inconsistent.
The pair get bored of drinking and head back to the flat and gab, with Madeline making it very clear she's gay, for everyone who has not figured that out yet in the movie. But especially Angela, who has taken the extra clueless pill and doesn't get it until they snog.
Angela is taken aback, and pretty much falls into the pattern she does when anyone tries to advance upon her. Act shy, confused, then surprised and horrified until someone runs out of the room in heartbreak.
With everything that's happened, Angela goes, hat in hand, to her old boss at the hair salon to try and beg for her job back. But before she can do that, she sees her sister there, healthy and whole, and wearing all new clothes and shoes. Gee, nice to see that money helped her make a speedy recovery from her acc...HEY WAIT A MINUTE!!
Things take a sharp right down Good Fortune Road though, when a car magically shows up for her, and takes her to another ad agency where they offer her a job in Fiji, replacing a model that had to back out at the last minute. Angela is more than eager to jump at the chance, probably as much to get away, as much as it's about the money.
Back in the interesting plot of the movie, her window is mysteriously opened up during the night. Remember how there's supposed to be a stalker in this movie, folks?
She says her good byes to Madeline who wishes her well, and they part as friends after their awkward night. So Angela heads back to the strangely empty flat and packs her things, when she hears Greensleeves coming to get her. Alas, this film, you do me wrong...
As she's leaving, and things get creepier and creepier with the sheer lack of people in the flat, she runs right into Daryl outside the place, and runs for her life. She finds a payphone and calls everyone she knows. So of course not a single person is around, until she rings up Elmer, who sends her a taxi.
The taxi takes her to Elmer's offices, and finds no one there as well. Does this girl have the mutant ability to make everyone in a building vanish before she enters, or something?! Are they trying to get a surprise Halloween party together?? Is that where the Halloween stuff is?
She wanders around, not finding anyone anywhere, including Elmer, but does find a washroom that has been plastered with her Bermuda Cool advertisement. And I'm not talking just covering the walls haphazardly. This is meticulous, perfect, wallpaper-like percision. And even the floors are covered with it. I wouldn't be surprised to pan up and see the ceiling has been given the same treatment.
Elmer finally arrives and locks the door behind him. And then he shoves Angela up against the wall and takes her coat off, saying this time they're going to do the photographs right. Oh look, his behaviour is COMPLETELY harmless, right??
Surprise! Angela is reluctant to strip for his photographs! So he gives her some...incentive by pouring out some chemicals on the photo-covered floor, and setting them on fire. I guess the point is to make her do it quickly, and he'll let her go before they both die in a horrible fire?
Daryl shows up looking for her, distracting Elmer long enough for her to grab the can of flamable goodness, and pour it on the creep. He stumbles about, knocking over lights, and ending up right in his little pile of 'incentive'. Well, this plan went swimmingly. And funny how Angela got some spilled on her and doesn't once spark up.
The downside of a man on fire is, he tends to run around and scream alot, setting more of the tiny room on fire. Daryl tries to break the door down, but Angela takes charge of her own destiny and breaks a window, but it's too high up. So she runs to the door and unlocks it...that's a bit anti-climactic, but whatever.
So the movie circles back in around on itself and begins devouring its own tail as we see a slightly different version of the opening scene, mostly to show us that Angela was not in the fire. And not the smokey corpse.
They lurk in the shadows and sneak off when they can, but Daryl insists Angela goes to the police, and won't let her run away. But a switch finally flips in Angela's head, and she yells at him for all the creepy weird shit that kept happening to her throughout the movie, and finally finding her backbone.
Daryl's confused by the accusations, and before he can further deny them, he gets run over by his own ice cream truck. Hello, ironic punishment division. At least Killjoy isn't driving.
As Angela stands there stunned, Madeline climbs out of the truck and smiles, and we have the entire stalker plot, such as it was, explained in about as brief a manner as possible. But that's pretty consistent with the way the plot was presented in the first place. A simple, "You!" is really all it needs, I guess.
With that, the pair of women climb into the truck and drive off into the sunset and...um...is this a happy ending? She's heading off happily with her stalker? I...I don't know how to process this. Yay, girl power?
Video: Pretty decent, as these things go. It's not great, being an Australian production from the 70s, when their film industry was in its infancy, but it looks good for all that, and was cleaned up well enough. Everything is pretty visible, and the only bad thing is, it looks a little dull.
Audio: A mono audio track that does the job well. All things are quite clear, and even accents don't get in the way.
Sound Bite: "You ever heard of guppies, Angela? Guppies are little fish. We had some once, in a tank. And if you put your hand up against the glass, real quick, a mother guppie will eat her babies." Daryl trying to make a point. What that point is, is lost on me. And Angela.
1 - A whopping one hour and twenty some odd minutes in until Elmer does his best impression of a bonfire.
2 - Daryl gets creamed by his truck.
Best Corpse: Oh, that easily goes to Elmer, and not just because there are slim pickings. This was a very early full body burn, and it still looks great.
Blood Type - F: The most gruesome thing is the crispy body at the start of the film, and nothing more.
Sex Appeal: Set in the world of modeling, there's a bit of toplessness, much to Angela's annoyance.
Movie Review: I'm not gonna yell about the name. But boy, that was a bait and switch. Leaving that aside, how's the plot? Actually, um, surprisingly good. It's basic, it's a stalker plot, but it has some interesting twists and turns. Featuring some early lesbianism, and a pretty honest look at men being pigs, you really fell for Angela's plight, and the story definitely keeps you guessing! I saw Madeline as a suspect pretty quickly, but I never saw Angela more or less shrugging and driving off with her in the end. And for a movie made as an early film of Australian cinema, it holds up pretty well, with decent acting. Four out of five dead mice.
Entertainment Value: And it's entertaining to boot! Not quite in the bad acting, cheesy plot way, but I found myself having fun, even if the plot is slow at times. There's a lot going on, so even when it's slow, it's good. Well, aside from a seven minute long photography session, but even that has its moments. Linsey is the breakout star in this, with his crazy antics, and I just love the crazed creative type. It doesn't really stand out for anything, but it does have some redeeming qualities, and is entertaining enough. Three out of five ice cream trucks.
Fun Fact! Linsey would go on to later have a minor role on Farscape, where he's quite a bit older, and under makeup, but hot damn if I didn't recognise his voice INSTANTLT when he appeared on screen.