GUEST MOVIE REVIEW by Jeff C. Carter: Hack-O-Lantern

Hack-O-Lantern
Rated R, 1:27, 1998

Director: Jag Mundhra

Writers: Dave Eisenstark (story), Carla Robinson (screenplay)

Cast:
Hy Pyke – as Grandpa
Gregory Scott Cummins – as Tommy

Available on: Amazon Prime Streaming, Tubi

A town is terrorized by devil worshippers and a masked killer.


Hack-O-Lantern begins appropriately with lurid red titles floating in black space, accompanied by the creepy pulse of synth music.

Then, something unexpected happens.

The sun rises, shining gloriously upon a bucolic farm. A pleasant tune chirps as an old pickup truck putters into view with a flatbed full of pumpkins. The driver (Hy PykeDolemite, Blade Runner, Vamp) is a chipper old man in a cozy flannel shirt.

He arrives at a farm house and honks the horn to call out Tommy, his little blonde grandson. Everything is bathed in sunlight as the innocent child dashes out and leaps into his grandpa’s welcoming arms.

Everything distills into a perfect Norman Rockwell moment, until grandpa slips him a bundle with something “special.” He leaves him with a pumpkin, throws up the devil horns and then bones out in his truck.

This is not yet four minutes into the film, but we have been put on notice. This story just might give you whiplash.

Later, Tommy is carving his pumpkin and pelting his sister, Vera, with pumpkin guts. When he cuts himself, he proclaims that he likes the taste of blood and that ‘grandpa says it’s good for him.’

Their mother is distraught when she finds out that grandpa has been there, and she demands to know if the old man had given anything to her son. Tommy denies it and hides the special package.

That night, she begs her husband Bill not to confront Grandpa on this, of all nights – Halloween. Bill storms out to handle things anyway.

He arrives at Grandpa’s barn and finds him hanging out with a bunch of robed cultists. One of them smacks Bill with a hammer and together they dump his body back in his car and then set it on fire. Grandpa cackles with dark delight.

Back home in his room, Tommy takes out his special gift – a pentagram medallion.

Match cut to 13 years later: Tommy (Gregory Scott Cummins, former college sports star with roles in Buffy, Batman Returns, Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Baywatch Nights [TWICE!], and as the devil in a Snoop Dogg video!) is still swinging his medallion, but now he is all grown up. He is rocking a black sleeveless shirt that is open to the navel.

It is once again Halloween, and Grandpa has returned with another honk of the horn. This time he has a black robe for Tommy, who will undergo a ritual that night and learn his true power. Grandpa throws up the devil horns again, and now Tommy does too…and then they press their devil horns together.

Let’s pause for a moment to appreciate these actors. Gregory Scott Cummins has a prime set of ‘crazy eyes’ and does his best to mean mug every chance he gets, but he’s fighting for oxygen in every scene with Hy Pyke.

Hy Pyke is a character actor unlike any I have ever scene. He plays Grandpa like a southern fried, chain-smoking, frog-throated, slightly femme goth hillbilly. If Tim Curry had an older brother who was prone to falling down stairs, he might be a little something like Hy Pyke.

Tommy’s mother runs out and begs Grandpa to leave the family alone. Grandpa then reveals two things: first, he has been wearing one of Bill’s bones as a necklace for 13 years; second, he has been forcing her into an incestuous relationship for most of her life. If the devil horn hand kiss made you uncomfortable, you may wish to avert your eyes from the flashback in which Grandpa smothers his daughter on her wedding night. This could imply that Tommy and the others are, in fact, Grandpa’s children after all.

We are re-introduced to Vera, who is getting ready for Halloween with her friend Beth, and then to Tommy’s little brother, Roger, who is now a rookie policeman. Roger has been assigned to patrol the cemeteries after a string of grave robberies as well as chaperoning the big Halloween party in town.

Mom stands outside the door to Tommy’s basement apartment and screams at him to change his wicked ways, but he tunes her out with a Walkman and a cassette tape of rock n’ roll.

This begins a full-on music video, with Tommy fantasizing that he is the backup guitarist for a leather-clad rock band playing a song about the Devil’s son. A woman appears in a bolt of electricity. She is dressed in a skimpy outfit and draped in bones (possibly his father’s), and she shoots green lasers from her eyes that festoon the band’s drum kit with shrunken heads, freeze the band members in place, and then make them vanish one by one.

