Death O’ Lantern 1986 Review
Death O’ Lantern 1986
Directed by: Chris Seaver
Starring: Candase Patterson, Dutch Hogan,Savanna Ramone
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
It’s a shame that there aren’t more filmmakers like Chris Seaver about. He has been producing budget features for about twenty years and his filmography is packed with titles that the majority of a SLASH above readers might adore. I was first introduced to his recent work by accidentally stumbling across the Warlock Video website whilst researching a Steve Lathshaw horror flick of a similar title to this one. The name Chris Seaver was not new to me, because I remembered that he had been the director of an old VHS on the Low Budget Productions label from ’94 called, Friday the 13th ‘Halloween Night’ . It was a fan film in every sense of the word, which pitched Michael Myers against Jason Voorhees at a Halloween party. Despite being a very obvious back garden development, I never forgot about it because it was immensely gory and extremely fun. In fact, I’m somewhat surprised that it has never made it on to a shiny disc. Perhaps that’s something that could happen as an Extra or Easter Egg in the near future?
Over the years, Seaver and his buddies over at Warlock Video have continued to secure funding so that they can develop DTV chillers and they have built a solid reputation in cult circles. They recently came up with the idea of letting their fans financially contribute towards their projects and receive the benefit of an executive producer credit or something similar, which is great for the horror community and really takes the genre to its grassroots. I was hoping that whilst browsing through his extensive online catalogue I would discover at least one or two slashers. With all of his films being tributes to the SOVs of the eighties, I knew that there had to be an entry laying around there somewhere.
At 42 minutes, Death-O-Lantern is more of a semi-short than an all out extravaganza, but it’s extremely affordable to pick up so I was keen to give it a shot. It tells the tale of a small town in 1986 where the talk on the kids’ lips is still heavy metal, Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees. Four such youngsters are forced to face their own horror story when the urban legend of Stingy Jack, a child murderer who was killed in the 1800s, comes alive to haunt them a few days before Halloween night. Before long, they are battling to survive against a vicious maniac that needs to butcher six teenage souls in order to return for good…
I watched Death-O-Lantern on my iPad on the train to Reading from my home in London and I honestly had no idea what to expect. The screen lit up with a typical, but impressive, Halloween-alike score and some driving shots of a small suburban city. Within the next two minutes there was an audacious gore shot that was as exceptionally good as it was drastically cheesy and the tone had been set from there on.
You see, Lantern is not a film that wants to confuse itself and its audience in a clash of styles like so many others. Entries like Easter Bunny Bloodbath tend to build a solid foundation with a creepy intro only to shatter it mindlessly when desperation sets in and they resort to goofy attempts at humour to maintain the pace. Seaver sets a campy tone from the off and never attempts to divert far away from it and this allows his feature to remain fast moving and entertaining. As the story is set in 1986, anyone that knows their horror will remember that killers of that time were as quick with a wisecrack as they were with a machete. Well Stingy Jack is a follower of annual fashions and he quips and talks as he kills throughout the runtime, which not only keeps things cheesy, but also gives us the chance to stay up to date with the plot. The characters are defined in the archetypal fashion, but the bunny that I thought was sure to be the final girl, suddenly got splattered, which I wasn’t expecting.
It would be pointless of me to rate the dramatics because this is a time when SOVs were full of bad actors, so they are deliberately playing it tongue in cheek. Personally I found the talky scenes to be more annoying than I’d have liked, but thankfully the killings are spaced frequently enough to separate the screen time with the players. The witty dialogue, which was quite obviously pencilled from the mind of a genre enthusiast, was by far the best thing about the picture. We hear the kids discussing Friday the 13th Part VI and Wes Craven’s Deadly Friend, which were two of the biggest horror films of the year and it’s those bonus additions that set this feature apart. For such a minuscule ZERO budgeted production, the gore effects are quite brilliant and the bogeyman looked surprisingly effective in that mask and scarecrow-alike garb.
So is Death-O-Lantern a great horror movie? No. But then again it’s not trying to be. What we have here is a doorway into the mind of a fan of camp eighties horror and as I’m one of those myself, I quite enjoyed it. The ending seemed a bit ‘thrown on top’ and the comedy was a tad risqué for my liking, but yes; it is still worth a look.
For viewers with a sense of humour that understand something about a no budget production, this is a quirky effort with enough pluses in its carry case for it to deliver. Seaver is growing all the time as a director and I’ll be waiting patiently for his next slasher effort.
Killer Guise: √√√√
*Ps you probably guessed that this was not really made in 1986, it’s 2011, but why ruin a good gag?