Sunday, October 28, 2018

Hack-O-Lantern (1988)

aka Halloween Night

Apart from giving away lots of pumpkins for Halloween, dear old Grandpa (Hy Pyke) is not-so-secretly the big boss of a Satanic cult working in one of those typical US small towns that are always full of satanists, monsters, and the murderously deranged. Grandpa has his favourite grandkid Tommy (Bryson Gerard) pegged as somebody very special for the future service of His Satanic Majesty. Indeed, he’s so special Grandpa does take it upon himself to murder Tommy’s dad, probably to make himself the best bet for a father figure.

Years later – Tommy is now played by Gregory Scott Cummins – Tommy’s indoctrination has gone apace, even though his mother – Grandpa’s very own daughter! – tries to keep her son as well as his siblings Vera (Carla Baron) and Roger (Jeff Brown) as far away from the old man as possible. Which, given that Tommy’s the product of a bit of incest between Gramps and his daughter whom he hypnotized into it on her wedding day, must take quite some doing.

This Halloween, Tommy’s initiation phase is finally going to be over, if, that is, he manages to keep “pure” for it. Satan must secretly be a no sex before marriage to him guy, I assume. Fortunately for Tommy, somebody in an inspired robes and devil mask outfit murders his girlfriend before she can suck out his spiritual energy, or something. This being a slasher film, robes and mask murders will continue throughout the movie. Who is the killer? Crazy Grandpa? Tommy taking time out from body building and fantasizing a whole video clip of a inspired crap hair metal band featuring him on guitar? Somebody else?

Whereas I diagnosed future softcore specialist Jag Mundhra’s previous horror film Open House, as some kind of softcore sex film, just without the sex (and therefore as pointless as anything), Hack-O-Lantern (which is clearly the better because the much more ridiculous title for this epic) is indeed an authentic late 80s direct to video slasher. That’s to say it is nonsensical, ridiculous, from time to time tasteless, mind-boggling, and frequently (inadvertently) very, very funny.

The plot, such as it is, the killer, their motive, the Satanic cult – take whatever you want in this movie, and it’s going to make no sense whatsoever to you, yet do so in a highly absurd and entertaining manner. I am particularly fond of the film’s randomness: there’s nothing that’ll make a film more awesome for less effort than a random video clip for some bad band disguised as a dream sequence including some “sexy” dancing, and really nothing that could have less of a point.

Then there’s Mundhra’s inspired hand for the silly detail. Who wouldn’t love Grandpa’s pumpkin delivering ways, or the fact that everybody seems to know where his cult does its thing, apart from anyone in any position to care about it? And just see how lovely these Satanic rituals are, with the red robed evil doers slowly stepping in a circle around a pentagram while Grandpa babbles nonsense!

Speaking of Grandpa, a huge part of the responsibility for the high entertainment value of Hack-O-Lantern sits on the shoulders of Hy Pyke, his Southern drawl, his various versions of the devil horns and the evil eye sign that emphasise about every third sentence he says, as well as the insane enthusiasm of his scenery chewing that visibly leaves many of the other actors unable to react in any way, shape or form. So most of his appearances consist of him mugging and declaiming outrageously while his so-called co-actors just stare helplessly, unable to come up with any way to relate to whatever the hell it is he is doing; and they surely can’t expect Mundhra to step in and instruct them, he’s busy enough keeping everyone in frame.

It’s quite the thing to witness, and while Hack-O-Lantern is certainly not a Halloween classic, it is very, very, good at being not so classic.

No comments: