Choreographer Glenn Douglas Packard redefines coming-out dramas with a genre-bending slasher film…
People who run on creative energy frequently have a passion project tucked away deep inside their mind. It lives there, growing and taking shape until it finally breaks free and becomes reality. For Emmy-nominated dance man Glenn Douglas Packard, that secret desire has been the creation of his own horror epic.
Glenn and I first connected in the cyber-world a few years back when a mutual friend posted a review of a movie thriller. As my longtime Florida buddy (who also happens to be named Glenn) and I were discussing the merits and shortcomings of the film, Packard chimed in…and I was like “Hey…aren’t you the guy from Men of the Strip?”.
Being a fan of MOTS frontman Jeff Timmons (98 Degrees), I’d had the good fortune to pen numerous Vegas Chatter articles about the show. Packard and crew had just wrapped up their splashy showcase at Mandalay Bay’s House of Blues and it seemed surreal that we were now debating slasher films from far-flung corners of the country.
Packard, Timmons and Foland at Men of the Strip rehearsal…
Fast forward to summer 2017, and once again I’m in Las Vegas, shadowing Timmons, show financier “Money” Mike Foland and Packard for a relaunch of Men of the Strip. One evening after rehearsals, Glenn and I (along with his associate and right-hand man David Mayorga) headed over to LGBTQ locals’ gem The Garage for cocktails…and to discuss how they turned Packard’s imagination into a silver-screen reality.
Pitchfork was created in the spirit of 70’s and 80’s franchises that, like their titular villains, refuse to stay dead. But the film’s tagline “Every Generation Has Its Monster” cuts a bit deeper. In our era of political turmoil, where LGBTQ citizens view the White House with concern and suspicion, one might ask who the true monster is.
At the home of main character “Hunter”, that answer is even more complex. Returning to his family’s sprawling rural dairy farm and estate, Hunter is about to face a stern father who recently learned of his son’s homosexuality. Hunter’s not coming back alone though, as his art-school classmates have packed into a van for the weekend to throw him a coming-out party of sorts.
Sexual dynamics are front and center in most slasher films. Those barn-loft trysts and back-seat hookups inevitably lead to a bloody demise. In Pitchfork, sex and sexual subtext permeate nearly every sequence, especially as the story reaches its outrageous climax.
It’s no accident that Pitchfork‘s maniac is a muscular, shirtless man…abs and pecs on display as he slices his way through the cast of characters. Under other circumstances he might be considered hot…in a kinky kind of way. But there’s the issue of a farm tool in place of his left hand. That’s one detail you’d probably leave out of your Grindr profile.
Both Hunter and “Pitch” have daddy issues and highly involved mothers. Each views himself as an outsider, desiring acceptance from his respective family. How they deal with being different, the way they were raised…and how they turn out as adults…offer a strong metaphor for “growing up gay” in today’s volatile and ever-changing society.
When dreaming up the concept for Pitchfork, it’s unlikely that Packard envisioned he’d one day be acting as its producer, director, casting supervisor and choreographer, too. Yes…choreographer. Would you seriously expect a bunch of vacationing art students to NOT have a barn dance on their gay buddy’s farm?
Did someone say “Barn Dance”?
Despite this being his directorial debut, Packard fills Pitchfork with plenty of style and memorable imagery. The camera swoops in and around each scene, accentuated with glorious aerial shots and starkly-lit night sequences by cinematographer/editor Rey Gutierrez. It boggles the mind that the film was recorded with a single camera in 21 days on the director’s own family farm.
Men of the Strip’s Keith Webb gets a sticky facial…
Like most passion projects, family and friends offered their time and energy to make Pitchfork a reality. Dancer Keith Webb, who also worked with Packard on Men of the Strip, amps up the cast’s hunk quotient as an ill-fated jock.
Plenty of Sin City DNA infuses the heart and soul of Pitchfork. Vegas resident Mayorga from Zombie Burlesque and Men of the Strip served as Assistant Director. Darryl F. Gariglio of Grand Adventures Tours Las Vegas was its Executive Producer/writer. Chris Arrendondo, who creates the eerie creatures and characters for Circus Circus Fright Dome, did the stunning make-up work.
Packard and David Mayorga (back row) clown around with the cast….
During filming, Packard revealed a rather moving detail in the film’s making-of documentary: the lair where “Pitch” brings his victims is the actual shack that the director retreated to when he was bullied as a child.
Growing up as a gay person, especially in a rural community, can leave scars that never disappear. In Packard’s case, he used his own safe haven as a symbol for the damage that society can inflict on a developing psyche. His courage to face those memories and channel them into something positive is echoed in a soul-baring “It Gets Better” video from 2010.
Packard told me in our conversations that the effort that went into filming Pitchfork was crazy and intense, yet everyone seemed to have a great time. One would assume that the cast of eager young actors found it cool to be in a horror movie.
Since its release, Pitchfork has won accolades and awards throughout the horror-film universe. Now that Halloween season has arrived it’s finding a new legion of fans, especially within the LGBTQ community.
Glenn continues to promote the film via conventions and screenings. And there’s even a new comic-book novelization by actor/artist Andrew Dawe-collins (“Pa Hollister” in the film) that you can check out here.
Any worthwhile slasher entry teases a sequel, even when the killer seems to be dead and dismembered. In Pitchfork, the unpredictable left-field denouement will leave you gasping…and clamoring for more. Luckily, Glenn told me that ideas for Pitchfork 2 and 3 are already swirling in his semi-twisted mind.
That’s great news for chiller-thriller fans, because every generation needs its monster-movie king. Like John Carpenter and Wes Craven before him, Glenn Douglas Packard is on his way to becoming the next Master of Horror.
Photos: Pitchfork, David Mayorga