For the two seasons of Brooke Knows Best, Glenn Douglas Packard encouraged Hulk Hogan’s baby girl to pursue her dreams of stardom. They were goals he knew well, having already conquered the dance world through his Emmy-nominated choreography. The multi-talented Packard says there was one long-time love, though, which took years to tackle.
“I have always done lectures and talked about everybody always following their passions and doing what they love,” said Packard. “One of my passions happened to be horror and horror films.”
For years, Packard’s love of scary movies took a backseat to other pursuits, namely dance. Told as a child he might never walk again, the Michigan native not only did, he became one of the entertainment industry’s most sought-after choreographers.
By the time he landed the VH1 reality series gig as Brooke Hogan’s gay best friend and roommate, his resume was brimming with success. Dubbed a “dancing entrepreneur” by The New York Times, Packard has worked with everyone from Pink and Liza Minnelli to Usher and “The King of Pop” Michael Jackson, for which he earned an Emmy nomination.
While reality TV took Packard from behind the scenes to being a recognizable face within the LGBT community, he notes that was nearly a decade ago. Since then, a series of professional experiences – including work on a Bollywood movie – confirmed he was ready to pick up the camera himself.
“In Bollywood, they have the choreographer come onset, the director steps back, and the choreographer pretty much directs the whole scene,” he shared on a recent episode of Party Foul Radio with Pollo & Pearl. “That was when I realized I was ready to direct my first film.”
WATCH: The Pitchfork Movie Trailer
In 2015, Packard sat down to make his dream a reality. Now 18 months later, Packard is anxious to introduce the world to his creation: Pitchfork. Written in the typical teens-getting-skewered vein of Friday the 13th and Halloween, this film carries a queer twist.
After coming out, Hunter (Brian Raetz) invites a group of friends from his New York performing arts school for a weekend with his family. Unbeknownst to either the teens or his parents -- especially his less-than-supportive father -- a maniac is on the loose. With the exception of the rampaging psychopath, Packard says early elements of the film (set in his hometown of Clare, MI, and filmed on his family farm) are semi-autobiographical.
“When I sat down with the writer of this film [Darryl F. Gariglio], I had all these ideas in my head. I based a lot of the events on me coming out to my family,” he shared. “I lived in New York City at the time and would always bring my friends back with me to the farm to make me feel a little more comfortable around my dad and mom.”
In conversation separate from the podcast, Packard shared how uncomfortable it was coming out in such a small, rural area. He expressed the all-too-common fears of rejection from both his community and family. Those real-life tensions, he said, seemed the perfect cinematic backdrop.
“I felt it was a great way to introduce these characters, who are in the right place at the wrong time,” said Packard. “Then you get to see this gay character, that we don’t always get to see in these films, be a strong, confident person by the end.”
At its heart, Pitchfork is a first-time director’s nod to many of his core influences growing up. In the beginning, Packard serves a little Footloose, later offers a tongue-in-cheek homage to ‘80s John Hughes films and even sandwiches in a fully-choreographed dance scene. (Keep an eye out for the extra sexy “Rocky,” played by Keith Webb, formerly of Packard’s E! Network series Men of the Strip about a Las Vegas male revue.)
“I came from the dance world, so of course my first film -- even if it’s horror -- there’s going to be a dance scene,” Packard acknowledged with a laugh.
The real star of the film, though, is the title character. With one hand replaced by – you guessed it! – a pitchfork and sporting an animal-fur mask, “Pitchfork” is alternately childlike and psychotic. He longs for physical contact -- then kills when rejected. He is also shirtless.
“I thought about the gay horror fans –- and the female horror fans -– and I have this background in male revue,” Packard explained, “So right away I knew my villain, my slasher, was going to be shirtless.”
Actor Daniel Wilkinson manages to make “Pitchfork” both frightening and sympathetic. The product of a twisted upbringing, touched upon at the film’s torture-horror finale (think Saw), Packard assures the character’s backstory will be explored in greater detail as the “franchise” unfolds.
The first in a trilogy, though this installment begins with the central character’s sexuality as a key focus early, viewers should certainly not expect a psychological examination of the coming out process. However, Packard notes the LGBT role increased dramatically when shooting Pitchfork.
“Hunter’s death was a lot sooner in the film originally,” he shared. “That sort of changed during the 21 days we filmed in Michigan. Does the gay character stay alive or not? I was making those decisions while we were filming.”
After considerable thought, Packard came to his conclusion -– one he hopes the queer community appreciates.
“He’s really the hero of the film,” Packard stated during an off-air discussion of the film. “That was really important for me, to show that gay people can be strong in a way we are not always represented.”
Pitchfork is now available on video-on-demand and other online streaming services.
For more information, visit the film’s official website.
LISTEN: “Party Foul Radio with Pollo & Pearl” featuring Glenn Douglas Packard & two-time Tony Award-winning actress Christine Ebersole