There is an almost comforting aspect to a straightforward slasher flick. For some horror fans, it can be like having a favorite romantic-comedy that you like to re-watch whenever you’re feeling down, knowing that things will always work out the same way in the end (albeit, usually with a lot more blood in this genre). This simplicity definitely has some merit to it, though many filmmakers use it as an excuse to produce copious amounts of generic, low-budget slashers for a quick buck. Glenn Douglas Packard’s first feature, Pitchfork, walks a fine line between a loving tribute to the genre and a derivative mess.
Pitchfork stars Brian Raetz as Hunter Killian, a young man travelling from New York to his family farm accompanied by a supportive group of college friends, played by Lindsey Nicole, Ryan Moore, Celina Beach, Nicole Dambro and a few others. Hunter is hoping to deal with the consequences of having come out as gay to his parents, but he and his friends have much bigger problems to deal with when a mysterious pitchfork-handed figure begins to stalk and murder whoever gets in his way.
While this seems like a decent enough setup to a slasher film, the movie never really goes any deeper. Events play out exactly like you’d expect them to, the characters aren’t very developed and the kills aren’t all that creative. Right from the start, our gay protagonist is really the most, if not only, original part of the movie. His struggle to be accepted by his family and to reaffirm his masculinity despite what others think of his sexuality is honestly the most compelling aspect of Pitchfork, but it’s still not enough to make it an entirely enjoyable ride.
Sadly, the titular antagonist doesn’t quite come off as a terrifying entity, instead feeling like a strange amalgam of the boy from Cub with Behind The Mask‘s Leslie Vernon. Some of his kills are gruesome enough to be entertaining, but there’s always an underlying feeling that the filmmakers weren’t sure about what direction to take him in, combining characteristics from several past slashers into an incoherent character. One minute he’s delighting himself in the pain of his victims, and the next he’ll be playing around with corpses while dancing and doing somersaults like a child.
Much of this could be excused if Pitchfork offered a more refined tale of small-town terror, but the attempted plot twists and backstory just aren’t all that interesting. It’s clear that the people behind this movie were big fans of the slashers of yore, but in trying to honor age-old horror traditions they forgot to add something new into the mix. None of the characters or kills manage to stand out, so it’s hard to recommend this film when you consider the sea of other low-budget slashers just like it.
Nevertheless, there is still some fun to be had with Pitchfork. The classic slasher formula works for a reason, and the movie does have some of that low-budget charm that’s so illusive in this age of digital film. I can’t quite say that it’s one of the better slasher movies out there, but it’s certainly a harmless enough choice if you’re craving some cheesy, gory thrills.
Pitchfork will be available in theaters and On Demand January, 13th!