Review: Pumpkinhead (1988)
|Review||Pumpkinhead (1988)||Director||Stan Winston|
|Writer||Mark Patrick Carducci and Gary Gerani|
|Cast||Lance Henriksen, Jeff East, John D'Aquino, Kimberly Ross, Joel Hoffman, Cynthia Bain, Kerry Remsen, Florence Schauffler, Brian Bremer, Matthew Hurley and George “Buck” Flower|
“What you’re askin’ got a powerful price” – Haggis
When a group of young adults inadvertently kill his only son Billy, Ed Harley (Henriksen) seeks the mysterious powers of Haggis (Schauffler), a backwoods witch, to bring the child to life. Instead she resurrects Pumpkinhead, a huge clawed demon that answers only to Ed’s bloodlust. The young adults consist of Chris (East), Joel (D’Aquino), Kim (Ross), Steve (Hoffman), Tracy (Bain) and Maggie (Remsen) and they are targeted by Pumpkinhead and one by one they meet their grisly fates.
“Pumpkinhead” is all about effects and atmosphere and it scores big on both fronts. Makeup maestro Stan Winston took the director’s chair for the first time and showed he’d learnt a thing or two about storytelling and made this monster/slasher hybrid into a beloved cult item for horror fans. The makeup effects are awesome and Pumpkinhead is a really terrifying creature. Basically it is a guy in a suit but I seriously doubt modern CGI could better it much. Winston also utilizes the backwoods scenario to great effect with very atmospheric locations and fantastic sets and all set in foggy and dark surroundings.
Once Pumpkinhead begins his reign of terror we’re greeted with well pulled off set-pieces where the group of youngsters are picked off in gruesome fashion. It’s akin to the slashers of the late 70’s and early 80’s and the kill scenes here are well executed.
But while I say that the film is all about effects and atmosphere I’d be doing it a great disservice by not complementing the really good acting and the successful core story that elevates “Pumpkinhead” quite a bit. Henriksen and Hurley, though not with a lot of screen time together, convey a wonderful father and son relationship and it really packs a punch when Billy is run over by Joel with a motorcycle. Quiet moments between the two and good chemistry ensure that Ed’s drastic measures are convincing when his mind is solely set on vengeance. Henriksen is really good here and realistically plays it when Ed backtracks on his fateful decision once he sets out to destroy Pumpkinhead. The youngsters are well played as well with D´Aquino the stand out as the fairly reprehensible Joel but even he elicits some viewer sympathy to a point. Flower is also good in his part, Bremer too and Schauffler is quite terrifying as the backwoods witch…not all that dissimilar from Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead concoctions.
The fabricated mythology behind Pumpkinhead is a good one with a killer tagline; For each of man’s evils a special demon exists. It’s a good scary tale that shows how vengeance can be exacted when the thirst for revenge can’t be quenched but the price is far too great. An age old tale, to be sure, and told in a semi old fashioned monster movie way but quite effective. “Pumpkinhead” ages with grace and is well deserving of its acquired cult status.
Review: Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings (1993)
|Review||Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings (1993)||Director||Jeff Burr|
|Writer||Ivan Chachornia and Constantine Chachornia|
|Cast||Andrew Robinson, Ami Dolenz, Soleil Moon Frye, J. Trevor Edmund, Hill Harper, Alexander Polinsky, Gloria Hendry, Lilyan Chauvin, Caren Kaye, Joe Unger, Roger Clinton and Steve Kanaly|
“Bolted doors…and windows barred…guard dogs prowling in the yard…won’t protect you in your bed. Nothing will…from Pumpkinhead” – Sheriff Braddock
Sheriff Sean Braddock (Robinson) has just moved his wife Beth (Kaye) and daughter Jenny (Dolenz) to a small town. Jenny makes friends with Danny (Edmund), Marcie (Frye), Peter (Harper) and Paul (Polinsky) and one night they unwittingly resurrect a demon when they’re out doing some mischief. They also indirectly cause old witch Miss Osie (Chauvin) to be burned and near death.
The demon they conjure up is called Pumpkinhead and once he arrives a few male citizens in the small town meet grisly ends. Sheriff Braddock investigates the murders and finds out the victims all have a history and that old history may reach to the present and come knocking for Jenny and her friends.
“Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings” is not directly tied to the original. The demon creature has a different backstory and motivations and for the most part the film plays it’s story as a kind of mystery. A very predictable mystery at that and not very well written. Pumpkinhead goes about exacting vengeance on his own behalf and while the screenwriters may have believed some viewers would be scratching their heads as to where this was going I really do think most will be many steps ahead of the proceedings. And while the original scored big with a fantastic dreary atmosphere and quality acting the same can’t be said here. The script also presents some very questionable characters and behaviour that’s downright annoying at times.
With all this said I do enjoy “Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings” very much and always watch it right after the original. Director Jeff Burr is very able in staging the bloody set pieces when the creature does strike and the film deserves much praise in how gruesome and well pulled off these scenes are; in particular the final showdown is quite tense and suspenseful. Despite an obvious low budget the special effects are good and the bloody mayhem looks convincing. While the core story of how vengeance is enacted on those deserving (and those not so deserving) is not nearly as involving as in the original it is fairly effective, especially in a brutal B&W prologue scene.
The acting is very hit and miss. Robinson is quite good as the Sheriff and easily slips into a good guy role as he’s mostly known for portraying bad guys memorably. Dolenz is fine as always but her role isn’t all that good or consequential. Edmund doesn’t register well as the bad boy (much more effective as the good guy in “Return of the Living Dead 3” – 1993) and the rest of the teenagers are very forgettable. Supporting actors like Kanaly and Unger are fine and there are welcome appearances by genre favourites Linnea Quigley and Kane Hodder but two others here really do some damage. It must have been some inside joke casting Clinton as the town mayor as he’s alarmingly bad in only two short scenes and Hendry is saddled with some cringe inducing lines and behaviour and comes off very badly.
All in all though; “Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings” is pretty good. Good set pieces, bloody kills and an adequate revenge story with that terrific monster is a fine way to kill less than 90 minutes.