A group of friends return home with a friend to help him share a secret only to learn that sometimes older secrets are even more deadly.
Daryl F. Gariglio
Glenn Douglas Packard
Glenn Douglas Packard
As I waded my way through the painfully awful indie flick Pitchfork, I could think of nothing else but a line uttered by Whoopi Goldberg as head writer Rose Schwartz on The Sun Also Sets soap opera – as seen in the 1991 comedy Soapdish:
“I ain’t writing nothing garbage-y like that”.
Indeed, I’ve seen my share of bad films over the years, but I can count on one hand the number of films which I was unable to find one thing of quality. And I pride myself on generally finding something worthy of praise (even in some of the smallest details) in even the worst of films.
But, I’m adding Pitchfork to the very short list of “completely useless and totally pointless films; and a failure of the highest order”. It is just terrible in every possible way.
Hunter (Brian Raetz) returns home to his family’s Michigan farm, with a group of his closest friends. He’s just recently come out to his family, so he’s bringing along this eclectic group of buddies – for a vacation, but also to help him try to find common ground with his family – most importantly, his father. His younger sister is happy to see him back and a barn-dance (which includes a great big choreographed dance number) is the first thing on the agenda. But someone is going to crash the party – a creepy dude wearing a furry mask and touting a pitchfork for an arm (hence the title). He randomly begins to kill and the film becomes a big chase and character attempts at survival.
The dialogue in Pitchfork was dreadful. The fact that Hunter is gay and has been closeted for much of his life – sets up one of the worst lines of dialogue perhaps ever written. In the climax, he’s going to try to lead Pitchfork away from his friends. He says something along the lines of “I can run. I’ve been running away from things my entire life.” Really? In the potential months of time writing and rewriting and hopefully workshopping the script, the writers never received feedback or finally saw the light that a line like this deserved the ax? Seriously?
The film tries to be like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – in more ways than one. But of course, it fails – not only in its attempts to mimic that classic of the horror genre – but in absolutely everything else. We are introduced to Pitchfork’s family at the end of the film and I was frankly waiting for close-ups of terrified eyeballs as one of the characters (I don’t know which one – they’re all interchangeable anyway) was tied up and tortured. And the fact that our group travel to this rural area in a large van – an homage detail not lost on me. But Tobe Hooper’s horror classic – Pitchfork is definitely not.
There’s also the problem of zero mention of the legend of Pitchfork or a history of someone in this rural community having information or knowledge of past atrocities. So this all comes up out of nowhere and without some basic exposition, who the hell cares? It all feels so random and not well thought out. And with no myth of Pitchfork – comes the fact that we have little history on any of the ensemble of main characters. Which means – you guessed it – broad stereotypes.
Among the cast, there was no quality to be found. Proper reactions were barely there and line readings at a grade-school level. Nothing about the performances was inspired, believable or even mildly acceptable.
The lighting was noticeably flat and uninspired. The nighttime scenes were atrociously lit – with big spotlights off in the distance; bathing the woods (as an example) in illumination. There’s no clear attempt to mask the lighting or to offer some basic rationalization for such brightness. Just some big can light a few 100 feet away – it’s totally explainable, right? And on that note, there’s an inexplicable continuous flow of fog infiltrating both the farm and the nearby woods.
The use of a drone throughout is extremely distracting. While I’ll happily admit that the technology now available to indie films in the form of drones – is a wonderful new development, but when the filmmakers choose to overuse it, the entire artistry and novelty of it is lost. Yes – use it to create epic moving shots of your landscapes (say in the opening moments as done here), but when you start using the drone in conversation scenes, or other moments which clearly don’t require such sweeping movement, you start to look as though you’re simply trying to get your money’s worth out of the drone rental or drone purchase. Enough already.
I am used to bad character choices in horror films. It’s par for the course in the genre, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. But there are so many ill-advised and ridiculous choices by the characters in Pitchfork, I was very early on shaking my head and saying aloud, “C’mon… really?” Case in point, the mother hears her daughter scream in the farmhouse – from the daughter’s room upstairs. So what does the mother do? She goes to the basement to investigate. Huh? Also, it’s established early on that the family farm which is the center of the story – is right off a road. And yet – every single chance the characters get to run and try to escape – they choose to go deep into the woods.
And we all know the laughable idea that Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers are able to shamble along slowly, but still be able to either catch their prey or get ahead of their intended victims. Pitchfork has a near-supernatural ability to do those things, but there’s no attempt to disguise the stupidity or absolute unfeasibility of such things. True; willing suspension of disbelief is a real thing when watching films, but Pitchfork simply asks too much.
The makeup and gore effects are all right, but you rarely see the injuries actually happening. It’s all a before and after shot – which screams amateur.
There are no characters with whom you can identify. There are no scares or suspense. There are zero technical pieces of the film which worked. The dialogue is hysterically bad. And yet – upon further inspection of the film’s history/details, I find that it has won several film festival awards. I simply don’t get it.
As I bring this rehash/review of something “garbage-y” like Pitchfork to a close – by pointing out my belief that nothing worked here, I do have to mention that the dude playing Pitchfork (who is shirtless and masked in some sort of animal skin) was quite sexy with a hot bod. So when I say there was nothing worthwhile here, I apparently misspoke.
One of the actors had a hot body.
And that’s all I can say. That’s it. Nothing more. So I stand corrected.
And that leaves us with quite a strong recommendation of the film as a whole, right?
Pitchfork is scheduled for theatrical release on January 13th, 2017.