Anytime a newer horror flick boasts multiple legends of the genre within the same movie, there is always cause for concern. Far too many low budget offerings are content with simply resting on their laurels, putting forth not even a basic amount of effort to tell a compelling story. Each time a new entry comes around, one can only hope they buck the unfortunate lazy scripting to provide these stars a proper outlet for their talents. Halloween 4 director Dwight H. Little’s return to filmmaking was extra cause for excitement, on top of the announced trio of Robert Englund (Freddy Kreuger, A Nightmare on Elm Street), Bill Moseley (Otis Firefly, Rob Zombie’s Firefly Trilogy), and Danielle Harris (Jamie Lloyd, Halloween 4/5). The appropriately-titled Natty Knocks ends up somewhere in the middle of the pack—neither dreadfully poor, nor exceptionally great—despite good intentions from the cast and crew. At least it feels more like a proper movie than, say, Room 9 or Death House, which really isn’t saying much.
As with the memorably-great opening credits of Halloween 4, Little brings an incredible sense of Halloween atmosphere to the proceedings from the very beginning. The image of a creepy scarecrow-woman, also reemerging during the eventual end credits, immediately sets the mood. Halloween decorations and pumpkins greet us at the door of a sprawling home, circa 1976. An intense sex scene unfolds inside, as B-movie actress Natty Knocks (Joey Bothwell) is turning her latest trick. Her child cringes under the bed as the couple exchange “choke me” sentiments. Just as quickly as the film changed gears to the lovemaking, angry housewives pull Natty out of the house screaming that she is a witch. Before flashing forward decades later, the housewives quite literally burn the witch alive in a dingy shed—I am not entirely sure that was a thing in the 70s, but I digress.
In October of 2022, the tale of Natty Knocks has become the stuff of legend, an essential part of the town’s DNA. One family, led by matriarch Diane (Harris), is about to become ensnared in a night from hell. Teenage baseball-hopeful Wyatt (Thomas Robie) and his curious younger sister, Jolie (Channah Zeitung), need to find a way to stop Wyatt’s phone from being shut off without bothering their mom for money. Wyatt’s best friend, Robby (Noen Perez), comes up with a scheme to steal copper wire from a neighbor’s yard to sell for quick cash. Instead of snatching the wire and ditching, Wyatt gets dared to knock on the door nine times. They witness a creepy makeup-faced man, Abner Honeywell (Bill Moseley), violently beating a woman into submission within the dilapidated home.
From here, the kids’ determined babysitter, Britt (Charlotte Fountain-Jardim), and her suave boyfriend, Rick (Will Murden), are drawn into the action. Honeywell begins pursuing them, fully aware that they now know his secrets. They cannot even appear to trust the cops. Can Britt and the others figure out a way to stop Honeywell before it’s too late? The pacing is all over the place as the slow-burn narrative fails to take off organically. Several interesting shots, like a grainy killer-POV emulating classic grindhouse movies, try to make a case for what unfolds. Moseley unnerves as the killer in an impressive villainous turn. Robert Englund shows up to spoon-feed the legend to the audience, and steal his every scene. Empty teen dialogue, including the line “fist meets face,” is dated in a way that somehow adds to the weird charms.
Strangely enough, the off-kilter mix of supernatural elements with creeping serial killer voyeur almost works. However, in attempting to do too many things at once, Natty Knocks needlessly overcomplicates what should have been simple and fun. With a focus solely on Honeywell, Natty Knocks could transform into a Black Phone-esque chiller; the witchy Natty stalking and killing folks by way of her ghostly, traumatized presence would be another in a long line of hauntings. Oh, what could have been—especially with such a magnificent cast assembled.
Make sure you knock at least nine times for Natty Knocks, now shrieking across one’s favorite Video On Demand streaming services.