Title: HACK-O-LANTERN (HALLOWEEN NIGHT)
Year of Release—Film: 1988
[Ed. Note: Jag Mundhra, the Director of HACK ‘O LANTERN, passed away on 4 September, 2011 in Mumbai, India. The Crypt offers its sincere condolences to his loved ones.]
Kindly pumpkin-truck-driving Grandpa (Hy Pyke) makes a surprise Halloween visit to his young grandson, Tommy. Grandpa gives Tommy his choice of pumpkin, a dime-store rubber skeleton and a mysteriously wrapped small package, cautioning Tommy not to tell his parents of the visit. Later as Tommy is carving the jack-o-lantern, he cuts his finger on the carving knife and begins sucking the blood off, saying “Grandpa said it’s good for me.” Tommy’s mother (Katrina Garner) furiously questions Tommy and, when she finds out that the Grandpa has visited, smashes Tommy’s pumpkin and warns Tommy to stay away from that man! Later, the mother and father discuss the visit and the father, fed up with this crazy old coot, goes to warn the old man to leave Tommy alone. Once at the Grandpa’s house, the father does not seem at all surprised to find the old man conducting a satanic ritual and confronts him. The Grandpa’s reaction to being interrupted is to smash Tommy’s father over the head with a hammer and set him and his car on fire. At home, Tommy opens the package to reveal a pentagram necklace.
Fast-forward 13 years. Tommy (Greg Scott Cummings, former NFL punter for the San Diego Chargers) is now a rebellious young man, living in his mother’s basement and whiling his days listening to heavy metal and fantasizing about killing fellow heavy metal band members (featuring the band D. C. Lacroix) with laser guns. His younger brother, Roger (Jeff Brown) is a rookie cop and his younger sister, Vera (Carla Baron) is a...well, the audience is never sure what Vera does other than wander around town with her friends. As the mother struggles to keep both her late husband’s fruit farm going and her family together, she disapproves of anyone who comes near them. And then there’s the Grandpa. Despite the fact that the town’s hosting its annual Halloween party and everyone’s going, Grandpa warns Tommy that tonight Tommy will take his rightful place as head of the Coven. The mother, sensing something is amiss, meets the Grandpa on the bridge and begs him to leave Tommy alone. The Grandpa strokes the mother’s arms and replies that she is still a temptation to him after all these years. And we see in a flashback Grandpa raping his own daughter on her wedding day. Tommy is not his grandson! He is his own son! Bwahahahaha! (*cough* Sorry about that.)
Allow me to pause in the narrative here. This is where director Jag Mundhra and writer Carla Robinson begin smoking up some of Los Angeles’ favorite import. Or so it would seem. Up until now, this was a straight-up abet cheaply done horror movie with a decent plot that moved along at a nice pace. We’ve had some gratuitous nudity. And some not badly done gore effects. It’s on Halloween night at the town dance where this movie does a complete right turn. Because this is the part of the movie where the plot introduces the snake charmer. And the stripper. And the stand-up comedian (whose name is Bill Tucker and if, after watching his corny and contrived shtick, you’d like to book his act, here’s his website: [http://delafont.com/comedians/Bill-Tucker.htm].
It’s as if Jag Mundhra has put up flyers around town announcing he was looking for bit players for the party dance scene and if you had a Halloween costume and/ or some minor talent at anything, you could be in his movie! And so the plot grinds to a halt as we watch various and not terribly talented towns-people do their “things.” Eventually, we do get back to the plot and are rewarded with various townspeople being offed by someone in a devil’s mask and dark cape. (I should also mention that all the women in this town are “hootchie-mamas” who are not adverse to pulling their clothes off at a moment’s notice. Joe Bob would be proud!)
Tommy is at the coven’s ritual getting prepared to become the leader when his sister, Vera, dashes into the barn and, babbling hysterically, tells Tommy about all the killings. Grandpa, upset that this very important ritual has been interrupted, strings the girl up and orders Tommy to kill her. But, Tommy can’t. After all, she’s his sister! Furious, the be-caped Grandpa runs into the night after the fleeing girl. And caped Tommy runs after them. Which of these caped family members is the real killer!?! And, we are rewarded with the double-twist ending! (Eat your heart out, M. Night!)
Hy Pyke, who went on to do only two movies after this one, plays the Grandpa like a double order of California fruit salad. Greg Scott Cummings played Tommy with such an aggressive nature that I feared he’d explode. Carla Baron played Vera as a horny cipher. And the supporting cast ... well, we’ve already covered that in a previous paragraph. However, despite it’s obvious flaws and continuity problems, this is an unintentionally funny and fun little movie. So, when planning your next Halloween party, which is only a few short weeks away, you could do worse than chose HACK ‘O LANTERN for the amusement of your guests.