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.

"After Aliens, times were hard, the bills needed paying..."

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.

"Mind the kid" "What kid" "Shit, I bet that will cause his father to unleash an ancient vengeance demon on us"

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.

Just Droid's type

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.

Yes, you are very scary, but you don't have a PUMPKINHEAD

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.

"Hey good lookin'"

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,

Jarv

 

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About Jarv

Workshy cynic, given to posting reams of nonsense on the internet and watching films that have inexplicably got a piss poor reputation.

44 responses to “But he doesn’t have a…. Pumpkinhead!”

  1. Jarv says :

    Before anyone points it out, I do know why he’s called Pumpkinhead. Not that it makes any sense at all, but I do know.

    And I did try to do this without spoiling, so plotwise it’s a bit sparse.

  2. Droid says :

    The collective noun for douchebags is Chelsea Football Team.

  3. Tom_Bando says :

    *Pumpkin Pie’s great. You’re missing out.

    *This sounds okay. Never seen it.

    *Very 80’s looking.

  4. just pillow talk says :

    Aside from your usual attack on American food intake, the review is pretty spot on. I haven’t seen this in a loooong time, but I do remember it definitely NOT being frightening and really quite funny.

    • Jarv says :

      Not scary in the slightest. Entertaining as hell, and the first half is quite creepy.

      Are you saying my description of Thanksgiving was inaccurate?

  5. kloipy says :

    great review Jarv. I really like Pumpkinhead and you are totally right about the monster itself. It’s a great design. Haven’t seen any sequels except for 2, but did you know they made a computer game out of the second one?
    Pumpkin Pie is AMAZING. How dare you slander our pie! Move the fuck outta my way apple, it’s pumpkin or bust.

  6. Jarv says :

    Anyway, you two:

    Sweet Potato with marshmallow and Cornflakes.

    Justify this horribleness.

  7. kloipy says :

    courtesy of Paula Dean
    Ingredients
    1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
    2 cups canned pumpkin, mashed
    1 cup sugar
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1 egg plus 2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
    1 cup half-and-half
    1/4 cup (1/2 stick) melted butter
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, optional
    1 piece pre-made pie dough
    Whipped cream, for topping
    Directions
    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

    Place 1 piece of pre-made pie dough down into a (9-inch) pie pan and press down along the bottom and all sides. Pinch and crimp the edges together to make a pretty pattern. Put the pie shell back into the freezer for 1 hour to firm up. Fit a piece of aluminum foil to cover the inside of the shell completely. Fill the shell up to the edges with pie weights or dried beans (about 2 pounds) and place it in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, remove the foil and pie weights and bake for another 10 minutes or until the crust is dried out and beginning to color.

    For the filling, in a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese with a hand mixer. Add the pumpkin and beat until combined. Add the sugar and salt, and beat until combined. Add the eggs mixed with the yolks, half-and-half, and melted butter, and beat until combined. Finally, add the vanilla, cinnamon, and ginger, if using, and beat until incorporated.

    Pour the filling into the warm prepared pie crust and bake for 50 minutes, or until the center is set. Place the pie on a wire rack and cool to room temperature. Cut into slices and top each piece with a generous amount of whipped cream.

  8. Jarv says :

    See even Marshmallows in Sweet Potato is evil. I won’t let Mrs. Jarv do it.

    She’s sulking, because our oven is fucked so doesn’t think she’ll be able to do Thanksgiving this year.

  9. Continentalop says :

    So does this thing appear at the most sincere pumpkin patch in the world on Halloween night or what?

    • Jarv says :

      Ha!

      No, there’s a pumpkin patch on top of his grave which is on a plinth in an old indian graveyard.

      Also, nominations are up Conti- go and add yours.

  10. Continentalop says :

    And Pumpkin Pie rules. Fuck yeah.

  11. ThereWolf says :

    Nice one, Jarv.

    I do rate Pumpkinhead. Great creature, but then I expect nothing less from Stan The Man. Lance gurns his way through the festivities magnificently! I love the bit when he pitches up at the witch’s shack and he’s proper “oh, fuck, I’ve dropped a bollock here…” but there’s nay going back.

    A bowel of douchebags?

    • Jarv says :

      That is funny- “Did you think that this would be painless” and the look on Lance’s face- it’s exactly like the look if he bit into a burger and found a turd inside.

  12. Lb says :

    This term: “gurnig” what’s that all about. It sounds like Iroquois to me.

    Please explain.

    Secondly, pumpkin pie is wretched-unless it has it has whipped cream added.

    Pumpkin pie plus whipped cream instantly becomes ambrosia.

    Also, you sir, are a lout for inconveniencing mrs. Jarv with your bollocks about complaining about her cooking when you have so conveniently avoided cleaning the oven.

    Final point, you chav, is I told you this movie doesn’t suck.

    Now, I’ll be in the kitchen with mrs. Jarv teaching her how to whip cream on her pumpkin pie while you watch pumpkin head 2.

    That movie is quite bad, but the pie is quite good.

    Cheers!

    • Jarv says :

      “Gurn” (vb)

      “A gurn or chuck is a distorted facial expression, and a verb to describe the action. A typical gurn might involve projecting the lower jaw as far forward and up as possible, and covering the upper lip with the lower lip.”

      I have just discovered that there is actually such a thing called “The World Gurning Championship” held in Rural England. Fucking yokels.

      Pumpkin Pie, even with whipped cream, still tastes like road filler.

      I do most of the cooking, so the oven is indeed clean.

      Mrs. Jarv has many fine points, culinary talent is not one of them.

      Pumpkinhead is indeed great.

      Cheers

      • Tom_Bando says :

        You should also be regaled by a nice side-dish of Fiddleheads. Stick some vinegar on’em, they’re good for what ails you.

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