Horror-Wood Blog-a-Thon: Pumpkinhead
Pumpkinhead is an interesting film to talk about seeing its one of the few directorial efforts by the great Stan Winston. If anything, this movie proves that he can direct a movie and its a shame he never made an effort like this before. Stan knows how to add atmosphere and work with the cinematography but something about this movie keeps me from labeling it a classic. Now don’t get me wrong, in terms of visuals its very great but the whole movie doesn’t have the alluring charm that most 1980s movies had like Night of the Creeps or Jason Lives. In short, its essentially a good looking B-movie but its far from being a classic.
Lance Henriksen plays Ed Harley, a typical farmer who lives out in the hills with his young son and runs a basic old fashioned general store. Lance’s performance is a bit questionable seeing him come off of the Alien franchise as Bishop. He tries to convey the amount of confection a father would love his son but the gruff voice almost kills it. Later on, a group of young dirt biking teenagers decide to stop in and one of them accidentally runs over his son. Before anyone gets any ideas, the kid is more or less nudged roughly by the motorbike before he hits the ground so it feels really questionable as to how fatal of a hit it was.
This for me is when Lance’s performance shines as he grieves over his dead son and we feel sorry for him. We only knew them for the first 15 minutes and we see how deeply affected he is. So what to do but consults an old witch that doesn’t have the power to bring his boy back but instead makes a deal to resurrect a monster that can set out for revenge. Its a basic premise that typical 1980 slasher cliches and does something different. Of course we are going to get the helpless female characters and the one jerk of the group who denies anything despite having a past history. But at least they are fusing it into a much different film that is setting itself apart from things like Friday the 13th or A Nightmare on Elm Street.
Pumpkinhead is more like a woods myth for modern times with the legend of the creature and how it thrives on. The monster itself is a very original design with the tail of the devil and a head that is almost close to the Xenomorphs from the Alien films. Its a unique design and I appreciate the build up to his first appearance. Another interesting plot element is how Pumpkinhead and Ed are psychically connected to the point they feel each other’s pain. Even near the end, I like the idea that the demon starts to form Ed’s face. Kind of like how its Ed’s evil side slowly taking shape.
However, as original as an idea, there’s seems to be too much of Pumpkinhead exposed that almost demystify him. There are times when we see him standing about in the moonlight too much to the point we get a good look at him. The key to any good monster is the question how much of it do you want to show. I didn’t find this beast scary but more interesting to look at. Perhaps if there was less seen of him, there would be a bigger impact. Even his killing tactics don’t feel that impressive seeing he just scratches people up or toss them from high places. There is one instance where he stabs someone in the chest with a shotgun but that’s as far it goes. Its ironic seeing the character of the witch is more interesting because of how less we see of her. In her first scene, she is placed in the shadows and can barley make out the wrinkles on her face. It has a very mysterious look to it almost as if she has done this thing before. She knows what is to come and what will happen. She adds on this Grimm Fairy Tale feel with white long locks and a memory of spells from the back of her hand.
Pumpkinhead was so close to be labeled a classic in my books but aside from how well filmed it is, there’s not much else to say about it. The whole movie is very much a Tales from the Crypt episode expanded out to a near 90 minute running time. Even odd is the red and orange color pallet that plagues the screen giving a laid back western feel like looking too desert like for a movie like this. While I do appreciate the effort and eerie atmosphere, there really doesn’t feel like much here. Its the typical slasher movie with some interesting things here and there. And don’t get me wrong, Stan Winston can direct. He knows how to add the creep factor in some spots and his special effects team never cease to amaze me seeing how rare to have a creature with a bubbling flesh look. For me however, this one just blends into the crowd of creature slasher films that tires to do something different but falls short due to a paper thin plot that is spread too light. I’m disappointed in this film but I’m not overwhelmed either. Aside from some atmospheric scenes and an amazing creature, there really isn’t much else here. Bottom line, its just simply ok.
Posted on October 14, 2014, in Horror-Wood 2014 and tagged curse, Halloween, Horror-Wood Blog-a-Thon, Lance Hendrickson, monster, Pumpkinhead, Slasher, Stan Winston. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.