I’m a firm believer that Halloween should be celebrated all year round…
…Writer/director Ryan McGonagle’s directorial debut Black Pumpkin does just that—it’s a celebration of Halloween and all things horror, but especially the slasher sub-genre and its tropes.
This is actually a sequel to the 2016 movie Bloody Bobby and is supposedly the second instalment of a trilogy. The original follows Bobby Maxwell, a young boy who vanished the night before Halloween and returned twenty years later to enact his revenge.
Black Pumpkin takes place on Halloween 2018, and follows two preteens exploring the area known as Diablo’s Den. They accidentally uncover a grisly urban legend that their small town has attempted to keep buried and awaken the evil that has lain dormant for decades. The group find themselves desperately trying to survive the night, with the monster known as ‘Bloody Bobby’ haunting the Halloween streets of Fall Creek Valley.
Elliot Peterson (Dogen Eyeler) and his best friend Lawrence Chubbs AKA ‘Pork Chop’ (Grayson Thorne Kilpatrick) reminded me a lot of myself when I was younger, carrying a camera around everywhere they go as they search their small town for secrets to uncover.
One of the ways I and many other people can relate to Lawrence are the bullies that constantly seek him out—until Elliot’s older sister Laurie (Ellie Patrikios) steps in and protects him, that is. I found her protective instinct instantly likeable, because it was clear that while she would protect Lawrence because he was her brother’s best friend, she also wasn’t the sort of person who would allow someone to punch down at another person. This becomes even clearer the more she interacts with the duo throughout the film.
While I didn’t always enjoy the acting, I still found the characters extremely likeable, particularly Laurie and Elliot’s younger sister Regan (Gemma Brooke Allen) who I really wished we could have seen more of. There was also Alex Griffin (Curt Clendenin), the town weirdo and conspiracy nut who desperately tried to warn the kids about what was to come and was overlooked as being too unstable to trust. And finally, a very small part played by a producer of the film, Mr. Carpenter (Jacques Derosena), who liked Halloween enough to declare that there was no homework that weekend.
This movie is jam-packed with references that any slasher fan will be able to appreciate, although there were a few too many for me, and I would have preferred for them to be more subtle. This movie isn’t aiming for subtlety, however. It’s clear they wanted it to be loud about its love for the genre. It felt like an amalgamation of a lot of old classics, especially Halloween, with the virgin babysitter called Laurie, the teacher called Mr. Carpenter, and even the opening shot of the main story beginning with a POV shot from inside a mask.
It also had hints of Stranger Things and other similar stories featuring boys on bikes uncovering hometown mysteries, and its influence from Trick ‘r Treat is clear from the main antagonist Bloody Bobby, who was small and cute but capable of some truly violent killings. You don’t need to be an expert to understand these references. They aren’t deep cuts meant for well versed fans, instead Pumpkin prefers to utilise tropes that even a horror novice will be able to predict but enjoy.
The cinematography by Daniel Rink perfectly captured the spooky small town feel it was going for. The score by Chris Kooreman and Edo Plasschaert consisted primarily of synth wave music, and only added to the ‘80s vibe that this film so clearly adores. It also paid homage to some of the great composers that have provided scores for classic horror movies past and present.
The special effects makeup, done by Shae Marie Martinez and Malina Stearns, made the kills a standout aspect of the film. While some of them might have happened off screen, we always got to see the results. They didn’t disappoint, showing us lots of blood and gore whilst still making it fun to watch.
There were some parts that didn’t necessarily work for me, such as the lack of character development or the way the young women were sexualised by being shown in very little clothing, including lingering shots that made me slightly uncomfortable. While I’m aware that’s a common trope of the genre, I do feel like it was a missed opportunity to subvert and surprise us. However, this movie wasn’t trying to do something new, but rather to pay homage to the ones that came before it. It did so with a lot of love, and its clear primary goal was to have fun and bask in the nostalgia.
Black Pumpkin certainly has potential to be a divisive film, and while it’s not to my taste, it definitely has a market for slasher lovers, especially the classics. If that iconic subgenre is your thing, this just might be the film for you.
Black Pumpkin is now available on digital and DVD from Uncork’d Entertainment.
By Dani Vanderstock