Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Film Review: Hack-O-Lantern (1988)

In my quest to watch every Halloween-themed horror flick I can get my hands on, I decided to give the obscure Hack-O-Lantern a whirl. This film combines one of my favorite subgenres of horror, satanic cults, with my favorite holiday, Halloween. What could go wrong, right?

The film opens with a young boy named Tommy as he is visited by his friendly grandfather on Halloween. Grandpa gives him his pick of pumpkins as well as an ominous looking pendant. Tommy’s family doesn’t like grandpa visiting his grandson and Tommy’s father goes after good ol’ grandpa to give him a piece of his mind. However, grandpa isn’t as nice as he seems…he’s actually the leader of a satanic cult and they dispatch Tommy’s dear old dad right quick.

The film then jumps ahead several years to the eve of Tommy’s 18th birthday that happens to coincide with Halloween. Grandpa has grand plans for Tommy’s initiation into his satanic cult, but Tommy’s beleaguered mother pleads with him to reconsider. Also concerned for Tommy’s well-being are his younger sister and brother, who is a rookie cop.

With Halloween celebrations in full swing, a robed, Devil-masked killer starts murdering townsfolk. Can Tommy’s family stop him from joining his Grandpa in the Dark Arts or are they already too late?
At least the title got it right…HACK-O-Lantern is an apt title for this painfully silly “horror” movie. Good god, this movie felt like it dragged on and on though it clocked in at under an hour and a half. It had its entertaining parts (more on these later), but overall this is a serious piece of cinematic doody. The first glaring evidence of this was the ridiculous acting from Hy Pyke, who played Grandpa. Are all Satanist leaders this effeminate and non-threatening? And then we have the actor who played Tommy, Gregory Scott Thomas (whom you might recognize as Mac’s father on the hilarious TV show, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia). Tommy is supposed to be nearing 18 in the film, but Scott Thomas is seriously mis-cast as he looks like a ‘roided out, 30-year-old jock rather than a young teenage follower of Satan.

Then, there are all the wacky and weird scenes throughout the movie. These are the “entertaining” bits I mentioned above. First is a seriously strange dream sequence/metal video that features an exotic voodoo-like dancer (check her out on the flick’s cover above) who, 1.) has multiple arms like a Hindu goddess, and, 2.) shoots horrible-looking lasers out of her eyes that zap the band members. This is a seriously WTF scene, but wait! It gets better…There’s the whole branding scene where nubile young Satan worshippers get their butts branded with a pentagram, another horrendous dime store metal band that screeches during a Halloween party that features random strippers and a five minute sequence of a “comedian” doing stupid impressions…of turkeys. Not to mention the amount of devil’s horns the characters throw around…except instead of the traditional holding up of just pointer and pinky fingers to hail the devil, the characters hold up pinky, pointer AND thumb…which actually means “I love you” in sign language and NOT “hail Satan”. Those silly satanists! Seriously, though, Grandpa, Tommy and other cult members throw the horns around non-stop…so much that you could in fact make a drinking game out of their appearances, taking a shot every time someone flashes the devil’s horns. However, you would probably be sloshed in 20 minutes…but perhaps that would be a better state of mind in which to watch the movie. Maybe if you’re drunk it would at least be kinda enjoyable.

Plus, there is the whole sleazy aspect of the film. We are talking random nudity (and not good nudity, it’s all low-budget ‘80s nudity here!) like the previous stripperella at the party mentioned above, plus a few non-sexy sex scenes. There is also the whole subtext of incest that pops up throughout the film. It is hinted that Tommy is actually the son of his mom and his grandpa. Yup, how ‘bout a big old EWWWWW from the audience, eh? I was half expecting that Tommy put the moves on his mom, but thankfully the film didn’t go down that road!

As for the kills? They were almost an afterthought and the only decent one worth mentioning is when a dude gets a shovel through his noggin. Yes, it is a low-budget film but the kills took a long time coming…too little too late in my opinion. It’s like the film couldn’t decide if it wanted to focus on the masked killer or the satanic cult and it ended up not giving enough attention to either. I also think too much time was spent on Tommy’s family, including his sister, brother and mother, instead of focusing on the supposed main character of the film, Tommy. The only time we saw him was when he was brooding in his room, listening to his crappy metal music and having weird dreams, or slamming the door in his poor mom’s face.

The ending had a nice little twist as to who the killer was, but by then I was really too bored to care. I watched Hack-O-Lantern for some fun Halloween thrills, but found it more of a chore to sit through. A film with a cool name like Hack-O-Lantern deserves to be somewhat entertaining, but this was more like Crap-O-Lantern.


  1. I'm going to watch this later this week. I love the horror film that have a bit of metal to them.


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