She throws Tommy to the ground and stabs his head off with a pitchfork. Tommy wakes up, disturbed (and/or aroused).

Now Roger is knocking on his door. He asks Tommy if he’s ever going to do anything worthwhile with his life. In response, Tommy shows him a closet that he has converted into a satanic altar with candles, skulls and a human fetus in a jar.

Roger just shakes his head, chagrinned and says, “No wonder mom thinks you spend too much time with Grandpa.”

The Satanic Panic of the 1980s certainly inspired this movie, but it seems that satanic ritual has been completely normalized for this family as well as the town at large.

Tommy goes to get booze with his girlfriend, whom everyone knows has a pentagram tattoo on her butt (see?). Unfortunately for them, Grandpa is there to nag Tommy into geting his rest for the big night.

Not long after, the girlfriend is surprised by a robed figure in a strange mask that is equal parts satanic and simian, like a demonic baboon. She believes the masked intruder is Tommy and she tries to flirt, only to get brutally murdered with a hooked pitchfork. For clarity, I will henceforth refer to this robed and masked figure as the ‘Staboon’.

Vera and her friends are all downtown decorating the hall for the big Halloween shindig. Naturally Grandpa stops by to leer lecherously at his granddaughter, but her boyfriend Brian chases him off.

Vera takes Brian home with her to lose her virginity, but Tommy busts in and throws him out with a warning; “Next time, you’re dead.”

Tommy goes to his room and pulls out a Staboon mask and a switchblade.

Brian takes the shortcut home through the cemetery and quickly finds himself being chased by the Staboon. He tumbles into an open grave. He begs the Staboon for a hand up, but gets his head cleft in twain with a shovel instead.

Night falls, and Roger begins his patrol of the cemetery. He has also brought Beth, so they can spend their date looking dug up graves. They find nothing but a fresh shallow grave, so they lay down and get it on, oblivious to Brian’s half buried body.

Roger then heads to the Halloween party, which features a tasteful full-nude strip tease.

The movie then grinds to a halt as an amateur comic shoehorns his tight five minute set into a random scene. This bad comedy is made even more awkward because it is performed outside on the street, instead of inside on the stage which was literally just established with the other entertainment acts like the stripper and the band. Perhaps this is meant to signal a tonal shift to comedy, which is only one of the genres that Hack-O-Lantern tries on like so many Staboon masks.

Vera and her friend Beth also take the cemetery shortcut, which apparently connects her house to the party hall. Beth shows off all the places that she had sex with her brother, but this time Brian’s body does not go unnoticed. Vera thinks it’s another classic Halloween prank and pulls on the arm, only to reveal her cleft-in-twain boyfriend. She freaks out and blames Tommy for the murder.

Vera heads straight to Grandpa’s satanic ritual barn to confront Tommy. She knows that he will be there for the big Halloween ceremony, and does not seem overly concerned by the robed cultists shuffling around the giant pentagram on the floor.

Grandpa rebukes her for intruding and orders his minions to tie her up.

He gives Tommy a goat-shaped knife, which they gamely try to hold in their hand while making devil horns with their fingers. Grandpa commands him to kill Vera, intoning, “The power is in the blood!”

Tommy raises the knife…and cuts her ropes! He sends her packing off into the night.

He turns to face his grandfather and shouts, “She’s my sister!”

Grandpa is both furious and crestfallen. He explains that in the kingdom of hell, the only family that matters are your fellow Satanists and…the master! He excommunicates Tommy from the satanic ritual barn.

I will note that it is heavily implied that the ritual that Tommy was supposed to enact that night was going to involve murder, but they didn’t seem to have any sacrificial victims handy until Vera showed up. Was this all part of Grandpa’s master plan?

Back at the freaky Halloween party, a belly dancer undulates for the revelers wearing a large snake. Vera and Beth arrive to find Roger, but the Staboon is already there.

Roger learns all about the murder and attempted sacrifice and then speeds away on his motorcycle.

The Staboon decides to knife a random lady in the women’s bathroom. Her only connection to the story was a few minutes earlier, when she was hitting on Roger. If there is a through line to any of the killings, it is that anyone who attempts to have sex with anyone in Tommy’s family dies. That may seem par for the course for a slasher flick, but this will take on added significance later.

