Welcome back to B-Movie Enema!
We’re celebrating the wonderful month of October with a whole slate of Halloween-themed movies. Last week, we got things started with my first (and likely only) trip into the Madea Cinematic Universe with Boo! A Madea Halloween. This week, we’re going to do a whole lot better. I’m going to delve deep into the 1988 slasher/satanic panic/Halloween classic Hack-O-Lantern.
What’s really interesting about this movie is that it’s still fairly obscure. Yet, there are two very popular shows that featured this movie at different times that should have made this movie a lot more popular. First, it was featured on RedLetterMedia’s Halloween 2017 episode of Best of the Worst. That’s one of the better episodes of Best of the Worst too. Then, it was featured on The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs for that show’s 2020 Halloween episode. Hell, it was even featured on an October 2012 episode of The Cinema Snob.
It was also the movie in question during an episode of The People’s Court surrounding a rights issue that ends up being a whole other story due to potential muddy ownership and how a show like The People’s Court actually works (meaning something that was supposedly a slam-dunk case against the streamer only for it to be taken out of civil court and into a television court space), but I digress.
Honestly, if I were to get back to the commentary I just had on the fact that there’s little easy to find information about the movie. It’s so obscure, there’s not even a Wikipedia page page for the movie. Yet, it was covered by three pretty popular shows. Joe Bob really puts it all together nicely that the director of this movie, Jag Mundhra, an Indian-born guy who didn’t speak English whatsoever, wanted to make Halloween more Indian. Producer Raj Mehrotra was inspired by John Carpenter’s Halloween, but waited ten whole years before doing his Halloween movie and it didn’t look or feel or move like any other horror movie at the time. Raj and Jag didn’t really see eye-to-eye on the story and plan for the movie. Jag wanted the more Indian feeling movie. Raj wanted an American horror film.
Somehow, a really fun Halloween-themed movie came out of it.
So, because Joe Bob Briggs did a much better job talking about this movie, let’s just get into the movie. If you want to know about what he said about it, shell out the five bucks a month for a Shudder subscription and watch the Last Drive-In bits about Hack-O-Lantern. There is someone quite recognizable around these parts in this movie. No, it’s not Hy Pyke. It’s Gregory Scott Cummins. He’s been in Action USA. He’s been in Blood Games. He’s hot shit around here. Hy Pyke was not a huge deal. He was in a big deal movie, Blade Runner, but he was, at best, a character actor. He was in Dolemite. He had a part in Spawn of the Slithis. However, he was mostly in small stuff. But, for Hack-O-Lantern, he got above-the-title credit. That’s kind of amazing.
The movie starts at some point in the past. A truck, driven by Pyke’s character, “Grandpa”, is showing up at his grandkids’ place. He’s enthusiastically greeted by young Tommy. He tells Tommy he’s got something really special for his grandson because he IS very special. Grandpa leaves after giving Tommy that something special, a decorative skeleton, and a pumpkin.
Tommy starts working on his jack o’lantern despite his mom telling him that he’ll cut himself. He also has two siblings, sister Vera and brother Roger. Sure enough, Tommy cuts his finger. When his mom comes over, he’s licking his own cut because he likes the taste of blood. She especially reacts poorly when he says that Grandpa told him blood is good for him. She asks if he got that pumpkin from his grandfather, and she smashes it.
Tommy’s dad decides to go over to his wife’s dad’s place and set Grandpa straight. We don’t see Tommy’s dad ever again. That’s because daddy-o walks into a Satanic ritual that Gramps is putting on and finds himself on the hot end of Gramps lighting him and his car on fire.
As time passes, we find Tommy’s grown up. Gramps gave him a Satanic medallion that he keeps and wears proudly. Grandpa comes and picks Tommy up and gives him a black robe to celebrate Halloween as he’s always meant to. Mom is still not too pleased with her dad’s fascination with her son. I think this is something kind of funny about this movie. As a movie that has a single purpose, to entertain people in the most awesomest of all months, it’s not a big deal. However, if you pull back the layers a little too much, you start seeing some issues.
First, it seems as though Grandpa is around a lot. That means he lives close to Tommy and his mother and the other kids. We’re now maybe like 13 years later, and Grandpa is visiting Tommy regularly. At least each and every Halloween. Either his mom is powerless to do anything or just not able to move away from Grandpa. We all know Grandpa is bad news. So what gives? Are you just gonna let Tommy become a Satanist?
The answer might just be yes.
Grandpa says the “ceremony” begins at sundown. This ceremony will allow Tommy to prove himself to their lord and creator, Satan. Tommy’s mom decides to have words with Grandpa. Grandpa says that Tommy’s his, but she says he’s not Grandpa’s son. Grandpa says that she knows he belongs to both of them. What’s up with that?
