GORE IN THE STORE
BLACK PUMPKIN **
Directed by Ryan McGonagle.
Starring Kamilla Alnes, Matt Rife, Connor Weil, Grayson Thorne Kilpatrick, Billy Armstrong, Lily Keene.
Horror, USA, 91 mins.
Released in the UK on digital platforms by Uncork'd Entertainment on 8th December 2020.
It doesn't take too long when watching BLACK PUMPKIN, the debut feature by writer/director Ryan McGonagle, to realise that the filmmaker may have seen one or two Halloween/urban legend-themed horror movies before deciding to throw everything that he liked at the camera to see what stuck. Fair play, after all, it may be the only movie he ever got to make so why not chuck all your influences into the pot, but there is such a thing as nuance or subtlety, not to mention originality.
In a nutshell, the plot is about two young schoolboys who awaken an ancient evil/local legend (take your pick) on Halloween night. This prompts said boys, their friends, sisters, bullies and everyone else around them to defend themselves against Bloody Bobby, a pint-sized goblin-esque creature who marks you by placing a black pumpkin at your door before attacking.
And that is all there is to it. It's nothing you haven't seen before – in fact, individual shots and scenes are lifted straight out of the likes of HALLOWEEN and TRICK R' TREAT, as well as the obligatory NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD playing on a TV – and nothing you haven't seen done better but aside from a few splattery gore gags there is nothing here that would upset or scare anybody over the age of eight; even the mandatory sex scene – a trope demanded of even the weakest of slasher movies, and quite often their saving grace – features two fully clothed actors clearly in their mid-to-late twenties pretending to be teenagers and is about as sexy as it is convincing, i.e. not at all. The effects aren't the worst you've ever seen in a movie of this budget, but the lairy colours and quick editing to cover up the joins makes a cheap movie feel even less expensive.
It doesn't get any better when you look towards the cast and the performances they give, with Kamilla Alnes (AMERICAN HORROR STORY) being the only stand out by actually appearing to try and add a bit of oomph. Everyone else reads their lines and plays up to the stereotypes that they have been saddled with without being either terrible enough to remember or good enough that you can enjoy anything that is being said or done, almost as if the word 'bland' was made up specifically for this film.
It isn't fair to completely rag on a film and to spin it in a positive way you could say that Ryan McGonagle knows his stuff. The fact that the movie hits the familiar beats at the right times, proving that he has seen a slasher movie or two. But, like a cover version that is a carbon copy of the original you have to wonder what the point of it is unless you are going to deviate and put your stamp on the material. BLACK PUMPKIN tries it's best to be a fun teenage horror romp, but it's just too derivative and vanilla to stick in the memory, even while the end credits are still playing.