Roger and the rest of the police find the barn, but no evidence of satanic activity. Back at the party, the Staboon strangles Beth. Vera finds both bodies and runs out, into the arms of Staboon.

She thinks that this is Tommy, but the Staboon removes its mask. It is her Grandpa, and he tells her that tonight, she belongs to Satan.

Tommy arrives wearing his own Staboon mask and wielding a pitchfork. Grandpa puts his Staboon mask back on, grabs a machete from a party goer, and the two start swashbuckling their way through the Halloween party.

Tommy quickly bests the old man and sends him careening to the ground with a pitchfork wound in his stomach.

Roger makes it back in time to unmask Grandpa. Grandpa tells Roger that, “the power is in the blood!” and then pokes him in the forehead with the devil horns, leaving behind a flicker of red light.

The other Staboon tries to flee, but Roger blasts it in the back with his pistol. The bleeding Staboon stumbles into the woods and unmasks. It is Tommy’s mother. She takes the cemetery shortcut to her husband’s grave and collapses.

Tommy finds her there and apologizes, telling her that he loves her. She dies, and the now reformed Tommy makes the sign of the cross.

It seems that all is well, or at the very least the nightmare is over.

Unfortunately, the Satanists have reconvened at their satanic ritual barn. They have a new leader now – and it is Tommy’s brother, Roger.

Hack-O-Lantern ends on that final twist, leaving us to contemplate what the hell we just watched and what was going on. I believe that Grandpa secretly fathered Tommy, Roger and Vera because he needed someone in his bloodline to carry on the power and dark work of his satanic coven. He jealously protected that bloodline, which is why anyone who attempted to sleep with or corrupt it was murdered. The theme song’s refrain, as you’ll recall, was ‘you’re the devil’s son.’

That is just one possibility, however. It doesn’t explain why Tommy had the pitchfork at the end, which was previously used to kill his girlfriend. And what was Tommy’s mother doing at the party dressed as a Staboon? Was she the swashbuckler who killed Grandpa? Or that random lady in the bathroom? Was she hoping to create a diversion to allow Tommy to escape? Was this movie set in a farm town only so its devilish characters could have easy access to pitchforks?

Indeed, this movie raises more questions than it answers. Overall, it is crazy, cheesy, creepy, gory, schmaltzy and simply fun. If you want a first time watch for your Halloween marathon, I say throw up the horns and put on Hack-O-Lantern.


Boo-graphy:
Jeff C. Carter’s stories have been featured in dozens of anthologies, translated for international markets and adapted for podcasts. His love of Halloween, adventure and science continue to inspire his horror, action and science fiction writing. He is a member of the Samhain Society and a contributor for the Creepy Kingdom network. He lives in Los Angeles with a cat, a dog, a human and a child.

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His new middle grade adventure book is called COLD SPELL: The Halloween Curse of Winterhill.

COLD SPELL The Halloween Curse of Winterhill is a spooky middle grade adventure from author Jeff C. Carter for kids and adults who love Halloween.

When a freak blizzard cancels trick-or-treating (based on a true event), a Halloween-obsessed nerd and his friends break the rules and go out, only to discover that a terrible curse has befallen their town.

COLD SPELL The Halloween Curse of Winterhill is a fun, fast-paced story of friendship and supernatural adventure that will appeal to fans of Hocus Pocus, Goosebumps, and anyone who believes there is magic just beyond the veil of red and orange woods.

This book is packed with dark whimsical illustrations by Mexican artist Mariana Garcia Pizá.

Her charming map of Summerhill shows a town on the verge of Halloween and all the places that the kids will go as they battle the Witch’s forces and attempt to break her curse.

