'Pumpken' head 

Artist — and now, filmmaker — Felix Matos wants you to know that the main impetus behind his debut feature, the psychological horror film Pumpken, was that he wanted to scare his wife.

“My wife, she gets scared very easily.

She saw Hocus Pocus [the 1993 Bette Midler family-friendly witch comedy] and she jumped from that,” said Matos, noting that she hasn’t been jumping from fright that much anymore, thanks to a lack of good storytelling. “I saw that these people were making these kinds of movies, so I thought that I could make something that was halfway decent, something that I would like to watch, but my goal was to scare my wife.”

He said that his spouse hasn’t seen the finished product yet, because she is waiting for Friday’s premiere at The Parish in the Plaza District. The screening of Pumpken (the misspelling refers to a character’s name) will be followed by a cast and crew Q-and-A and an after-party.

For Matos, it hasn’t always been just about horror. His fandom of cinema long has crossed genres.

“If you’ve seen my artwork, you can tell I love movies. All kinds of movies,” he said. “But when I moved to Oklahoma City, I started doing horror conventions and people really enjoyed my horror artwork. You wouldn’t think Oklahoma City would be a great place for horror, but this is how I got into it. I never considered myself a horror person, but a movie lover. I would have never been able to do the movie without Oklahoma City.”

A two-year labor of low-budget love shot almost entirely in-state, Pumpken was born from Matos’ belief that monsters, both real and imagined, lurk everywhere.

“You can wear a suit and still be a monster,” he said.

Relying more on disturbing images and psychological terror (with a healthy dose of inspiration from the films of Guillermo del Toro), Pumpken is the story of Maggie (Sierra Hartley), a young girl haunted by terrifying visions. On her journey to find out the meaning behind these images, she enlists the aid of her kindly grandpa, played by Oklahoma legend John Ferguson, better known as TV’s Count Gregore.

“I didn’t know who he was when I first met him, but he’s a horror host in Oklahoma City for over 50 years. Everybody was looking with awe at him,” Matos said. “I did a painting for him and we became friends. He’s one of the best things that could’ve happened to the movie. I love him, and I didn’t want to typecast him. He’s not who they think he is in the movie.”

Working until the last minute due to his self-professed “perfectionist” tendencies, Matos finished post-production in New Orleans to make the upcoming premiere. He is proud that Pumpken is different from other horror films currently out.

“I love horror stuff and everything, but I like horror stuff more when it has a meaning to it — not just rolling around naked with blood all over the place screaming,” Matos said. “It’s OK, but how many times do we need to see that? Pumpken has a meaning to it.”

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Louis Fowler

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