So on her wedding day, Grandpa raped his daughter and that’s where Tommy came from. I don’t know what that explains, but it explains something, I suppose. It might explain why Tommy’s mom’s hair goes all the way to her waist. And her not moving too far away from Grandpa.
Vera’s friend Beth comes over to get ready for tonight’s big Halloween party. She tricks Vera with a rubber spider while Beth is bathing. Beth then helps towel dry Vera. These are normal things friends do, right? Like, this is what girls do when they are friends, right? They towel each other off after baths. Maybe make out a little bit? Do they pinch each other’s nipples? Maybe it’s just an Indian thing.
Beth is curious if Tommy is going to the big Halloween shindig. Vera just kind of blows off the possibility of that happening because Tommy apparently doesn’t really like hanging out with the rest of them. Roger, all grown up too, is a rookie on the police force. He’s ordered to go out to the cemetery to checkout another overturned grave.
Back at home, Tommy is at home and wants his mom to leave him alone. So he decides to do what all us disaffected youths would do… Turn to the Walkman and weirdo rock and roll daydreams.
The infamous scene above for “Devil’s Son” by D.C. LaCroix is one of those things Jag Mundhra wanted to turn this a little more “Indian”. What Taj Mehrotra wanted was that much more straightforward thriller/horror stuff that he liked about Halloween. Mundhra apparently decided this music video was to make a little more Bollywood like. It all makes a lot of sense if you think about Mundhra’s intentions.
It is a pretty decent song, though.
Tommy’s mom is kind of a weeping mess. She’s constantly trying to get Tommy to be less of a weirdo. She’s got some significant daddy issues. She’s a widow. Sheesh. She’s got a lot to be blubbery about. She tells Roger that Tommy’s driving her crazy. But Roger is like, “Aw don’t worry about it.” But then he asks about what he’s really doing to drive Mom upset. She says he keeps some pretty unsavory company.
However, we get to meet one of those friends of Tommy’s – Nora. She’s played by adult star Jeanna Fine. She’s got some rock and roll platinum blonde spiky hair. She’s got a tattoo of a pentagram on her butt. That’s what you call a sassy lady. More with her in a bit.
Back at home, there are some more family issues. Vera and Beth leave for the Halloween party to get that all set up and ready. Vera says that she’s probably going to finally give up the puss to her boyfriend that night. Meanwhile, her mother tells Roger she wishes Vera would stick around home a little more. On their way out the door, Beth and Roger catch each other’s eyes. This also doesn’t please mother as she says the three siblings have to stick together.
Roger goes to talk to Tommy. He asks his big bro when he’ll do something worthwhile with his life. Tommy says he already is and shows off his little closet that’s got a Satanic shrine in it complete with different colored liquids in jars and a pentagram and an upside down crucifix. Roger finally gets why Mom is so weird about Grandpa.
Now, let’s get back to Nora. One of the great things that you can do when you get a porn actress in your horror movie is that she’ll go all kinds of naked for the movie and probably relatively on the cheap too. She takes a shower and hears someone creeping around outside. So she suspects this is Tommy. She sees someone in a demonic costume and lets him in so he can put the devil into her. Get it? She wants to fuck.
However, the devil doesn’t want to do the same thing. The devil is going to use a gardening hoe or rake or something and stick that into her head instead of sticking his thing in her other thing.
At the Halloween party, Grandpa arrives to drop off a bunch of pumpkins and say some real creepy shit to his own granddaughter. I get the feeling that Grandpa fucks… a lot. And who he fucks are a bunch of people he really probably shouldn’t fuck. Anyway, at the local shindig place where the party is going to happen later that night, Roger decides to say hi to Grandpa.
Grandpa tells Roger that if he’s doing his job, Gramps can’t have any fun on Halloween. Roger says there are some pretty nasty shenanigans going on around town. Grave robbing and devil worship among those shenanigans going on.
There’s no time for this business because Vera and her boyfriend, Brian, want to go fuck. Before heading off to do the deed, Vera and Roger talk about Beth. She thinks Roger should take her friend for a ride on his motorcycle. Roger is already thinking about getting down with the Beth. So he goes inside, gets her and they go off holding hands and climbing on the back of his bike.
Remember Tommy? Yeah, he’s still around. I think the movie kind of forgot that he’s super important to the story at large. He comes home and hears some grunting going on in his sister’s bedroom. He comes in and finds Brian screwing Vera. Thinking whatever he’s thinking, Tommy grabs Brian by the hair and throttles him against the wall. I want to say that poor Brian has had a rough day. Dude just wants to bust a nut and he gets protective after overhearing Grandpa saying something kind of gross to Vera only for Grandpa to basically say he’s ready to beat Brian’s ass into the dirt. Now, he’s actually getting to lay that pipe only for Tommy to come in and throttle the poor son of a bitch.