There is a handy Spookabulary, a list of new words that every Halloween lover should know. The book also includes a Monster Manual featuring the unique creatures that serve the Witch, compatible for the D&D 5E and Tiny Dungeon RPG systems.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Patrick Lacey

Meghan: Hey, Patrick!! Welcome back. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Patrick: Pumpkin beer. And pumpkin coffee. And also pumpkin English muffins. My favorite part of Halloween is all of it. It’s that you can walk into any grocery store or pharmacy and find at least one discount skeleton mask that’s probably painted with poisonous chemicals or one plastic rubber bat that’s probably…painted with poisonous chemicals. It’s that the entire world seems to be on my wavelength, which, lemme tell you, is quite often not the case.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Patrick: May I make this a two-for-the-price-of-one answer? If so, super! If not, this is awkward. I grew up in a horror household. My parents dug the genre and, lucky for me, they didn’t much care what I watched, R ratings be damned. So what we’d do is we’d go trick-or-treating but once the eggs started cracking and the tee-pee started rolling, we came back home and watched horror movies like they were going out of style. The real stars of the show were the snacks. I’m talking junk food like you’ve never seen. My mom persuaded me to eat relatively (insert air quotes here) healthy but on Halloween night, all dietary bets were off. We’re talking nachos, pizza rolls, and deviled eggs (emphasis on the devil). We’d shove snack after snack into our mouths until our bellies inflated and what’s better than that? What’s better than spending quality family time watching Kevin Bacon get his throat pierced with the sharp end of an arrow or Johnny Depp get swallowed by a bloody bed, all while eating things with more artificial ingredients than a can of paint thinner? Answer: nothing. It was during one of those marathons that I leaned over a lit pumpkin-scented candle and managed to catch my bangs on fire. I snuffed the flames out quick enough but have you ever smelled burnt hair? It’s a lot stronger than anything Yankee Candle carries. I surveyed myself in the mirror and yeah, there would need to be an emergency hair cut before returning to school, but you know what? Who cared? Burning bangs or no burning bangs, that night there were no problems. There were only slashers and junk food and is there anything else? To this day, if by some strange circumstance, I catch a whiff of charred hair, it zaps me back to that living room, to those snacks, to that wonderful night.

Which brings us to part two of this question, the newer tradition of carving a jack-o-lanterns with my wife and daughter. With my wife, we’ve been doing this since day one of us, but with my daughter, we’re coming up on Halloween II (the holiday, not the movie), so it’s about as new as new gets. Last year, I don’t think she was cognizant enough to understand why her parents were wielding chef’s knives and gouging large orange apples but this year—this year, all bets are off. She’s got about five non-mom and non-dad words in her vocabulary, one of which happens to be “pumpkin.” Really, it’s more like “pum pum” but she’ll get there. Any flash of orange, she lights up like a Halloween blow mold, so I’m thinking the carving will be one for the books this year. The best part is I’ve tried not to push the seasonal addiction on her, but the moment she saw her first Beistle cut-out, she smirked ear to ear. I think it’s been passed down to her, this addiction that comes from who knows where. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Meghan: If Halloween is your favorite holiday (or even second favorite holiday), why?

Patrick: Two words: spooky walks. There is nothing—I repeat—nothing better than taking a stroll around your neighborhood, town, city—whatever—once the leaves start to turn. What other time of year can you see gravestones and animatronic gargoyles in someone’s front yard? And that’s just one house, if you’re lucky. I adore pulling on a sweatshirt and grabbing a pumpkin beer and then hiding that pumpkin beer in a non-descript thermos so as to avoid being arrested, then going for a seasonal stroll. I always end up in a neck of the woods I never even knew existed. This one time, a few years back, I traversed a side street wherein every single front porch was decked out in Halloween bliss, but here’s the kicker: I could never find that street again, no matter how many times I searched, which begs the question: did I accidentally cross over into a parallel dimension or did I have a few too many of those non-descript pumpkin beers? Probably it’s the latter but a man can dream.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Patrick: Everything. But there’s this one thing in particular. It’s maybe more innocuous than walking under a latter or spotting a black cat (which doesn’t bother me, seeing as how I’ve owned two or five). What it is, is the number thirteen, specifically how that number appears on my Kindle. I mostly read ebooks on account of my glasses are trifocals and the font’s easily adjustable. If I’m reading and arrive at the 13% mark, I’ve gotta keep going, if only to reach 14%, because if I stay at that cursed number, something insane will happen. Dead birds will fall from the sky. Every tree within a five-mile radius of my house will shrivel and rot. And the sun itself will burn out, dowsing the world in a never-ending cycle of darkness.

Meghan: What/who is your favorite horror monster or villain?

