Color, 2004, 84 mins. 24 secs.
Directed by Kenneth J. Hall
Starring Mary Woronov, Janet Tracy Keijser, Shawn Savage, Stephanie Leighs, Athena Demos,Monica Shere, Cleve Hall
Intervision (Blu-ray) (US R0 NTSC), Skouras (DVD) (US R1 NTSC), Starmedia (DVD) (Germany R2 PAL) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)

A shot-on-digital throwback to the more Lovecraftian The Halfway Houseside of '60s AIP horror The Halfway Housefilms like Die, Monster, Die! and The Haunted Palace, this scruffy little monster movie was a labor of love for the Hall family consisting of special effects artist and Evil Spawn director Kenneth J. Hall, his makeup artist brother and horror convention legend Cleve Hall (Twisted Nightmare), whose daughter Constance also worked as a puppeteer and cast member. In terms of execution it's about on par with your standard Full Moon or Retromedia production, but it does have one big ace up its sleeve that makes all the difference: cult film legend Mary Woronov (Rock 'n' Roll High School, Eating Raoul), having a field day here as a nun who moonlights as a dark priestess offering sacrifices to an ancient, unholy monster. How can you say no to that?

At the seemingly normal and oddly spelled Mary Magdalen Halfway House for Troubled Girls in L.A., something seems to be going wrong with the young residents going missing without a trace. Of course, in opening moments we see a young topless jogger in a subterranean dungeon being offered to a gigantic one-eyed beast after being snatched off the streets, so there isn't much mystery where they're going. Larissa The Halfway HouseMorgan (Keijser) shows up at the police station three days later looking for that jogger, her younger sister, and after a hostile reception from the inspector in charge, she ends up joining forces The Halfway Houseand getting under the covers with a cop named Dick Sheen (Savage), who thinks this is tied to other disappearances. Soon a plan is hatched for Larissa to go undercover at the halfway house run by Sister Cecilia (Woronov), where everyday drama and long showers belie a supernatural terror lurking below.

Though astoundingly high on nudity, The Halfway House is otherwise a fairly old-fashioned monster movie with an emphasis on practical rubber tentacled beast effects (augmented with a little bit of clunky CGI), avoiding graphic bloodshed in the process. The protagonists are pure cardboard all the way, which leaves plenty of room for Woronov to swipe the film in some great costumes. You even get some bonus cliches like the foul-tempered police boss and female delinquent lesbianism (depicted in surprisingly intimate and ludicrous detail), while Cleve Hall gets a fun supporting role here as a grotesque henchman who would've been played by Lon Chaney Jr. in an earlier era.

Released very briefly on DVD back in 2005 from Skouras in the U.S., The Halfway House has kept a The Halfway Housepretty low The Halfway Houseprofile since than until the 2021 Blu-ray release from Intervision. The presentation looks as good as could be expected for a digital production of the era, certainly better than standard def could provide and true to the limited nature of the format. The DTS-HD MA 2.0 English track is also without issues and sounds good bearing in mind the mix isn't the most dynamic on the planet; optional English SDH subtitles are also provided. The new featurette "Discipline And Sacrifice: A Look Back at The Halfway House" (32m59s) brings together writer / director / executive producer Kenneth J. Hall, producer / assistant director Ed Polgardy, creature puppeteer and actress Constance Hall, actors Athena Demos and Janet Tracy Keijser, makeup effects artist Jeff Farley, associate producer Sam Park, and actor / associate producer / set design and construction guy Michael Gaglio talking about early makeup effects days on films like Spacehunter, working at Empire, the casting process, the nonchalant attitude to nudity apart from one somewhat coy cast member, and the surprising negotiation process with Woronov involving a lawn chair. Then "Cleve Hall: From Monster Kid To Monster Man" (27m49s) is a love letter to the makeup artist who passed away in 2021, with memories shared by Polgardy, Park, Kenneth J. Hall, friend Patricia Rogers, effects artist Roy Knyrim, and daughters Constance and Elora. It's a clear-eyed snapshot of the man and his passion for horror, including thoughts on the self-destructive tendencies that took him away too soon. Also included are the original making-of featurette (38m36s) with tons of production footage and interviews with most of the cast and crew, followed by an Insecto Circus promotional music video for the film and two very NSFW trailers.

Reviewed on November 25, 2021