07/14/2023 09:20

Film: Hack-O-Lantern

Year: 1988

Director: Jag Mundhra

Writer: Carla Robinson

Starring: Hy Pyke, Gregory Scott Cummins and Katina Garner



This is a movie that I never heard of until I got into podcasts. I didn’t know a lot about this except for it being involved in a court case on The People’s Court. I decided to check it out as part of an October movie challenge, where I needed a movie that took place on Halloween, without being part of the Halloween franchise.

Synopsis: a kindly old grandfather is actually the leader of a murderous satanic cult which sacrifices its victims on Halloween.

We start this movie off with Grandpa (Hy Pyke) arriving at his daughter’s house. He gives his grandson Tommy (Bryson Gerard) a gift and lets him pick out a pumpkin to carve. We get to see that he’s a spirited boy and upsets his mother, Amanda (Katina Garner). She breaks his pumpkin when she learns her father gave it to him. We also see that Tommy bullies his sister Vera (Heidi Lepucki). There’s also his younger brother Roger (Lance Harvey).

The father, Bill (Michael Potts), shows up and is upset that his father-in-law keeps coming around. They know that he’s part of a satanic cult. Bill decides to confront him and tell him to stop coming over. Bill is murdered in the process.

We then jump quite years into the future. Tommy is now portrayed by Gregory Scott Cummins. He has joined the cult with his grandfather and is angry toward his mother. This hurts her as she wants the best for her family. Vera as an adult is Carla B. and Roger is Jeff Brown. They all still live at home, as their mother needs them. Roger is a police officer. Vera’s friend Beth (Patricia Christie) comes over to help her get ready. She is also interested in Roger when meeting him.

Tommy goes out with his significant other Nora (Jeanna Fine). This upsets his grandfather; due to the ritual they are set to perform that night. People start to get picked off by someone wearing a devil mask that is used in the ritual. The first target is Nora. Who is the person in the mask? Is it the angry Tommy? Grandpa? Or is it someone else?

That is going to be where I’ll leave my recap for this movie. There isn’t a lot to this story, but what I will say is that it is shocking this came out in 1988. Around this time there was more comedy interjected in slasher films, but this one is serious. It has things that tick boxes for me. The major part that I loved was this cult. It is a satanic group that has been working for years. I like the look of the killer wearing this devil mask as well, as it makes it a bit different.

To build on this, I thought it was a decent enough slasher. We get a kill early on. There is a bit of a lull to get to know the characters before they start up again. We do get them at a decent enough interval until near the end where they happen much more often. What I like to pride myself on with a slasher is if I can guess the killer for ones where that is up in the air. I picked up something early on and I ended up being right. I like that this is pushing a certain character and if it went that way, I would have been fine. What they did instead worked better for me.

Where I want to shift this then next would be the acting. I think that for the most part it is fine. No one blew me away and I think how things are written probably didn’t help. Pyke is solid as this weird grandfather with an odd voice. I like him being part of this cult. There is something wild that helps explains why he is focused on Tommy like he is. Cummins is solid as this angst-ridden guy. He seems too old to be living at home, but I can overlook that. Garner is fine as the mother along with Carla B. as her daughter and Brown as the ‘goodie two shoes’ brother. I’d say the rest of the cast was fine. There is some filler here with like comedy routines that I could have done without, but it didn’t ruin this.

The last things to go into would be filmmaking. The effects looked good. We get interesting deaths, nothing too crazy though. In my slasher films though that is what I needed. I thought the cinematography was fine. We get point of view of the killer which is good. There is a bit of that suspense that comes from stalking. I think how it was shot helped there. Aside from that, the soundtrack was fine. There was a music video montage thing that happens as well as this band playing at a party. It wasn’t great and felt like filler, but I can get past that.

In conclusion, this is a solid slasher to me. It isn’t an all-time great, but I didn’t hate my time here. It doesn’t outstay its welcome and was interesting enough. I liked incorporating the satanic cult. We got solid kill scenes. The acting was fine. No one necessarily stands out, but they are distinct enough characters. Aside from that, I think this was a solid movie that looked to have gone straight to video. If you are a fan of slasher films, I think this one is solid for sure.


My Rating: 6.5 out of 10