Patrick: Freddy Krueger, full stop. Here’s the thing. Freddy’s the reason I’m a horror fan. Like I mentioned before: my parents didn’t give a darn what I watched, for better and worse (mostly better). Because of this lack of parental advisory, one of the first movies I remember watching is A Nightmare on Elm Street. And let me tell you: it did a number on me. I had actual nightmares for days, maybe weeks, on end. But I couldn’t stop thinking about that glove and that fedora. So I watched it again. And again. Then I watched the sequels. And my revulsion turned to fascination. I loved the sense of nightmare logic. Because we’re dealing in dreams, the rules are less rigid and more fluid. Doors don’t lead where they ought too. Steps are made from oatmeal for some reason. And is that a goat over there? Yes, that’s definitely a goat.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Patrick: The Zodiac Killer has long been a morbid fascination of mine and I think it has to do with reading too many Batman comics, specifically those with the Riddler and how he always left clues and if you could just decipher them, you could stop him from performing whatever villainy was on his mind. But the difference is that Batman always solved said puzzles and real life isn’t so squeaky clean. I’m not exactly writing my thesis on the Zodiac but from what I’ve read, part of me wonders if the puzzles were intentionally unsolvable. He promised answers in there somewhere, all jumbled up, but maybe there never were answers.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Patrick: I’m from a small fishing town named Gloucester. It’s on the north shore of Massachusetts. And in my small fishing town, there was this tale making the rounds when I was a freshman, sophomore, somewhere around there. People swore there was a group of kids that called themselves the Gloucester Vampires. They congregated in abandoned buildings and under bridges late at night, when the town slept, and they did unspeakable things, performed rituals from texts so evil, reading a single page could make your mind burst like an over-ripe cantaloupe. Or so they said. Probably, it was a bunch of kids who wore black and were in the thick of their Hot Topic phase. But to my over-active mind, there was a cult in my small fishing town, a cult searching for new members. Once they chose you, there was no canceling your membership. I was so perturbed by this (probably) imaginary cult, I wrote a novel about it. It’s called We Came Back. It’s about to go out of print as of this writing but it’ll rise from the depths in a new edition soon enough.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Patrick: Care for a deep cut, so to speak? My wife’s family has a vacation home in Cape Cod. We got there twice, maybe thrice times a year, and in the neighboring town of Truro, there was once a serial killer who went by the name Tony Chop Chop, which, as far as serial killer names go, has got to be up there. The killings had a slight ritualistic bend, insofar that the hearts were removed from the victims. The case never gained the popularity that other killers of the time did, but Kurt Vonnegut wrote an article about Mr. Chop Chop in Life Magazine of all places, so the situation didn’t exactly go unnoticed. I’ve traveled to one of the supposed murder locations—a crypt long since busted open and cleared out—and you can’t deny the dread. It sticks to you like Laffy Taffy. In reality, serial killer culture deeply disturbs me, so much so that I wrote a novel (Where Stars Won’t Shine) to get it out of my system. And while I’m not exactly going to start a Tony Chop Chop blog, I do find the case fascinating.

Meghan: How old were you when you saw your first horror movie? How old were you when you read your first horror book?

