Some time circa 1995, Mr. Hall, Latin instructor for an Eastern seaboard middle school, inadvertently created a horror cult classic with a gaggle of student collaborators. With naught but a shoestring budget and storyline, a whipcrack special effects crew, a microphone taped to a three-foot ruler, a hand-held camcorder, and a backpack full of dreams, Hall and director Sam Meeker crafted an extraordinary vision: a world caught in violent upheaval due to the arrival of renegade pumpkins from outer space.
Having landed on Earth, the pumpkins descend upon God's Acre to wreak havoc and terrorize the public. The middle schoolers they first encounter, however, are no mere pushovers. Quaking with fear to their very bones, they run at first, but once they realize there's no place to hide, they choose to stand and fight. Selflessly, Latin teacher Mr. Hall (playing himself) volunteers to take on the orange menace, but cowers in fear at their awesome powers. In his absence, Sam and Ian follow close on, and as Sam bravely calls down the pumpkins, he becomes their first victim.
This sets up Aynsley's legendary line, one of the most storied ad-libs in all of film: "Never send a man to do a woman's job!" (AFI's 100 Years 100 Movie Quotes, where were you on this one??) Yet the very sight of a roving pumpkin strikes such terror in this scream queen's heart that she collapses and dies immediately from sheer fright. All seems hopeless for our ragtag band of pint-sized freedom fighters...
Cut to the reception office, where Jim steps in for a hall pass after a 'doctor's appointment' (a likely story), the lead-in to Ms. Ricchio's ominous bit of foreshadowing: "I hope you're not...too late...". Jim hurries to class and, instead of encountering a room full of declensions and Ulysses, finds himself in the midst of a hideous bloodbath. All too soon, his body is brutally added to the carnage, as well.
Puzzled by the lack of news, another plucky preteen pulls up his tweed trousers and decides to take matters into his own hands. Justin seeks out a weapon before entering the fray, and upon opening his locker, finds only Ian, who has barricaded himself within to save his own trepid skin. Surveying the wreckage, Justin at first can find no sign of the pumpkin perpetrators...and when he looks out the window, a sneak attack from above sends him plunging several stories to his death. The special effects for the defenestration scene rank among the most exquisite in middle-school cinema history.
With that, the pumpkins make their move, spilling out into the school corridors and forcing the students to flee into the alleyways. Mr. Hall, emboldened by some newfound internal strength, resolves to end this cucurbital incursion once and for all. But will he succeed? There's only one way to find out...watch the video link below!
The film has no soundtrack; it was rumored that talks to have the film scored by Billy Corgan broke down over licensing stipulations. Yet the Dolby-free background din in the current version creates a compellingly eerie ambience, not unlike Hitchock's The Birds. The video is not in perfect condition; the ravages of time and digital transfer have taken their toll, but future efforts will be devoted to painstaking restoration of lost frames. A Criterion Collection edition may be in the works in the future.
***TRIGGER WARNING***: Pumpkins were harmed in the making of this film.
Mr. Hall - Himself
Sam Meeker - Victim #1
Aynsley Briggs - Victim #2
Jim LaRose - Victim #3
Justin Marcus - Victim #4
Ian O'Brien - Coward
Ms. Ricchio - Herself
Vinayak Kakodkar - Scared Boy
John Manzella - Grateful Boy (uncredited)
Mediha Abdulhay - Extra
Marco Barrone - Extra
Julia Fiorentino - Extra
Godfrey Lee - Extra
Alyrene Dorey - Girl in Reception Office (uncredited)
Adam Marushak - Gaffer
John Manzella, Justin Marcus, Jim LaRose - Pumpkin trainers
Sam Meeker - Director