Creator and director Glenn Douglas Packard’s horror debut Pitchfork shows some promise. Set in sleepy Michigan farm country, the film features a broad cast of characters, with a small LGBT twist. Hunter (Brian Raetz), having recently come out to his parents, is making his first trip home from the big city to face his conservative father, Wayne (Derek Reynolds). Needing the support of his gaggle of friends, Hunter returns home with a variety of mismatched characters – a gaggle of horror film clichés who are ripe for the picking. Our cast of future victims includes a jock, the jock’s underappreciated girlfriend, the party girl, the sensitive nerdy guy, the token black couple, and a street-smart British girl with an accent of questionable origin.
After the opening scenes, Packard’s film begins to lay the groundwork for a twisted psycho thriller, as it’s quickly revealed that a disturbing man-beast with a pitchfork attached to his arm is terrorizing the local community. The beast is lovingly dubbed Pitchfork (expertly played by Daniel Wilkinson). This unsuspecting cast of characters has no idea what awaits them; even appearing to shrug off a disturbing animal shriek heard echoing across the plains upon their first few minutes in rural Michigan. Each is eagerly anticipating his or her first barn dance, so the impending horrific death at the hands of a psychopath is the last thing on anyone’s mind, of course.
An Emmy nominated choreographer, Packard’s true strength comes out in a nicely constructed line dance scene that tastefully combines country style with Bollywood flair. Though jarring at first, the juxtaposition of this scene with the rest of the film ends up being a great story spike to pull the audience in at a key moment. However, this sadly proves to be one of the only shining moments of the film, as the subsequent scenes diverge into a tedious college sex comedy merged with a meager helping of horror flick.
As the horrifying man-beast, Pitchfork, grows more eager to, uh… get acquainted, with each of these fine city folk, the audience is left to watch as a fairly predictable series of events unfolds. One by one, our cast of stereotypes is woefully picked off by the misunderstood villain in moderately creepy and unnerving ways, leaving a hodgepodge of potential survivors behind for the closing scenes.
Whereas Packard’s dance scene is clearly his finest work, the plot twists he managed to save for the ending do make for a fine wrap-up, if you’ve managed to wade through the hour-long sex comedy slash fest baked into the middle of this film. Pitchfork proves to be one of the most intriguing characters in the film, while actors Rachel Carter and Andrew Dawe-Collins each deliver an impactful and rattling, though short, performance. Addisyn Wallace is also full of surprises as Hunter’s horse-whispering sister, Jenny.
While this is no Nightmare on Elm Street, it’s not fair to say it’s a total nightmare either. Pitchfork is a good first step in Packard’s foray into filmmaking, showing some promise for a unique choreographer-turned-director. Mired in predictability and missing of few jump scares, perhaps Horror just isn’t the right genre. But don’t stick a fork in Glenn Douglas Packard just yet.
All pictures reproduced courtesy of Glenn Douglas Packard