Patrick: I’ll echo my earlier answer here. It was A Nightmare Elm Street, which I saw at the ripe age of way too young. But I’m not complaining. Thanks again, Mom and Dad. For horror books, it’s got to be Stephen King‘s Skeleton Crew but that only counts on a technicality. See, my mother had an dog-eared, spine-creased copy on her bookshelf. The one with that wide-eyed monkey and the cymbals. I’d pull it down, half-cover my eyes so said monkey couldn’t stare into my soul, and flip to a page at random. I loved what I read but I couldn’t read for long because I knew the book was alive, that it had teeth in some secret compartment, so it was better to place it back on the shelf where I found it. Years later, I’d give it a proper read and it would become a favorite. I still have my mom’s copy. Thus far, I haven’t seen those teeth. Maybe they just haven’t come in yet.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Patrick: It’s gotta be The Grip of It by Jac Jemc. I don’t see this one getting as much love as it rightfully deserves. It’s a haunted house novel, which is probably my favorite sub-genre, seeing as how I grew up in one (a story for another time). The horror that makes me all shivery is when bad stuff isn’t easily definable. Masked killers are fun but you can see a masked killer. What you can’t see are invisible forces working to unravel our minds one cold spot at a time. That’s what The Grip of It is. It’s a series of inexplicable scenes with no clear-cut answers. We, as readers, aren’t even sure if the house is haunted. And if it is, we can’t begin to theorize what’s haunting it. I don’t like it when authors tie things up in bow. I much prefer when horror is kept vague and it doesn’t get vaguer than The Grip of It.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Patrick: Stick with me here. There’s this one scene in The Mothman Prophecies that’s always on repeat in my brain. It’s when Richard Gere is washing his face in the bathroom sink, huddled over the faucet. We see the mirror and in that mirror is a shape standing just behind Richard. The problem with that shape is you can’t see its face. It’s like a smear on the lens that became sentient. And I have this thing with smooth faces. The concept of person with no eyes, ears, mouth, just smooth flesh—heck no. So while The Mothman Prophecies isn’t exactly known a walk-don’t-run flick, that scene is burrowed beneath my skin. Even today, when I’m washing my face, I know he’s there in the mirror. Mothman’s there and this time my eyes are the camera.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Patrick: My favorite Halloween was when I dressed up as a zombie this one time in eighth grade, which in and of itself doesn’t demand bragging rights, but I wasn’t just any rotting corpse. I was fourteen and it was the early 2000’s. Nu metal was having a moment. The most infamous practitioners? Limp Bizkit. And since I was a super fan, I dressed as the lead singer. Let me say that again: one time, two decades ago, I walked around dressed as a dead Fred Durst and asked strangers for candy.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Patrick: Gonna cheat here and choose the original Halloween theme, composed by Mr. ball-of-sunshine himself, John Carpenter. Sure it’s not a Halloween-themed song but it’s a song in a film called Halloween. Take that, semantics. The thing with this theme is it makes anything sinister and brooding. Break it out at a party, and it’ll set the mood with those dueling notes and that odd time signature (I wanna say it’s 5/4 but my math could be wrong). But why limit yourself? Crank it while you’re washing the dishes. You’ll be surprised by the results. On their own, dishes are boring. But with John Carpenter in tow, suddenly that chef’s knife takes on a whole new meaning. It’s great for long drives, too, especially on a cool fall night when the trees are bare and the fallen leaves scuttle in the wind. And make sure you keep those high beams on because you know Michael’s out there. He’s always out there.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween candy or treat? What is your most disappointing?

Patrick: My favorite Halloween candy is candy corn and the most disappointing is also candy corn. Hear me out. I love the OG kind. And yes, I understand it tastes like melted candle wax mixed with high fructose corn syrup but don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it. And if you have tried it, and you still hate it, then it’s okay to be wrong sometimes. Which brings us to the disappointment. It’s like I said: I love the original candy corn, but these weird new flavors? These fruity-flavored knock-offs? These caramel-flavored monstrosities? Not on my watch. There’s something so pure about candy corn and to mess with perfection only ruins the allure. So give me some CC all day long but make sure it’s the kind that’s been on sale since the seventies and is probably from the same batch.

Meghan: I just can’t imagine Halloween without you, Patrick, and some of these answers made me laugh out loud. Thanks for stopping by!! We’ll have to make plans for next year as well. But before you go, what are your top three Halloween movies?

Patrick:
Hack-O-Lantern
If you haven’t seen Hack-O-Lantern, stop reading this and go see Hack-O-Lantern. This thing is dripping with vintage Halloween goodness. You could make a drinking game wherein you pause and take a shot every time a retro seasonal decoration pops up in the background. Though, on second thought, don’t do that because I refuse to be held accountable. Also, it’s got heavy metal and satanic panic vibes, the chocolate and peanut butter of horror. If robed cultists, devil-masked killers, and incessant music video dream sequences are your thing (and they really should be), look no further.

Night of the Demons
Just the perfect movie to throw on for the big night. It’s got a spooky mansion, excellent demonic make-up effects from legend Steve Johnson, and a fantastic wraparound story in which a grumpy old man gets what’s coming to him. Director Kevin Tenney is on record saying he wasn’t even a horror fan when he came aboard the film. Could’ve fooled me. I watch it every October. And also every November and December.

Trick or Treat
Note the “or” as in not Trick ‘r Treat. This is another heavy metal horror flick and if you’re sensing a pattern, it’s because I’m a life-long metal head and horror head (which I’ve never seen in print and will most certainly not Google). In a nutshell, a high schooler’s favorite metal musician dies and inhabits our protagonist to then help him exact revenge against his bullies. Bad things ensue. Like the other two films, this thing is just begging to be watched on a cool autumn night in the presence of a pumpkin-scented candle. Unfortunately, because of legal issues with the heavy-metal-tinged soundtrack, this one can be difficult to track down. The DVD’s out of print and there’s no American Blu-ray, though there is a Spanish one with an English version of the film. What I’m saying is, it might take some effort to track down, but the pay-off’s worth it a thousand-fold.


Boo-graphy:
Patrick Lacey was born and raised in a haunted house. He currently spends his time writing about things that make the general public uncomfortable. He lives in Massachusetts, in a hopefully un-haunted house, with his wife, his daughter, and his ginormous cat. Follow him on Twitter.

Sleep Paralysis: A Collection
Sleep paralysis: A transitional state between wakefulness and sleep, accompanied by powerful hallucinations and muscle weakness, preventing one from moving.

A website that specializes in suffering. A basement filled with secrets and bones. An apartment housing much more than just ghosts. These are the places between reality and the unknown. These are the stories that stay with you long after you’ve read them. These are the things that visit your dreams. And nightmares.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Kevin Lucia

Meghan: Hi, Kevin! Happy early Halloween! Thanks for stopping by today. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Kevin: Definitely the atmosphere. There’s something about September and October that I adore. The changing in the seasons and the leaves. The pleasant crisp air. I watch and read horror year round, of course (and write it!), but during the Halloween season, mystery hangs in the air. I know that sounds terribly dramatic, like I’m trying to channel Ray Bradbury, or something. Even so, it’s true. You feel like a kid again, when anything is possible.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Kevin: As a family, we always go and get pumpkins for Jack o’ Lanterns, and then cider and donuts at our favorite cider place, a few weeks before Halloween. I always read something Halloween-oriented on the the way.

For the past five years, my daughter and I checked out Spirit Halloween soon as it opens, and take silly pictures in front of the all the animotronics.

Last year, I started my own Halloween-movie-marathon September 1st. Doing it again this year.

My pastor and guys from my church (you read that right!) have been going to Reaper’s Revenge, the past few years, in Pennsylvania. It’s absolutely astounding. The size of the exhibits, the pageantry of it all, the communal sense of being startled with friends. Even after going several times and “knowing” what to expect, it’s an absolute thrill.

And of course, Trick-or-Treating as a family! I love seeing some of the displays folks put up.

Meghan: If Halloween is your favorite holiday (or even second favorite holiday), why?

Kevin: Pretty much for the reasons I listed above. When you’re out Trick-or-Treating, that night seems like it could go on forever. It’s slightly chilly but comfortable, maybe there’s a mist rolling around the streets, and everyone has dressed up as their favorite things, or their favorite scary things. There’s also a communal sense in the town we Trick-or-Treat in; everyone’s walking the sidewalks to and fro, and it’s quite a to-do.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Kevin: Nothing much, really. Sorry, it’s a boring answer, I know. Although, I’m STILL a little nervous about open closets at night…

Meghan: What/who is your favorite horror monster or villain?

Kevin: I think it’s a toss-up between Pennywise (from King‘s novel It, though both cinematic renditions are pretty powerful), and honestly, Michael Myers of the Halloween franchise. In the novel It, Pennywise knows exactly what haunts us and hurts us the most, and knows how to use that with surgical precision, and his very presence brings out the worst in us. Michael Myers is an unrelenting force of nature, for some reason, far more imposing than Freddy Krueger or Jason Vorhees.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Kevin: To be honest, I’m not much interested in these, so I don’t really have one.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Kevin: Well, I can tell you this: I’ve never, ever, been tempted to say “Bloody Mary” three times in a mirror. And I can pretty much guarantee I’m never going to touch a Ouija board, ever.

The one about the truck shining high beams into the back of your car – either because they’re stalking you, or trying to warn you about the killer in your beak seat – is also pretty impactful.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Kevin: Again, this isn’t really an area of interest for me.

Meghan: How old were you when you saw your first horror movie? How old were you when you read your first horror book?

Kevin: I saw my first horror movie completely by accident, and for the longest time, I couldn’t remember the title, just images. I was at my Uncle’s, flipping through channels, and I came across the movie involving mannequins, in which some guy gets impaled by a pipe, and the blood comes trickling out of the pipe. That image stayed with me, for some reason. The idea this guy’s blood was gushing out of a pipe in his gut. Also, the ending was disturbing, (I’ll avoid spoilers), because it called into question my perception of what was happening in the movie, and my perception of simply being alive and volitional. Years later, I realized the movie was Tourist Trap, starring Chuck Conners.

Not counting the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series, I came to horror late. I didn’t read my first horror novel until I was twenty-one. It was Desperation, by Stephen King. I was astounded at its depth. How it pondered the meaning of good and evil, on both a human and spiritual level. It pushed me over the edge into become a horror and a Stephen King fan.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Kevin: In Silent Graves, by Gary Braunbeck. I’ll still never forget my experience reading that. It’s about a man who loses his wife and his unborn child in a terrible circumstance, and the nightmarish horror he’s pulled into. My wife was away at the time while I read it, and her absence was exacerbated by this story.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Kevin: Believe it or not, most horror movies don’t scare me, in the whole sense. I can tell you movies which made me profoundly uncomfortable, however. One of them was 8 Millimeter, staring Nicolas Cage. Maybe it’s not considered a “horror” film, but its deep-dive into the dark underbelly of the porn industry is truly horrific. And I felt like a strung piano-wire all through Sinister.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Kevin: Believe it or not, I don’t really have one. I think my enjoyment has always been the creativity of OTHERS, and their costumes, really.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

I’m not sure if I have one, but I can tell you during the Halloween season I have the Halloween and Phantasm theme songs running through my head all the time.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween candy or treat? What is your most disappointing?

Kevin: Hershey Kisses! Disappointing: Candy corn. Ugh.

Meghan: This was great, Kevin! Before you go, what are your top Halloween books and movies?

Kevin:

Books:
Dark Harvest, by Norman Partridge
Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
October, by Al Sarrantonio
Usher’s Passing, by Robert McCammon
The Halloween Tree, by Ray Bradbury
The Narrows, by Ronald Malfi (although this more takes place during October, rather than being explicitly a “Halloween” novel)

Movies:

List #1
Tales of Halloween
Fright Night
Haunt
Trick ‘r Treat
The Witching Season
Night of the Demons
From a Whisper to a Scream

List #2
Halloween
Halloween (Rob Zombie edition)
Halloween III
Halloween 2018
Hack-O-Lantern
Dark Night of the Scarecrow
Pumpkinhead

If you’re interested, I briefly discussed these movies last year on our Youtube Channel:


Boo-graphy:
Kevin Lucia’s short fiction has appeared in several anthologies, most recently with Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, Bentley Little, Peter Straub, and Robert McCammon.

His first short story collection, Things Slip Through, was published November 2013, followed by Devourer of Souls in June 2014, Through A Mirror, Darkly, June 2015, and and his second short story collection, Things You Need, September 2018. His novella, Mystery Road, was published by Cemetery Dance Publications in 2017.

For three free ebooks, sign up for his monthly newsletter on his website.

October Nights
Halloween is a night when anything seems possible.

This is true everywhere, but nowhere more so than in the small town of Clifton Heights. October nights here are long and strange, filled with both dread and transformation, and in these four shared-world tales of small-town Halloween horror, you’ll encounter things both wondrous and terrifying, in equal measure:

-A priest hears a ghostly confession on Halloween night which will mark him forever.
-A young man is offered a supernatural chance to remake his fortune, at the risk of losing everything.
-A pastor fleeing the death of his daughter comes to Clifton Heights to face his fears, but finds himself living a nightmare instead.
-Two people with supernatural talents face-off with an engine of darkness and pain on Halloween night.

Four connected Halloween tales, evoking echoes of Ray Bradbury and Charles L. Grant, taking place in a town where every day is All Hallow’s Eve. Spend the Halloween season in Clifton Heights… if you dare.