A blog exploring the sexy, shocking, surreal, and silly side of horror films.

May 30, 2011

Night of the Pumpkin (Review)


Night of the Pumpkin (2010)

Director: Bill Zebub

SYNOPSIS

At the beach, a pumpkin washes ashore and is promptly and cruelly destroyed by two young women frolicking on the sand. When they crush the pumpkin, their legs become covered in an inexplicable red liquid. Fast forward to mischief night when these same two women and their friends find themselves being stalked by a killer Pumpkinman. Is he just a sicko in a costume or something more bizarre that has marked them for death?

With a very low budget and a premise that sounds deceptively simple (a group of friends are terrorized by a Pumpkinman monster), Night of the Pumpkin turns out to be anything but your average horror film. Indie director Bill Zebub describes Night of the Pumpkin as his "anti-horror horror movie" -- a conscious experiment in subverting the expectations of the horror audience. As a result, Night of the Pumpkin is a monster movie that's not a monster movie. It's a slasher movie that's not a slasher movie. Unfortunately, for all its ambition and experimental ideas, it's also not a fun or exciting movie to watch.

Night of the Pumpkin may be the best indie horror movie that I'll never recommend.

Rating: 1.5 / 5 Pumpkin Heads



IS IT SEXY?

On the low-brow scale that we use to measure movies here at Monster Chiller Horror Theatre, Night of the Pumpkin hits the mark in only one category: gratuitous and almost pornographic female nudity.


A room with a view
Actresses Angelina Leigh, Kathy Rice, Sativa Verte, and Nikki Sebastian all bare their breasts and sometimes go "porno nude" (i.e. labia-and-lips) at various points without shame. Chased out of the shower, languishing in blood while being sexually attacked, struggling against sentient pumpkin vines, these women bring the only consistent level of low-brow exploitation to Night of the Pumpkin.

Nothing about this is going to turn out well
At the same time, under Bill Zebub's mission to produce the anti-horror horror movie, the nudity and simulated rape scenes are so stark and matter-of-fact that they often lose their titillating edge.
Just don't stare at her pumpkins
------------------------

On the one hand, I respect what Bill Zebub tries to do with Night of the Pumpkin. Instead of employing horror movie stereotypes, he casts and writes against the grain. Night of the Pumpkin has no real scares or gore to speak of; it's essentially a movie about characters sitting around and talking or arguing. Instead of characters making snap decisions or learning about the nature of the monster via some handy-dandy deus ex machina, the characters debate endlessly and have to deduce everything about the monster on their own. This actually leads to the film's "climactic" sequence that consists not of a violent showdown between the survivor girl and the monster but, instead, several minutes of lead actor Shoshana Mccallum sitting alone at a table writing out notes and non-violent strategies for defeating the monster. Zebub even casts against type by choosing Mccallum as his lead because of her strong foreign accent.

The overall effect of these unexpected divergences is a movie that doesn't feel like a movie. While I'm a strong supporter of cinematic experimentation and reinvention, Night of the Pumpkin does not succeed in its experimentation. Yes, it subverts the genre expectations of its audience, but it doesn't bring to the table much entertainment in exchange for what it takes away.

You do get a fair share of bikini shots for a Halloween movie, however
The movie is dull and the script is as confusing jumble of half-formed ideas. Furthermore, the dialogue on which the film depends so heavily is flat and awkward (I feel that Zebub is trying to channel the dialogue-heavy style of writers like Kevin Smith without the same ear for dialogue's natural flow and spark). On the technical side, the cinematography is roundly static, boom mic shadows creep into frame, and the effects are painfully homemade.

If Night of the Pumpkin's experimental goal was to be an unsuccessful artifact of entertainment, then it's a resounding success. If its goal was to subvert the horror genre while still entertaining its audience, it only gets half-way. I really like Zebub's concept for the film and his very smart inversions of genre. After watching Night of the Pumpkin, I'm definitely open to seeing more of Zebub's work. In the end, however, I can't recommend this movie to anyone as a piece of entertainment. On a dramatic and technical level, Night of the Pumpkin is a crude jack-o-lantern without a spark to light it.

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Creep Reel: The Willies (1991).

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