There’s a reason why the horror movie endures as a favorite entry point into moviemaking.  You don’t need big stars or expensive effects; the audience’s fear (or delight in being scared, or just enjoyment in recognizing when the scares are coming) does a lot of the work. 

Halloween, Indiana (a/k/a the long-foretold “Montgomery County Movie”) follows in that tradition.  Without flash or polish, it puts its community-theater let’s-put-on-a-show! spirit front and center.

An unnamed Montgomery County town is plagued by a string of killings on Halloween 1981, leaving the residents and police baffled.  As the body count rises, one young girl (played by Madeline Hepburn) finds a clue.  But can she convince the grown-ups without evidence?  And even once the townsfolk discover the truth about the threat facing them, what can they do to stop it?

Yes, the basic story is familiar.  But writer-director Philip Demoret pulls off a decent narrative fake-out, with what seems to be one kind of horror story turning into something else.  And the source of the terror turns out to be creative, and appropriately homegrown.

 The large cast spans the range of acting talent, with the younger actors generally faring best; Hepburn covers a lot of emotional ground, and Olivia McKenna gives the role of her younger sister a charming stubbornness in the early scenes.  Among the adults, Jodi Ann Swenson makes the biggest impression, as the kind of obnoxious loudmouth whose story ends in a manner as satisfying as it is inevitable.

It must be said that this production’s no-budget, community-willed origins are both a point of pride and fully visible.  The sound mix (at least at the premiere showing) is very up-and-down; the effectively moody score sometimes drowns out the dialogue.  The editing is a bit choppy, with scenes coming to a sudden stop or sometimes coasting to a very gradual end.  And the visual effects are, well… did we mention this was a first-time community effort?

But hey, suspension of disbelief is part of the package.  If you like the Sharknado movies, that’s kind of what you get here… but locally grown; instead of Yankee Stadium and Tara Reid, you’ve got The Hickory Café and [insert local celebrity here].  That may not be everyone’s cup of blood (er, tea), but it is a one-of-a-kind viewing experience.  Halloween, Indiana represents the effort of hundreds in the area to bring that to the screen; the rest of the work is up to you in the audience.