Emmy Award Nominated choreographer ‘Glenn Douglas Packard’s’ directorial debut Pitchfork has achieved some success on the festival circuit and for a debut feature is one of the more notable releases we have seen.
The opening sequence is captivating and includes the first death of the film where we are given a hint of what’s to come. This is followed by some stunning drone footage of Michigan – seriously I could watch this stuff all day, we talk about locations a lot but this one will be hard to top!
We are introduced to a typical group of slasher lambs to the slaughter – jocks, pretty girls, the intelligent one and a gay guy who is meeting his parents after ‘coming out’. Taking his friends for moral support he turns up at his folk’s house in a gay pride bus – much to his dad’s displeasure. There’s no need to go into much character detail, nobody to really bond with and for the most part the cast have to act out fairly obnoxious roles, believe me within the first few minutes you’ll be asking for the killing to commence!
Now this is where things take a strange turn, the group decide to throw a barn dance, a bit of a coming out party if you like, as mentioned earlier Packard is a choreographer by trade and seemingly used this opportunity to show his moves. The barn dance is literally a by the numbers dance.......it could belong in a cheesy pop music video and you would be none the wiser! To summarise the dance you’re either going to glance over it or be baffled as to why it belonged in a slasher film – take that how you will.
What is quite striking early on is the camera work, it is really is a nice touch throughout, more so the night shooting which is among the clearest we have ever seen. I love the production and atmosphere, the concoction of smoke machine/lights shining through woods is a credit to the film.
Another display of fantastic camera work came from the basement scene – admittedly the film isn’t scary in the slightest but the POV torch is simply ‘shit your pants territory’, the suspense of waiting for something to jump out was really quite tense – although the mothers stupidity didn’t go unnoticed........she hears a scream upstairs so heads to the basement?!
The killer himself does play a good role overall, no dialogue is used more a feral array of noises and barks which become apparent as the plot is explained. For me the mask was just a bit too goofy – it’s nice to see a new take on the ‘masked’ killer but visibly seemed too prop like, maybe it needed to show signs of decay.....perhaps maggot ridden? It just resembled something a bit too clean to be as effective as intended.
The first apparent disappointment is the gore – for a slasher homage a prime fundamental would be high death toll and gory/creative scenes. In terms of physical effects there’s not actually that much on offer, it seems that the emphasis is on the gory makeup and ‘after’ effects of wounds, I mean you can see what is happening to the victims but never really SEE what is happening until the very end where there are practical effects up close. It does become a little frustrating when the film as a whole displays a fair amount of blood just not enough in the gore department!
Pitchfork is a wide mix of sub-genres, unmistakably it’s a slasher but there are moments of horror comedy and towards the end what comes off as torture porn. Essentially it’s a ‘serious’ slasher which is why a handful of the comedy wasn't to my taste – the scene where the son has a standoff with the killer and whilst gesturing in an awkward pose says “let’s go mother fucker” draws back from the overall impression of the film.
After being quite critical of Pitchfork I did have to take a step back and remember that it is a directorial debut, which is quite astonishing, we have seen a lot worse from established directors. There are a lot of positives to be taken away from Pitchfork for one the high grade cinematography, the film has atmosphere in abundance and I have no doubt that slasher fans will be able to take something away from this.