Hack-O-Lantern (1988)

DVD Cover (Massacre Video)
Genres / Traits: Horror, Slasher Film, Supernatural Horror, Halloween
Strange things are happening in Tommy's seemingly perfect town... a bloody pitchfork is found beside a mutilated corpse... dark chanting permeates the night chill... a deranged man warns of murder and madness... graves are robbed... and an ancient evil is about to be unleashed on the most devilish day - and night - of all: Halloween. Enter into a world of black secrets, revenge, and death. Spine-chilling suspense, shocking revelations, and the ultimate terror of all are about to be revealed... when the sun goes down and the wind begins to howl. It is the season of the witch... and the night of the devil. It is the unspeakable fear of HALLOWEEN NIGHT! --TMDb
Jag Mundhra Jag Mundhra
Hy Pyke Hy Pyke
Gregory Scott Cummins Gregory Scott Cummins
Katina Garner Katina Garner
Carla B. Carla B.
Jeff Brown Jeff Brown

4.8 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Chad
Added: October 31, 2008
Another year, another Halloween, and another attempt at finding a new holiday classic from yours truly. One would certainly think that horror films dealing with our favorite holiday of the year would be in huge supply given the rather obvious connections, but with the exception of the classics and a select few titles here and there, the market is pretty damned dry. I had to do some major digging this year to come up with something that would properly represent the holiday, and finally, I came across this little gem from the eighties: one of those direct-to-video horror flicks that plagued video stores during the era of slasher madness. While checking out the cover and reading the synopsis, I thought for sure that I had found a film that would live on for years to come due to its mixture of cheesiness, T&A, and inventive kill techniques, but instead of a long-lost gem, I found what has to be one of the worst movies I have ever seen.

The story for this one... my God, the story for this one. It's extremely simple, and it revolves around lovable old Grandpa (Hy Pyke), the leader of the local Satanic cult (doesn't every town have one?), and his attempts at getting his six-year-old grandson to join the dark side. He heads out to the boy's home on Halloween day to deliver a pumpkin, but he also slips something else into the child's eager young hands: a pentagram necklace. Needless to say, his mother Amanda (Katina Garner) isn't too happy about this, and that night, her husband goes out to Grandpa's farmhouse to give him a piece of his mind. Daddy winds up with a hammer in the skull for his troubles, and with that, we jump ahead about twelve years...

...where we discover that little Tommy (Gregory Scott Cummins) has grown up to become a rebellious teenager who is now completely enthralled with the black arts courtesy of his grandfather. Tommy's younger brother Roger (Jeff Brown) has made a name for himself as a police officer and his sister Vera (Carla Baron) is your typical teenage girl, but Tommy is content to spend his days in his room listening to hair metal bands on his Walkman and praying to a makeshift altar in his closet. Grandpa is hellbent on finally getting Tommy into his cult, and the upcoming Halloween seems like the perfect time to do it. Throw in a couple of kills and some gratuitous nudity, and we have a movie.

Does the storyline seem a little, I don't know, lacking to any of you fine readers? If you answered "Why, yes it does", then you would be correct; there's all of twenty minutes worth of material here, but unfortunately for anyone foolish enough to track down a copy of this garbage, the film runs for a total of ninety minutes. The math geniuses in the audience will realize that that leaves us with about seventy minutes worth of padding, but from my perspective, it felt more like an eternity. Now, slasher flicks have never been known for their deep storylines, so it's sort of a given that films of this nature will be padded out with cookie-cutter characters who serve no purpose in the grand scheme of things other than to round out the body count. Sadly, even that was a bust, as you could count the total number of victims on one hand and still be able to throw up the devil's horns.

Speaking of the devil's horns, I think we all know what that is, right? You know, that silly little hand gesture that teens throw up in the air while headbanging at Metallica concerts? It's on full display here, as each of the cult members use this little nod to Satan in their everyday lives: it's their greeting to one another, it's the method that they use to pick up goblets of blood during their ceremonies (I imagine their dry cleaning bills are through the roof), and basically, you never see any of the "evil" characters with their hands in their pockets as they're always flashing that damned thing like they were throwing out gang signs in a rap music video.

This is another problem with the film: the whole Satanism aspect came across as a huge joke, even though I'm fairly sure that it was intended to frighten the audience as it was played out in a completely serious fashion. It almost seemed like one of those extreme bible-thumbing preachers - you know, the ones who claim that Harry Potter is a tool of the devil and that Dungeons & Dragons is the game of Satan himself - sat down and devised a list of everything Satanic in the world and handed it over to the filmmakers for plot points. How else can you explain the scene in which Tommy dreams of a Satanic hair metal band, a dream that is basically nothing more than an excuse to show us a music video to pad out the running time? What else would explain every cult member having a pentagram branded on their ass? Also, pitchforks being used as one of the main weapons? Seriously? I'll readily agree that all of this sounds too silly to be true, but apparently, the people who came up with this piece of shit didn't see it that way.

So, what does the film have going in its favor? Well, we've got three different ladies who deliver full-frontal nudity, Hy Pyke turning in a performance that is so goddamned awful that you just can't take your eyes off of him whenever he pops up in a scene, and... well, that's really about it save for a swashbuckling scene between the hero and the villain towards the end of the film. Yes, I said a swashbuckling scene, straight out of a Zorro flick. As mentioned, the kills are few and far between, and unfortunately for those of us who enjoy the creative kill methods found in eighties slashers, they're all of the "sharp pointy object meets soft pink flesh" variety. There are a few different shots in the film that look damned appealing plastered on the back of the box, but don't let that fool you: the gore in this film is downright pathetic, and the camera runs from what little there is as though the filmmakers were going for a PG-13 rating.

Overall, the film felt more like a propaganda piece from an extremist religious group than a fun slice of slasher cheese from the eighties. It's almost as if the filmmakers were attempting to show the audience what would happen if they attended a Mötley Crüe concert and threw the devil's horns in the air, but knowing that nobody would plunk down their cash to see a religious film on a Friday night, they attempted to disguise it as a slasher flick. Sadly, that disguise was about as effective as a thrift store Halloween costume. 1/10, and happy Halloween.
HAVOK2000 #1: HAVOK2000 - added 07/12/2010, 05:27 AM
I know this review is a few years old, but if you still wanna find a lost and unknown Halloween Horror gem, then you need to find a copy of "Haunted-Ween" that would be exactly what your looking for, A local College wants to do a Haunted House fundraiser and the kid who lived in the house comes back to kill them and the paying onlookers think that all of the kills are apart of the Haunted House show. It's truly an undiscovered classic that I wish would get noticed more. I hope you can track a copy down, if not maybe i'll do the review for you.
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