December 8, 2020 Black Pumpkin (Movie Review)
Don’t open the door until the clock strikes midnight and Halloween is over or you just might come face-to-face with Bloody Bobby! Keep yourself well hidden when Uncork’d Entertainment unleashes the new Horror flick Black Pumpkin to Digital and DVD on Tuesday, December 8, 2020.
Black Pumpkin marks a fun feature-length debut for Writer-Director Ryan McGonagle, who previously wrote both 2016’s Bloody Bobby and 2019’s Dead Sins. This time around, he utilizes the self-established urban legend that was created in his 2016 offering, which presents the tale of a young boy who goes missing on Halloween in 1988. Here, McGonagle crafts a new chapter that revolves around two pre-teens, best friends Elliot (Dogen Eyeler: Wildness short 2018, PAW Patrol mini-series) and Pork Chop (Grayson Thorne Patrick: Wet Hot American Summer: 10 Years Later series, American Horror Story series) who unwittingly unleash a dark presence that has been dormant for nearly a decade.
While investigating Diablo’s Den—“the setting for pretty much every tall tale and campfire story” in their town—a school project takes a dangerous turn when Pork Chop encounters the rotten Barker Brothers—Ace (Connor Weil: Scream: The TV Series, K.C. Undercover series) and Judd (Ryan Poole: Power Rangers short 2015, Mrs. Claus 2018). In the process of trying to escape the pair, he crosses paths with local weirdo and conspiracy theorist Alex (Curt Clendenin: Max Neptune and the Menacing Squid short 2010, Bloody Bobby 2016), who promptly warns him to keep his eyes open because you never know who or what will come out of the shadows on October 31st.
On the same day, Elliot’s elder sister, Laurie (Ellie Patrikios: Flatliners 2017, Sex and the Future 2020), is making big Halloween plans with her friends—Britney (Jordyn Lucas: The Goldbergs series, Room 104 series), Phoebe (Malaak Hattab: Meth Head 2013, Crazy Bitches series), and Ashley (Alix Lane: Guidance series, One Minute Worlds mini-series)—and boyfriend, Flash (Matt Rife: Gamer’s Guide to Pretty Much Everything series, Wild ‘N Out series). But these covert plans mean that the blonde bombshell will defy her mother (Tasha Dixon: Terriers series, CollegeHumor Originals series), leaving Elliot on his own to take their little sister, Regan (Gemma Brooke Allen: Dr. Ken series, SEAL Team series), Trick-or-Treating.
Little do any of them know, everyone’s plans are about to turn crimson when an ominous presence (Jo Osmond: Doctor Who series, Dumbo 2019) begins to make itself known in Fall Creek Valley. Who will survive and what will be left of them?
At 91 minutes, Black Pumpkin has plenty of fun and macabrely whimsical death scenes to offer. Continuing the tale of Horror villain Bloody Bobby, a fairly new face within the genre, McGonagle’s latest draws influences from ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s Horror greats, including 1996’s Scream and 1985’s The Goonies. Speaking of the former, it too was a Horror-Comedy that arrived in December. So while the release of a spooky October-themed film during the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year” might initially seem odd, it has been done before.
Much like Wes Craven’s teen romp, Black Pumpkin does itself proud. Though the two stories are separate entities, each is a film built on the strong foundation of an excellent screenplay. Likewise, both films wear their love for the Horror genre on their sleeves, with McGonagle’s offering referencing a myriad of films both directly and indirectly, and even using its characters’ names to provide nods to some of the greats. It’s this attention to the building blocks of his film that sets the Writer-Director and his cast and crew up for success.
They achieve this through a multitude of channels, from solid cinematography by Daniel Rink (For the Birds short 2014, Papua short 2018) to an evocative, John Carpenter-influenced score composed by Chris Kooreman (Bloody Bobby 2016, Black King Down short 2017) and Edo Plasschaert (Redline 2007, Bloody Bobby 2016), and performed by Beat Royalty. Then there is the perfectly placed original track “Yummy Halloween Fun” by Dr. Frank, as well as “Fear the Monster (Hunt Through the Night),” produced and performed by Dope Dragunz featuring One Truth, which appears throughout the end credits.
Of course, the ensemble cast do an excellent job in their varying roles, though this is a plot-driven film that lacks any real character development. That said, even though many of the actors are delivering tropes, such as Weil and Poole’s bullying Barker Brothers, they do so with enough finesse to keep the plot moving along with few, if any, kinks. But the standouts here are the youngest cast members, with Patrick, Eyeler, and Allen delivering exceptional performances. Eyeler largely presents the more focused and thoughtful side of the best friend duo, while Patrick delivers the playfulness, personality and immediate likability of The Goonies’ Chunk (for whom his character is named). And while her onscreen time is limited, Allen’s Regan is a fiery little girl with a soft side for killers in hockey masks. (Thankfully, she never projectile vomits.)
Anchoring the adult contributions, Patrikios is perfect as the beautiful, if irresponsible, Laurie. And she easily moves her portion of the story along, establishing a solid foundation for all the other characters who must work around her. One of which is Desmond, whose pint-sized villain, Bloody Bobby, is never all that menacing in body language—or with those cliché vocal effects—but who still manages to slice and dice his way into our hearts.
With the bulk of its effects being practical, Black Pumpkin harnesses the spirit of ‘80s Horror to produce a film that is darkly humorous at times, disturbing at others, and entirely perfect for fans of the genre. Sure, the blood is always the wrong color and there are some continuity errors here and there, but the fact remains that Black Pumpkin is an enjoyable romp that can easily transport you far away from the stress of the holiday season. So if you love everything from 1978’s Halloween to 2009’s Trick ‘r Treat, and beyond—and know to always check your candy!— may we suggest a blood-soaked gourd for this Christmas? Because Cryptic Rock gives this slashing good time 4 of 5 stars.