Concert/Film/TV Reviews

Peter Hartsok and Daniel Simoni Reveal How They Subvert Horror Tropes in ‘The House on Pumpkin Drive’

"With the horror comedy genre today, filmmaker’s seem to go for laughs with horror motifs as a background...."

Pumpkin Poster Small

Catering is one of those jobs where everything has to be perfect to ensure a happy customer. It makes sense considering said customer is paying top dollar for the cuisine and looking to impress their guests. But what happens when the customer is the certified psycho who expresses dissatisfaction with kidnapping and torture?

This is where we meet Jerry, played by Grant Carriker. He’s a caterer from Pepino’s Party Planning that’s summoned to supply a dinner party at the odd Pumpkin Drive residence. From there, his world becomes a nightmare at the hands of Santiago (Nicholas Tucci) and his Igor-like servant Francisco (Chris D’Amato).

This colorful premise behind The House on Pumpkin Drive is the brain-child of the co-writing, directing and producing team of Peter Hartsok and Daniel Simoni. But unlike most straightforward horror flicks, the duo has created a gumbo of movie genre norms while also showing their love for classic horror films and anti-humor.

Before the film debuts on Day 2 of the Atlanta Horror Film Festival, Hartshok  revealed to BeatsBoxingMayhem why The House of Pumpkin Drive will subvert all your horror expectations.

 

With stories like this, I’m always interested in knowing if they’re rooted in a true-life experience. Do either of you have a catering past or a customer service horror story?

The film is not directly inspired or based upon any true life experiences, and neither of us have had any kind of history with the catering industry. However, although not explicitly grounded on any real moments, both of us have worked worked in the customer service industry and recognize the uncomfortably and anxiety of forced pleasantries with people you’d rather not deal with.

Can you expound on the “anti-humor of the world” observation and how that factored into your creative process for the film?

So the central thought behind the anti-humor genre of the film comes from a variety of personal inspirations for us; Ed Wood, Tommy Wiseau, the rise of Adult Swim— we’ve noticed these bizarre filmmaking antics pair well with, surprisingly, horror. With the horror comedy genre today, filmmaker’s seem to go for laughs with horror motifs as a background. Rather than use of comedy for levity, we found it surprisingly effective at exacerbating the overall tone of anxiety and discomfort.

Jerry_PumpkinDriveClassic horror is revered but it can be difficult to use those themes today since viewers are cynical and harsh. What has made you confident that a film inspired by the classics can work?

The reason we were so confident in our use of classic horror cinema tropes comes from our rejection of narrative conventionalism in the film. We sought to re-contextualize motifs found in classic horror into an unusual form, and think that keeps it fresh for the audience. Viewers follow along with patterns previously engrained from horror, and then we subvert the expectation to keep em’ guessing.

Is there a particular character that carries most the comedy elements and vice versa for the horror?

The straightforward answer to this is obviously, Jerry— the bumbling caterer— allows us to empathize and laugh, while the menacing Santiago spooks us, giving us the same nervous kind of laughter he gives Jerry. We think this simplistic way of viewing what’s funny and what’s scary is not effective in diagnosing this film however; we aimed to blur the line between the terrifying and the absurd, and think this view translates to its characters as well.

What is the biggest overall takeway you hope viewers will get from the film?

A simple “what was that?” will do.

***

The House on Pumpkin Drive will air during the Horror Comedy Shorts Program #6 beginning at 4 p.m. ET on Friday (October 26). Tickets are available HERE.

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