But he doesn’t have a…. Pumpkinhead!
Not to be nitpicky or anything, but if I’m watching a film called, say, pumpkinhead then I expect to be watching one of two things: either a biopic of Quentin Tarantino or a film about an evil demon type monster who’s distinguishing characteristic is that he has a head shaped like a large vegetable beloved of Americans. By the way, Yanks, Pumpkin Pie is revolting- yeah, you heard me, it’s filthy stuff. Mind you, so is most of what you stuff into your gaping maws at Thanksgiving- Sweet Potato with marshmallows and corn flakes? Yuck. Oh, and while I’m on this, Thanksgiving? What? It’s just an excuse to stuff yourselves to bursting point and sit in a semi-comatose state of flatulence for 7 hours. Minimum. Mind you, I do get my yearly dose of comedy taking phone calls from an increasingly irate Mrs. Jarv experiencing epic failure in the kitchen, which is, as far as she’s concerned, the place where we keep the vodka. Honestly, it may as well be on Mars for the other 364 days of the year.
Food based digressions aside, Pumpkinhead is a pretty enjoyable slice of late 80’s schlocky fun. It’s about vengeance, big angry demons, douchebags, witchcraft and Lance Henriksen.
Pumpkinhead opens in a very backward bit of the flyover states. Mrs Jarv thought it was medieval or some such. It isn’t, it’s about 30-odd years ish before the main story of the film. Anyhow, a family have barricaded themselves in their house while a man outside is running through the wood. He begs them for help, claiming that “I didn’t kill that girl” but to no avail. The door gets bolted and he gets shredded by a large and angry-looking monster. The film cuts to the present and Harvey (Lance) is doing rural type things with his son (not incest, chopping wood and shit). Harvey owns a small grocery store on the highway, where he flogs seeds, and feed and shit to the extras from Deliverance. Anyhow, on one ordinary day a group of archetype douchebags (what is the collective noun for douchebags? A convention of douchebags? A Parliament of douchebags? There really should be one) pitch up to do a bit of dirt bike riding. One thing leads to another and the douche in chief (Joel) runs down Lance’s kid. Lance is heartbroken so enlists the help of evil witch Haggis (Florence Schauffler) and unleashes PUMPKINHEAD on the teenagers. Carnage and hilarity ensue.
This is, surprisingly, actually quite a good film. The acting in it is first rate- Lance goes through all sorts of gurning and groaning as the grieving dad, John D’Aquino is outstandingly shitty as head asshole, and Kimberly Ross is good as survivor girl, Kim. The witch is a hugely entertaining cackling old hag, and all in all this is a supremely well acted piece.
The writing, on the other hand, isn’t up to too much. The douchebag teenagers are a ridiculously one-dimensional bunch. You know that Joel is going to run down Lance’s kid on sight, because he’s drinking. This isn’t just limited to the teens, either, the supporting inbreds I’ve already facetiously labelled as deliverance extras and I’m not far off. They live in a slum, all wear dungarees of some sort regardless of age and gender, there seems to be about 95 of them in a shack the size of a telephone box and the “grandpa” says things like “you do what I tell you to boy” at every given opportunity. Still, they’re amusing enough and don’t dominate the screen, so I can’t really complain.
I’ve said that this is a good film, so I suppose I should justify it. Pumpkinhead was directed by Stan Winston, who really should know a thing or two about monsters, and the angry vengeance demon himself is an outstanding beast. The film doesn’t fuck around hiding its star turn in the shadows- you see Pumpkinhead almost from word go. And why should it hide him? He’s a superbly conceived and realised monster being modelled on Lance himself, and looks simply superb.
The first half of the film is slow burn atmosphere, and surprisingly effective. As soon as the teenagers show up there’s a palpable feeling of inevitability to what’s going to happen. The film toys with us a bit, here, having several different paths that could lead to the accident, and suggesting that each of them will be the one. Instead, and I like this touch, it discards the obvious ones (the ball) and it feels like the moment has passed when the kid dies. If that makes sense. I would also like to highlight the clever cinematography of the first section- it’s all shot in soft-filter and natural light so it feels almost idyllic compared to the absolute darkness and carnage of the remainder of the film- really top directorial stuff from Winston.
The second half of the film is hilarious. People get thrown around like dummies, Pumpkinhead beats up a cross for no apparent reason, and stomps on his victims before dragging them off to the next place. The juxtaposition of Lance gurning away and straining like he’s trying to park a coil every time Pumpkinhead picks a teenager up by his hair is fucking hilarious and never gets old. Personally, I really was giggling all the way through this (particularly at the climax of the film) and it is never less than massively enjoyable.
Pumpkinhead isn’t perfect, as I’ve said above the writing isn’t great, and it is a touch simple. Furthermore, the “twist” is pretty fucking obvious, and without labouring the point a touch cack-handed. I also can’t remember the score at all, which is unusual for me. This suggests that it isn’t particularly memorable. Worst of all, though, Pumpkinhead doesn’t have a pumpkin for a head. Bah. False advertising.
To conclude, I would recommend this. It’s good fun, never dull and more than worth a couple of hours. There’s a pleasant old-school feel to the film, and I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. While not as legitimately frightening as other horror films of the period (Candyman), and inherently laughable in places, this is a good, silly piece of schlocky horror and a thoroughly pleasing diversion. I do hope the sequels hold up, although I’m sure they’ll be shite like Pumpkinhead takes Manhattan or some such drivel. Overall, I give this 3 Changs.
Until next time,