Goddamn, between Tommy, Grandpa, and Mom… nobody is going to be able to have any kind of a normal life around this family. Shit, even Roger is a cop. Anyway, Tommy tosses Brian out, probably still sporting a half chub, and tells him next time, he’s gonna kill him. Brian walks home, through the cemetery, and ends up getting stalked by someone.
Now, I should mention that just after he tossed Brian out, he went back to his room and grabbed two things – his devil mask and his knife. Back at the cemetery, Brian gets chased by the devil masked man that killed Nora. That devil mask is the same thing Tommy had. Brian falls into one of those over-turned graves. The masked man uses the shovel to kill Brian and then buries him.
Mom comes home after Vera tells Roger about Tommy tossing her boyfriend out the door while he was still hard and soaked in Vera’s scent. Mom’s pretty dirty and says that she’s taking care of this orchard left behind by the kids’ father. She talks about how her kids always treat her as the enemy. They always leave her and are leaving each other.
Meanwhile, Grandpa is ordaining another into the coven – some big tittied blonde. Anyway, here’s something kind of funny… Grandpa’s scary robes and rings and various Satanic necklaces and adornments is a little undercut by his old man flannel shirt he’s got on under that cloak.
I dunno what I think he should wear under that cloak, but I’m fairly sure that ain’t it.
Night has finally fallen on this Halloween. Roger is still with Beth. Roger really knows how to do treat a lady because he still has to go check out that whole thing with the dug-up graves. They find some little kids picking up dropped candy at the cemetery, and after they shoo off those kids, Beth and Roger fuck on the mound of dirt where Brian is still sort of sticking out of. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating that I think it’s safe to say the family is a little weird because this seems fairly normal to Roger.
The party begins and, man… Forget what I say about the family being weird. This TOWN is weird. At this party, a woman comes downstairs in an evening gown… Kind of like Jessica Rabbit, ya know? Anyway, she just strips. She… She does a striptease. This is a public party. Granted, this is apparently an adults-only party, but not everyone wants to watch a stripper go total nude at a public party. I know this is California where this is happening, but that doesn’t mean everyone is down with the public sexuality and shit.
Anyway, the movie stops dead in its tracks for this guy to come outside and do a stand up routine that is immensely unfunny.
You know an easy way to make sure Vera finds Brian’s dead body? Have her friend Beth not just tell but SHOW Vera where she fucked her brother. She’s like, “Yeah, we did it behind that tombstone there on that mound of dirt.” Vera finds the hand sticking out of the dirt, so she thinks Beth is messing around with her so she pulls Brian out.
She immediately thinks Tommy did this to him. So she decides she needs to go and deal with her older brother. Vera busts in on the sacred Ceremony of Blood that Tommy is a part of with Grandpa. Grandpa says she needs to pay for her sacrilege. They tie Vera up and plan to, I dunno, cut her up and drink her blood. Grandpa gives Tommy the dagger to release that blood that is the power from Vera. Despite Grandpa saying he needs to prove himself to their Master, Tommy cuts Vera free and she runs away.
Vera finds Beth outside and tells her they need to go get Roger. Grandpa shuns Tommy and banishes him from the coven cult thing. Grandpa tells another follower that what he has to do now, he has no choice.
Back at the party, the stripper is done, but now the 50 year old snake-charming belly dancer is performing for the party. Look, I’m all for spooky shit, but this party is mostly just standing around watching people do different kinds of dancing as, like, a performance. That’s not really a party. It’s kind of a boring standing around event. Also, wouldn’t you think the stripper comes later in the party? Wouldn’t she be the headliner? Why is the snake charming belly dancer going after her? That’s a letdown.
That said… There is ONE guy at this party who is having the time of his life. There’s a guy just hanging out, doing his own thing, and clearly just loving every minute of this Halloween party in this dinky town. He’s just chilling in his own space, and probably tripping balls.
My wish for the world isn’t that complicated. I want everyone to be as happy and loving life as that guy just chilling there in that dress at this Halloween party. He is what we should all aspire to.
I think someone who was making or writing this movie decided that there wasn’t quite enough murdering going on in their mad slasher flick. So they have this random person we never saw before, who hit on Roger, become a victim. The woman goes into a washroom or something to freshen up. The devil guy comes in and she tells the killer that she met this adorable, younger (this is key because I’m sure this woman is intended to be a little older than Roger) cop man that she wants to take home. She asks the devil killer man to tighten her corset under her gown. I’m not sure why she would wear a corset under a gown like that, but whatevs. She says that guys like them titties hard and firm. So the killer kills this lady by tightening her corset and then stabbing her.
Meanwhile, Roger goes to the barn where Grandpa does his Satan shit. He gets backup, but there’s no sign of anything going on there. Vera and Beth are back at the party where they see the dead lady slumped over in the corner. Beth hangs up her and Vera’s coat not realizing that the killer is in the closet and ready to sneak out and strangle her with a rope.
