After a pretty typical opening kill at the hands of the titular slasher, “Pitchfork” begins with a somewhat original hook: Hunter (Brian Raetz), a gay college student, decides to come out to his family, and enlists a group of his classmates to accompany him to his family’s farm as moral support. Hunter’s family lives in a decidedly rural area, and it becomes clear early on that most of the college kids are city folk and uncomfortable in the setting. The focus of Hunter coming out to family shifts quickly to a coming out party, which despite the supposedly isolated setting, is well attended by nubile hardbodies ready to dance the night away. Little do they know that a demented killer is picking them off one by one. The weird thing is, I think most of the kids would’ve been fine with Pitchfork hanging out; it’s a shame he feels the need to kill them.
Regardless, after a brief bit of push back from Hunter’s father, the “coming out in a small rural town” story is dropped in favor of mindless kills of characters we barely have been introduced to, let alone care about or root for. The rural setting rarely factors in as well; a majority of the film takes place in a McMansion and a barn’s loft. Likely the biggest problem with creating any sense of fear or suspense is the large cast. In about five minutes, we’re introduced to Hunter’s parents, kid sister, Pitchfork himself, and seven of Hunter’s friends. We are given threadbare character motivations (a love triangle, couplings, etc) before people start getting picked off. Other than Hunter and his kid sister, we have no one to root for or care about.
These problems also circle back to our slasher, Pitchfork. His motivations are laughably lazy (he was raised by secluded hick parents that sexually abused him, so for some reason that means he wears a fur mask and murders random people… or something), and his costume design is more absurd than scary. He seems to have a freshly grafted pitchfork where his hand very recently was, and wears a coonskin cap with eye holes over his face. It doesn’t help that the actor portraying Pitchfork is not physically imposing in the least, but insists on going the entire film shirtless. It feels like virtually every actor that interacts with Pitchfork could easily overpower him, or at the very least out run him. Pitchfork also as the typical sexual frustrations that many slashers are portrayed as having, too. One extended sequence (and I do mean extended; it seems to go on for about six hours) involves Pitchfork sexually assaulting a female victim. I feel like the filmmakers were going for edgy, but landed squarely in half assed boring territory. To top it off, despite the high body count, there’s not one fun, original kill and the special effects are not noteworthy in any way; they are neither realistic or fun and over the top. They just exist to keep the body count rising and fill the running time.
It should be noted that the only actors having fun with their roles are Pitchfork’s parents, played by Rachel Carter and Andrew Dawe-Collins. They chew scenery and dial it up to 11, and were actually pretty fun to watch. It hard to understand how they seemed to know what kind of film they were in while everyone else looks as though they were just shoved in front of the camera and just told to look attractive.
The movie has an almost too commercial and slick feel to it; it is lit like a 90’s alternative rock video, with popping vivid color and neon glows, when the rural setting calls for something much more gritty and realistic. Indeed, often the film feels like it’s a highlight reel for director Glen Douglas Packard’s skills as a music video director, since there are so many montage sequences set to pop music of college kids dancing or up to shenanigans.
Again, why is Pitchfork so intent on killing these college kids? I suppose the viewer is asked to shrug it off and think “he’s a crazy inbred hick.” In all fairness to the filmmakers, this old trope has printed money for decades. Still, a low budget indie is the perfect place to at least attempt something original.
Craig is a co host of the Half Assed Horrorcast. His writing about horror has appeared on Bloody Good Horror, Fanboy Report and other places. Find him on twitter @4colorcraig.