Friday, January 13, 2017

Don't Watch This Alone!: PITCHFORK

Welcome to another installment of DON'T WATCH THIS ALONE! This is where we talk about the latest in the world of horror, and give you something to make your skin crawl. Today, we're taking a look at a new entry in the slasher/masked killer movie genre, PITCHFORK

“A New Horror Icon is Born!”

Or so claim the filmmakers of the new slasher movie, Pitchfork. If they are talking about the deranged masked killer they have created in this slasher movie, then I agree to some extent. However, if they are talking about the movie Pitchfork as a whole, I have some issues with that even if this is a movie you might not want to watch alone. 

Pitchfork is written by Darryl F. Gariglio and Glenn Douglas Packard with Packard working as the director on this film as well. He is also listed as being the creator. I am assuming it is in reference to the creation of the deranged masked killer in this movie that they feel will become as icon as Freddy Kruger, Jason Voorhees, or Michael Myers.  The character of Ben Holister/Pitchfork certainly has all the makings of taking on that task. He is definitely a clear throwback to the 1980s golden age of slasher killers, what with his face mask made from skin and fur he ripped from the skull of dead German Shepard dog and one arm sporting a pitchfork secured on with barbed wire as a lethal replacement for his missing hand. Never mind that a normal metal pitchfork would require major bodybuilder type muscle strength to wield in that manner, let alone able to run in anything but a lopsided gait. This killer is agile and fast his feet, which is not quite in true 80s horror icon fashion where the killer is usually slower, but the agility gives the character of Pitchfork an edge over his victims that is both creepy and deadly.

What makes the character of Ben Holister/Pitchfork work in the movie Pitchfork despite the logistics of having a pitchfork for a hand is the actor, Daniel Wilkinson, who plays him in this movie. Wilkinson, a professional snowboarder who also trained in the martial arts, brings an animalistic and predatory grace to the role. Without any dialog and only the use of growl and other animal sounds to express the character’s voice, Wilkinson uses his martial arts training to create movements that are reminiscent of both a wolf and a great cat stalking its prey. It’s safe to say that Daniel Wilkinson made this character work despite it being stuck in a lame attempt at a slasher movie.

It’s the movie plot built around this stand out horror/slasher movie character that does not work, in my opinion. The story line in Pitchfork had a great concept to work with. Hunter Killian (Brian Raetz) has recently told his conservative parents that he is gay and is now returning home to see them for the first time in five years. He brings seven of his New York City friends as moral support.

His mother Ruth (Carol Ludwick) is warm and welcoming, while his father Wayne (Derek Reynolds) is standoffish and gruff. Hunter’s much younger sister Jenny (Addisyn Wallace), whom the family refers to as the animal whispers due to her ability to calm down any animal, is happy to have her big brother home.  All the while a psychotic slasher is waiting to pounce on them with a killer’s glee.

Speaking of glee, while Pitchfork has the perfect and creepy ‘first victims being killed’ beginning that is standard in slasher movies.  After that, a chunk of it plays like you are watching an episode of Glee. No sooner do Hunter and his friends roll onto the family farm than oh boy instant barn dance party that all the local twenty somethings seem to magically know about.  Not only that, it comes complete with its own extended, choreographed dance scenes, clich├ęd secret crushes, boyfriend cheating and baby announcements. The writers make some awkward attempts at frat style comedy that the movie could have really done without.

In the latter part of Pitchfork, the movie turns into a slasher movie in earnest and offers up some good 80s style mayhem for everyone involved. However, the problem is, the movie is so jumbled with things happening off screen or abrupt switches to something else, that it really doesn’t hold as much suspense in the chase or the kills as you might want in this type of movie. Really, the movie could have been better served to have less barn dancing and more focus on the slasher part of the movie. Though, it does lend an almost supernatural element to the movie that Ben Holister/Pitchfork moves from one place to the next in a matter of seconds and just in time to kill his next victim. That's a pretty amazing feat considering we are talking about a guy wearing a pitchfork as a hand.

The acting in Pitchfork is decent, with some really standout performances by Rachel Carter and Andrew Dawe-Collins as Ben Holister’s equally demented mother and father. Addisyn Wallace stood out as well as she deftly played Jenny, who turns from an innocent little girl to a sort of creepy little girl. Her ability to have an influence on the deranged Ben Holister/Pitchfork is one of the better aspects of this movie.

The special effects are your standard in 80s style slasher movies, but surprisingly less gory than expected, which could be attributed to all the cut aways in the film. One thing though, it did make the actors have to use their facial expressions and reactions to ‘show’ the audience what is going on rather than the actual physical actions would have.

Pitchfork really had potential as a story concept, it just needed better editing or writing to have helped it live up to that potential. If they make it to sequel territory as the ending implies, then it will be because Daniel Wilkinson in the role of Ben Holister/Pitchfork carried it there.

Marla’s Score: 5/10

PITCHFORK opens in select theaters on January 6th and on VOD January 13, 2017.

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