Unfortunately, Vera is the one who has to find her friend just hanging out in the closet.
She also discovers the other girl is dead too. So she thinks she finds Tommy at the party, but it’s Grandpa. He says that Tommy can’t help her now. However a second masked devil killer is there to take on Grandpa to save Vera. The second devil has a battle with Grandpa and ultimately kills him. Not before Grandpa seems to pass something along to Roger.
The second devil killer attempts to escape the party, but is seen and is shot by Roger. The second masked assailant stumbles out into the cemetery and takes off the mask to reveal that it’s the kids’ mother. She had been committing the killings because a) she’s kind of cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs and b) she’s trying to keep her family together. She makes it to her husband’s grave where she collapses. Tommy finds her and apologizes to her and tells her he loves her. She dies and I guess everything gets better?
But wait! there’s a bit of a stinger to close things out! That thing Grandpa did before he died? Well, he passed his power or leadership of the coven cult thing or something over to Roger. Roger is now leading the black mass at the barn like Grandpa did, but with a much fancier robe.
Good for Roger. He’s really coming up in the world. He’s no longer just some rookie cop. He’s not having to remain in the shadow of his big brother anymore. Everything’s coming up Roger!
Is Hack-O-Lantern a good movie? No. Not especially. It’s got this Satanic panic element to it that it doesn’t really know how to effectively use as its premise. It’s mostly focused on two characters – Grandpa and Mom. These two characters are battling for the soul of a third character – Tommy. Yet, for a not insignificant part of this movie, the entire focus of the story shifts to Roger and Vera and their desire to get their loins messed with.
That means there are basically two competing ideas and tones in the movie. I’m not sure which idea belongs to director Mundhra and which one belongs to producer Mehrotra. Either way, it’s a mix that doesn’t benefit the movie. That’s not even mentioning that the acting is fairly subpar because these are mostly amateur or non-actors in significant roles. So a weird script that shifts focus on the characters and landing that focus on these actors who aren’t exactly great, or not exactly being easily directed by a foreign director who doesn’t speak English at all, isn’t going to give you a great result.
All that said, I really do enjoy watching this movie. I actually quite like it. It’s so saturated with Halloween imagery and tone that it’s an every October watch for me all the way. It is a kooky flick in all the right ways. I actually do LIKE the characters, in particular Vera, Beth, and Roger, and want them to survive the movie. Again, the Halloween stuff is fantastic. Shit, Hy Pyke is constantly driving a pickup that is just loaded to the brim with giant ass pumpkins and a bale of hay. There’s a Halloween party everyone is excited to go to. There’s a cemetery, fucking in that cemetery, people being buried in the cemetery… This is what I sign up for in October, goddammit.
Hy Pyke is what most people are going to focus on and they should. He is chewing this scenery. It is very clear that this guy had been acting for more than 20 years at this point. He knows what he’s doing and he’s having a blast. His gravelly voice and his peculiar, almost southern debutante, way of speech is just as crazy as it is fascinating.
What I’m getting at is that you should watch Hack-O-Lantern this month, if you weren’t already planning to, that is. As of the date of writing this in August of 2022, this is on Shudder. If you do have Shudder, I’d go ahead and watch the Joe Bob Briggs version with his commentary to get a little more in-depth coverage of what the hell this movie is. And, yeah, it’s still on YouTube.
That whole People’s Court thing I mentioned earlier did happen. There was a horror host who hosted the movie and had it published on YouTube. He got sued by Massacre Video who had released a Blu-Ray of the movie. However, when the courts didn’t either act fast enough or it was a muddied case, it moved to People’s Court where the Plaintiff is already awarded something. Those TV court cases don’t get settled by the TV judge the way a normal case is. It’s settled out of court and the TV show will usually pay whatever damages are owed to the Plaintiff.
And yet, the movie is STILL on YouTube in the very same quality of definition that caused all that hubbub a year or so ago. So, you know what? If you don’t have Shudder, which you totally should, just say fuck it and watch it on YouTube. You won’t feel sorry.
That brings this week’s B-Movie Enema to a close. But we’ve still got October Halloween business to take care of. Next week, I’ll be digging deep into the direct-to-video classic from 1995, Jack-O! So come back here and read all about it. If you want a reminder to do so, go to the top of the sidebar you see on the right hand side of the screen and you’ll find where you can follow B-Movie Enema. Also, you’ll find where you can subscribe to watch episodes of B-Movie Enema: The Series. We’ve got a Halloween episode lined up for you very soon, so subscribe to those various channels and get your eye peepers on the goodness I deliver every week!
One thought on “Hack-O-Lantern (1988)”
Checking in a little late to comment that in that screenshot of Grampa at the coven meeting rocking the flannel shirt while throwing the devil horns 🤘, gramps bears a passing resemblance to Ronnie James Dio.
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