Monday, March 9, 2015

Hack-O-Lantern (1988)

... aka: Damning, The
... aka: Death Mask
... aka: Hack-O'Lantern
... aka: Halloween Night
... aka: La maschera della morte (The Mask of Death)
... aka: La nuit d'Halloween (Halloween Night)

Directed by:
Jag Mundhra

Amanda (Katina Garner) and Bill (Michael Potts) Drindle, farmers in a small rural town, have their hands full raising their three children. Little Vera is a whiny tattletale. Little Roger is showing a strange affinity for firearms and shouts "Trick or treat! Give me all your candy of I'll blow your head off!" while blasting his mom with his toy gun. As for Little Tommy, well, he's grandpa's special little boy and when you're grandpa's favorite in this family it means you also have to be chummy with Satan himself as Gramps (Hy Pyke, who sounds almost identical to late John Waters star Divine) just so happens to be high priest in a Satanic cult. Concerned that his father-in-law is corrupting his son after Tommy blurts out "I like the taste of blood. Grandpa says it's good for me!," Bill decides to confront the cult, only to end up getting killed with a hammer. The cult then burn his body up in a barn fire to conceal what happened and go on their merry way.

Thirteen years pass. Mom is now depressed and miserable because she's been forced to run the family orchard all on her own with little help from her now-grown kids, who are all busy doing their own thing. Vera (Carla Baron, who went on to become a "psychic investigator" and later accused Arnold Schwarzenegger of sexually assaulting her on the set of Twins) is your typical boy-crazy teen girl who's considering losing her virginity to her new boyfriend (Larry Coven). Roger (Jeff Brown) has become a cop and Tommy (Gregory Scott Cummins) still lives at home, where his obsessively lifts weights in the basement and has weird dreams featuring a six-armed black woman shooting green laser beams out of her eyes to dissolve a metal band (!) before decapitating him with a pitchfork. Tommy is still hanging out with his evil grandfather and is still involved in the Satanic cult, but is he also the same person donning a Devil mask and red cloak who's been running around killing people?

This is typical direct-to-video product of its day, with really bad acting, a thin plot in need of serious padding and the requisite nudity and blood. What makes it slightly more entertaining than usual is how it goes about buffering its running time by including everything under the sun. Hair metal bands D.C. La Croix (singing the catchy "The Devil's Son") and Mercenaries both appear and each perform a full song and there's even a long stand up comedy routine about strippers and turkeys (?) The film also "boasts" extremely perverted and sex-obsessed characters. Tommy seems in love with his sister and beats up her boyfriend when he catches them in bed together. Vera seems obsessed with, and wants to know details about, her other brother's sex life (yuck). Even Roger the cop, the supposed "normal one," takes his sister's friend Beth (Patricia Christie) to a cemetery and has sex with her on top of a freshly-dug grave mound containing the corpse of his sister's boyfriend! It's also revealed that the grandfather hypnotized and then raped his own daughter on her wedding night so he may actually be both Tommy's grandfather and his real father. But Gramps has since moved on and now appears to have sexual designs on his granddaughter, whom he leers at and refers to as "a very temping young lady." Yikes.

There's some mild gore and violence (stabbings, a shovel to the head, a hanging, etc.) but just as much time is spent trying to get the female cast members out of their clothes. The sister is naked in the bathtub and later in bed, a woman strips completely naked at a Halloween party, a female Satanist takes it all off so she can get a pentagram branded on her ass, a victim's breasts almost pop out of her top when the killer grabs her and starts violently tightening her corset (!) and even the mom character (or her body double) gets in on the action during a flashback. The best known of the nude chicks is porno actress Jeanna Fine (credited here as "Angel Rush") who's around long enough to get naked twice before getting stabbed through the head with a claw.

The director also made the slashers Open House (1987) and The Jigsaw Murders (1989), but is best known for the numerous soft-core movies he made through the 1990s starring the likes of Tanya Roberts, Shannon Tweed and Kathy Shower. I visited the website of one of this film's female stars and she claims the budget was a million dollars (not likely) and that it "has returned over one hundred million dollars in foreign and domestic distribution" (also not likely). There were several late 80s video releases here in America, on the Atlas and Legacy labels, but no official DVD as of this writing. If you do happen to stumble upon this for sale on DVD it's a bootleg VHS transfer.

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