Hayride Review

by Sean McLaughlin

by: Sean McLaughlin

After countless months of reviewing borderline “horror” movies (mainly the ever-popular horror-comedy genre and “found footage” nonsense) for Horror News Network, it was great to get back to basics.  Luckily, Studio 213 Films’ 2012 slasher flick Hayride ensured that my literary return to the genre was a successful one.  Writer/Director Terron R. Parsons does a great job of providing just the right elements conducive to a grand stage of terror:  Halloween, the middle of nowhere, unsuspecting victims.  Everything comes together perfectly, bringing to life the legend of Pitchfork….who could end up becoming the next great horror movie legend.

Hayride takes the audience on a frightful journey of anticipation.  An escaped mass murderer runs into the woods, being tailed by both local and state law enforcement, and heads right into the scene of one of those “haunted hayrides”.  Returning college kid Steven (Jeremy Ivy) and his girlfriend (Sherri Eakin), along with a slew of relatives and friends, are on hand to help run his uncle’s annual Halloween tradition of scaring helpless rubes who paid admission to be spooked.  Predictably, the blood and horror become all too real as the actual butchering commences and chaos ensues.  Corlandos Scott plays Detective Loomis (whose moniker furthers the Halloween ties), leading the police hot on the trail of the convicted serial killer but continually one step behind.  Since childhood, Steven has been deathly afraid of the Pitchfork character that is the star of Captain Morgan’s Haunted Hayride.  Now, he’s forced to come face-to-face with his darkest fears and try to save his family and girlfriend in the process.

Much in the vein of the “early” slasher movies (Halloween, Black Christmas, etc.), much of the first half of Hayride is devoted to setting up the plot and giving the audience a reason to feel a personal connection to most of the main players.  It’s a clever trick, because it forces a much stronger reaction when one of the characters becomes a victim.  The story builds, and builds…..in fact, it may seem like it builds a little bit too much with no real action.  However, the last 30 minutes of the movie more than make up for any drag that may’ve existed.  While not the “smartest” horror movie (for the most part being formulaic), Hayride does nevertheless blur the line between entertainment and reality for the helpless victims.  Their ignorance is truly their demise.  Over the course of the film, Parsons employs a pretty impressive body count thanks to the rapid-fire slayings towards the end.  The fact that some of this gore is set to classical music, will make it all the better and more surreal.

What more can be said of the incomparable Richard Tyson (Three O’Clock High, Kindergarten Cop)?  The former Buddy Revell shines in Hayride as Morgan, the uncle everyone loves to get drunk with.  He again brings the charm and ruggedness that serves to steady this mostly-green cast, and adds a bit of legitimacy.  Overall the acting isn’t too shabby in this film; well, at the very least it’s on par with those of its cult horror predecessors.  Other than Tyson, the real star of the movie is the character of Pitchfork.  He proves that some local legends, no matter how evil and unfathomable, are like a self-fulfilling prophecy.  In the same manner as Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, etc., sometimes pure evil comes home to roost.  Parsons proves to be more than capable of creating a memorable killer.  Also look out for the trippy strobe-light effect during the movie’s climactic battle….a very nice touch.

One of the sappiest conclusions to any movie about mass murder you’ll ever witness isn’t enough to reflect negatively on this film. Hayride is a fun ride, and will spark up those primal fears of the dark and the boogeyman that we all felt as kids.  Like I said…..I’m glad to be back to screening true horror films, without parodies or dramatic subplots muttering up the death and despair.  Studio 213 Films and Hayride accepted the challenge, and did not disappoint.  For the old-school horror crowd, this film is a must-see.

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