Admittedly, prior to seeing Caesar and Otto’s Paranormal Halloween, I’ve never heard of writer/director/actor Dave Campfield’s Caesar and Otto. What I can best describe as the modern throwback to classic comedy duos like Abbott and Costello or Laurel and Hardy, the half-brothers’ past adventures have involved things such as summer camp, Dracula, Dracula’s lawyer, Christmas, and now a haunted house. Like Jay and Silent Bob, there’s something fun about taking characters and putting them in unrelated films for them to play around. Of course, the fun largely depends on the audience, rather than the creator.
Caesar (Dave Campfield) is a selfish wannabe actor. Otto (Paul Chomicki) is a dim-witted but lovable slob. Both are currently unemployed and living with their father, Fred (Scott Aguillar). Caesar has taken to dressing up as a woman and babysitting to get by. After a near-death experience that turns into thwarting a would-be killer, Caesar and Otto are invited by the Governor of California (Ken MacFarlane) to be caretakers of his summer home. Unfortunately, being late October, Caesar and Otto begin to experience some weird happenings while house-sitting.
From that synopsis, you can probably guess where this film is headed. Essentially, Paranormal Halloween is one of those self-aware films that neither takes itself seriously, nor does it have much in the way of a deep plot. It’s also the film’s strong point. The film riffs on the classic horror clich%eacute;s, such as the masked psycho killer (who is subsequently run over by Fred), the blonde babysitter and the haunted house, but also ribs modern horror fare. There are references to The Exorcist and The Conjuring, Paranormal Activity and others. It’s all done in a goofball style that didn’t feel forced, and did elicit a couple of smirks. Plus, the film has quite the number of cameos from various indie B-movie fare, including Tiffany Shepis, Debbie Rochon, Andre Gower (from The Monster Squad!), Vernon Wells, Sean Whalen, Nicole Cinaglia, Beverly Randolph and still more!
Weird as it sounds, it’s almost expected that the acting quality is inconsistent, but still works. Dave Campfield, Paul Chomicki, and Scott Aguilar all have great chemistry together and play off of one another, but there are times where their dialogue falls flat and doesn’t feel genuine. The same can be said of the rest of the cast, who have a mixed bag of good dialogue/deliveries and so-so dialogue/deliveries. As far as the production goes, it’s again what you’d expect from an indie (and parody) film, but does have some good shots and an effective score.
As with many horror comedies, be they slapstick or otherwise, the humour in Paranormal Halloween plays to a select audience. Goofball parody humour isn’t everyone’s thing, but at the very least there’s some heart and thought behind much of the gags. I did have a problem with the use of unnecessary characters and scenes, all of which could’ve easily been left on the cutting-room floor, as they interrupted the pacing. As well, the obvious use of CGI and compositing irked me a little (as I’m sure it would with many traditionalists), especially when it’s the obvious and low budget type. Again, it’s a thing that’s necessary in some cases, and some people take more exception than others.
While it’s not Scary Movie, Caesar and Otto’s Paranormal Halloween isn’t meant to be for that audience. Rather, the film takes a far more broad selection of films, both current and classic, and brings them together in this mash-up that has a certain charm all its own. The fun use of the many cameos also reflects the effort by Campfield and company to make a fun film. Granted, the quality of the effects and the acting aren’t going to make everyone stand up and take notice, but again it’s all part of the show. If you’re into this type of indie send-up, you’ll have a fun time with Caesar and Otto.
Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, the film is what you’d expect from a low-budget indie release. Details are okay when it comes to day shots, however they take a hit during the low-light scenes, as does the contrast. Colours are acceptable, with only some slight haloing. Nothing reference-quality, but still very much watchable.
Like the video, the Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is typical for this type of film. Dialogue is clear and free of distortion, nor is it overpowered by the score. Directional sounds are sparse, and overall the track is mostly flat. While it doesn’t have the fidelity you’d expect from bigger-budgeted movies, this is still adequate.
First up are a series of Audio Commentaries. The first features writer, director and star Dave Campfield, and actors Josephine Iannece and JamieLee Ackerman. Campfield takes up the majority of the talking time, carrying the conversation and keeping things going. The track covers info about what’s transpiring on the screen, as well as tidbits about the cast, crew, filming locations and so on. The second track has producer Rich Calderon, actors Paul Chomicki, Scott Aguilar, Samantha Barrios, production assistant Tina Johnson, and a fan named Nicole Spade. Obviously, this one is less informative than the first, but still carries a bit of info on the film’s production, even if some of it overlaps the previous track.
Following that is a Gag Reel that’s just over three minutes long. As you’d expect, it’s mostly mishaps during the film where props malfunction, actors blow lines or corpse, etc.
“Behind the Scenes with Shawn and Brendan” (or Coolduder and WetMovie1, according to the title card) is a behind-the-scenes on-set interview involving the aforementioned gentlemen talking with director Dave Campfield.
“The Son of Piggyzilla Trilogy” is a collection of shorts running just over six minutes. You have the option to play the entire trilogy, “Son of Piggyzilla,” “Son of Piggyzilla Strikes Back” and “Return of Son of Piggyzilla”, with or without commentary by Dave Campfield and Josephine Iannece. The whole thing is styled after classic black-and-white B-movies, this one involving a giant guinea pig.
“Robert Z’Dar Tribute” is a five-minute tribute to Z’Dar, who passed away earlier this year. The piece features Joe Randazzo and Sean Steffen, both of whom were involved in the 2012 short The Perfect Candidate (which featured Z’Dar), as well as this film. While Z’Dar wasn’t involved in Paranormal Halloween, it’s still a wonderfully touching piece.
“On Set Podcast – The Forced Perspective Podcast 2014” is a near hour-long interview with cast and crewmembers Dave Campfield, Debbie Rochon, Catherine Corcoran and Josephine Iannece.
“Facebook Video” Is a two-minute clip that was posted on the film’s Facebook page, and consists of Dave Campfield and JaimeLee Ackerman doing some last-day pick-up shots in New York.
Rounding things out is the film’s trailer, as well as a collection of trailers for other films from Wild Eye Releasing. There are also a couple of Easter Eggs (remember those?) scattered throughout the DVD, and aren’t too hard to find.
Given the wealth of extras, this isn’t a bad DVD. While I personally would’ve liked to have had a making-of doc, the included commentaries (and the Easter Eggs) make up for it.