Tommy Drindel’s family aren’t like other families. His Grandfather is the leader of a Satanic cult, his father is dead, and his overprotective mother doesn’t approve of his lifestyle choices. But Tommy is destined for better things, as his Grandfather tells him, and as Halloween night arrives a special ritual, just for him, is being organised. But for this local town Satan worshippers are not the only problem, there have been a recent spate of grave robberies and there is a masked killer on the loose.
Satanic, Slasher, Halloween, Hair Metal, 80’s Cheese, VHS.
|Gregory Scott Cummins||…||
Nora (as Angel Rush)
Over at The Gore Splattered Corner in preparation for Halloween we have been running a Halloween Advent Calendar event, (check our Facebook and Twitter for more details). Anyway while so many horror fans are preparing for everyone’s favourite spooky time of year and posting their favourite horror films, or movie monsters etc… we thought we wanted to do things a bit differently (as usual) and would pick a list of horror films specifically set at Halloween. Now you would think horror being horror there would be hundreds of titles to choose from, but not so, well not as many as you would think, and therefore we have been trawling the vaults of obscurity to find films to fill our list. Hence brings us to todays title, Hack ‘O’ Lantern (1988).
Is it a slasher? Is it satanic? Is it a Heavy Metal Horror? well it is all of those things at some point, but one thing that is for sure is this has to be one of the most unintentionally funny films I have seen in a long, long time. It would seem that the bulk of the limited reviews I could find on this all slated it for being awful. But over here where ‘awful’ translates to ‘awesome’ we could not get enough of this 80’s direct to video Halloweentastic cheesefest.
Sometimes when it’s so bad, it’s good seems such a fitting statement for this film. In fact so much so I wish we had recorded an audio commentary of us watching it for the first time, but luckily I did take notes (out of fear I may leave some of the moments of complete mentalness out of my review). While one video blogger I came across trashed it for its ‘lack of originality’ it lead me to question were they watching the same film we were? Because honestly Hack ‘O’ Lantern did, for me anyway, stand out as memorable (Ok maybe not for the right reasons but all the same…).
So what does Hack ‘O’ Lantern have to offer for lovers of the trashy and obscure? Well where to start, firstly it has to have the most AMAZINGLY cheesy title ever, just soak that in HACK ‘O’ LANTERN, great, eh? It also has appalling performances throughout (always a plus, just enhances the cheese ratio), a porn star and a Satanic Grandpa who drives a truck full of pumpkins and accentuates his speech with devil horn hand gestures frequently.
I am going to have to focus on the Grandfather before I go any further, played by Hy Pyke (better known, or probably not, for a small role in Blade Runner), who incidentally reminded me of the 80’s Dukes of Hazard character Boss Hogg based on his appearance. Now this guy is supposed to be the leader of a Satanic Cult. We know this because he makes no secret of it, likes to give his grandchildren pentagram charms, struts around in a ritual robe (which barely covers his lumberjack shirt), and he throws the devils horns around more than the master Ronnie James Dio himself. He also likes to end his conversations with an insane cackle. The pantomime levels in this performance are outstanding, it has to be seen to be believed.
For the other family members, the main focus is on Tommy, who is first seen as a child being told he is the chosen one by old Gramps. Fast forward 13 years and Tommy has turned into a 35 year old. Life must have been hard for him after his father’s death because he is actually supposed to be in his early 20’s, top casting choices there for the production team. In fact on this note Grandpa looks younger than his daughter, Tommy’s mother, and the ensemble of ‘teens’ from the later scenes seem to range from anything in the 18-40 category. So back to Tommy, the troubled ‘youth’, well he has taken to listening to Heavy Metal, he has erected a little altar to Satan in his bedroom cupboard, and likes to lift weights while sporting a Rambo bandana, this is a tough guy. He also has a girlfriend Nora, who comes along later and is played by porn star Jeanna Fine, has a pentagram tattooed on her backside and trots about in invisible clothes, these are people you really don’t want to mess with. Tommy won’t listen to his Mother’s concerns and consoles himself by pounding out The Devils Music on his walkman and making up bizarre Hair Metal video montages in his head. Bringing me back to my point on the reviewer who slated this on its lack of originality, because honestly this ‘video’ scene has to be up there in WTF?! moments, we have a band, who were an actual band DC Lacroix I am lead to believe, screaming out the song ‘Devil’s Son’, a line which is repeated over and over and gets stuck in your brain forever, even now I can hear those words resonating in my head. Then a weird demon woman appears with several arms (someone clearly standing behind her) and starts shooting lasers out of her eyes, which at one point makes a skull ornament appear on the drumkit. Outrageous stuff believe me! Tommy also has two siblings, sister Vera who is hardly worth mentioning and brother Roger who has become a cop and is supposed to be the ‘voice of virtue’ for the family despite getting it on in some late night cemetery antics with a girl he hardly knows.
If all this doesn’t tempt you then maybe the nudity will, because there is hardly a female cast member who does not get her kit off at one point in the film or another. They have even surpassed the usual gratuitous shower scene in favour of a gratuitous bubble bath, which although Tommy’s sister is covered in an inordinate amount of bubbles ( I am talking riot cannon proportions) she still manages to have her boobs on display, the mother gives a flash, and then Nora, Tommy’s girlfriend goes from wet t-shirt to full on nakedness in a long drawn out scene.
Being Halloween Night there has to be a party, as the young folk of the town get together, and what a party it is. It commences with a stripper barging in (more nudity), followed by an unerotic snake charmer of a certain age, but perhaps the pinnacle of WTF?! is the bizarre and rather lengthy stand up comedy routine, complete with turkey impressions that comes someway in the middle. To top this off there a curious array of costume choices on display, and the crowd all look like they are dancing to different music from one another as they are entertained by yet another hair metal band (kudos to the lead singer whose hair is so caked in hairspray it resembles a block of concrete on his head and stays in place despite his swaying while he chirps out some unforgettable 80s rock). Note: check the guy dancing at the front in the white hat.
Of course being a slasher, or whatever it is, I also do have to mention the killings which are especially nice, gruesome and just the icing on the cake really. There is extensive use of a pitchfork, well this is a farming community, and they aren’t shy on the blood. Brilliant retro gore. There isn’t an extensive body count so to speak, but what there is, is well portrayed and some great old school effects are employed. Decapitations by pitchfork, shovel in the head and stabbings being the stand out set pieces of the film. There is a masked killer on the loose who turns up to dispatch people and the slasher thread of the story follows the ‘who is behind the mask’ line. Well it is pretty damned obvious but I won’t add any more spoilers and give it away, believe me it will be THAT obvious in the first half an hour.
There is so much more I could write on this movie, in fact I have a list, but I am going to leave it there for today and let you just digest all that. Great 80’s silliness, packed full of boobs, blood and hairmetal, a mishmash of themes and some terrifically bad acting, trash cinema at its very best.