A title that almost makes sense- Pumpkinhead 3: Ashes to Ashes

After the utterly abysmal Pumpkinhead 2, I was somewhat trepiditious about continuing with this franchise. You know how it’s meant to go: Stunning first film, mediocre second, passable third, and so forth until you hit “derisory concluding chapter”. Take the Alien films, for example: Alien is classic, Aliens is classic, Alien 3 is very good (fuck you all, I like it), Alien Resurrection is mediocre, AvP is crap, AvP:Rectum was the Moonwolves worst film of the last decade and a franchise killer. Which, while I’m thinking about it, will not be resurrected by that stupid prequel flight of the cock jockey nonsense. Pumpkinhead, on the other hand, bucked the tried and tested formula by going straight from very good to fucking terrible missing out all stops in between. This meant that, in all likelihood, Pumpkinhead 3: Ashes to Ashes would be AvP:Rectum levels of awfulness.

Furthermore, the omens weren’t good for it. There’s a significant time gap between Blood Wings and Ashes for Ashes (always a sign of impending suckitude), and worst of all it was made for TV by the Sci-Fi Channel. Now, Sciffy may be somewhat passable nowadays with the likes of Mammoth, Infestation and Pandorum actually being good films, but back in 2006, even seeing their name attached to something meant that you would be looking more at a Minotaur than a Mammoth.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, it was an absolute nightmare to get hold off, and the version I eventually watched had fucking Swedish subtitles.

No, my fellow Changians, this one did not look good.

And yet, somehow, it’s actually not bad. I know that sounds unlikely given the above pedigree, but I enjoyed Pumpkinhead 3: Ashes to Ashes.

This time out, we’re watching a direct sequel to part 1. This picks up the story of the redneck Wallace clan, particularly Bunt, and their failing crematorium. It introduces us to other people in the town, including the nefarious “Doc” Fraser, and brings back the witch Haggis and (best of all) Lance Henriksen as the ghost of Ed Harley. The Wallace clan is in a bit of a mess nowadays, their crematorium is a bust, and Doc Fraser has been harvesting the organs of the local population for sale on the black market. Through sheer bad luck, they’re caught in the act by a hiker and his murder alerts the population to events going on. In particular, however, it alerts Molly Sue Allen, and Ellie, Richie and Ronnie Johnson. When the local law enforcement are bringing the bodies out of the woods, they disturb Ed’s corpse (under its pumpkin grove) and bring the witch out of retirement. The angry quartet go to the witch for vengeance, and summon Pumpkinhead to wreak havoc on those that have wronged them. Ellie wimps out and  tries, with the help of Bunt, to right the wrong herself, while Doc works out that to beat Pumpkinhead he’s got to murder the quartet. The film ends with Ellie crawling into the cremation oven, killing Pumpkinhead (in a really lousy piece of CGI) and then, superbly, with Haggis taking Ellie’s charred remains and burying them under the pumpkin bush- which is a great nod to the first part.

So, that’s a pretty run of the mill horror plot. In that case, why is it relatively successful? Well, for a variety of reasons: firstly, and most importantly, the decision was made to pretend that part 2 doesn’t exist. This was a great call, and as a direct sequel to part 1, this is not a bad effort at all. The mythology is returned to, and if anything strengthened, and the new elements in the story are effective and interesting. It was also amusing to see the state that the Wallace clan were in 20 years down the road, and it was amusing to see the evil Doctor at work. A good, clever, idea.

Secondly, Ashes to Ashes is actually fun. It’s horrendously daft, obviously, but the kills are messy and inventive, there are some good comic moments in it, and unbelievably, I actually found myself rooting for Ellie towards the end. In part this is down to how over-seriously everyone took it. Lance in particular seems to have turned into Bishop for some reason, given how sombre he is. They were clearly aiming high with this one. The atmosphere of the film is a bit patchy, if I’m honest. The first appearance of the Witch is suitably spooky, but I had the feeling that the film had already shot its load with the kidney heist performed in the first 10 minutes (yuck, by the way). There is also a false climax about 2/3 of the way through the film that breaks the action (and not in a good way), meaning that the eventual actual climax of the film is a bit limp and soggy.

Finally, the special effects are, for the most part, practical and good. If anything, any time you see CGI in this film, it’s actually crap. There’s an epic effect early on when Lance’s corpse transforms into Pumpkinhead that’s borrowed straight from American Werewolf in London- which, by the way, is exactly what to do: copy one of the finest transformations ever put on film. I was wishing, actually, that there had been no CGI in this film at all, because it’s universally terrible- Pumpkinhead’s swishing tail, for example, is utter crap and a bit laughable.

Having talked a bit about Lance, I should really talk about the acting in general. Doug Bradley (of Hellraiser fame) is suitably slimy and evil as Doc Fraser, and Lance is magnificently stoic when talking about being damned for all eternity, but the rest of the cast aren’t up to much. Tess Panzer and Ionna Ginghina (she must be a porn actress) are burdened by having to fake a terrible deep south accent, and they aren’t up to the job. Douglas Roberts and Lisa Mcallister (why in the name of Satan’s unholy sphincter would you cast a Scottish Actress on the cheap as a meth-head with a laughable accent? The fact that she doesn’t suck is a minor miracle in itself) as the surviving Wallaces are much better, but even then there isn’t going to be a Golden Graboid in the offing for either of them any time soon.

The writing is also patchy, being a mix of good ideas, reasonably dialogue, and truly awful pacing. One of the prime problems with it is that there is a forced motive for Molly Sue’s actions (she’s the driving force behind the reanimation) in that she’s avenging her dead son (who died naturally), which is a complete overreaction. Furthermore, I don’t know a lot about black market organ harvesting, but I bet I know a lot more than the writers, given that I know that you have to take an organ pretty fast before it’s unusable. You can’t, say, put it in an ice box and then shlep it around shady motels.

 Overall, this comes under the heading of “Pleasant surprise”. It’s actually highly watchable and reasonably amusing. I am truly astounded, as although it never gets near the levels of the first film, and it is ludicrously flawed, I spent enjoyable time watching it, so much so that I was actually looking forward to part 4. All in all, this is a top drawer Sciffy production (which means it’s slightly above average), and it is certainly worth a look. I give it a very surprised 2 Changs out of 4- who would ever have thought a film shot on the cheap in Romania would be this passable?

Next up is the final part, which is a bit of a let down.

Until then,

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.

83 responses to “A title that almost makes sense- Pumpkinhead 3: Ashes to Ashes”

  1. Jarv says :

    Yup.

    Enjoyed it.

  2. just pillow talk says :

    This series sounds like something I would only catch flipping through channels and coming across it on syfy or chiller or some shit like that.

    Not that it sounds horrible compared to others, but it’s also not something I would go out of my way to track down.

  3. Droid says :

    I’m really disappointed. I was hoping that this would be even worse than two.

  4. Continentalop says :

    So Alien3 is good but the Departed sucks? Gotcha.

      • Droid says :

        I liked The Departed well enough, but Alien3 is a much better movie.

      • Jarv says :

        See, I don’t like the Departed. I think it’s actually a bad film, briefly enlivened by Wahlberg- but to be fair I do compare it to the vastly superior Infernal Affairs

        Infernal Affairs FTW!

      • Continentalop says :

        You do know it is not IA right? I mean they didn’t go out and make a shot by shot remake like Let Me In. And are you familiar to Whitey Bulger & the Winter Hill Mob?

      • Jarv says :

        It’s a remake of an excellent recent original, and so it is natural to compare.

        On a basic level, I detested Jack in that, severely disliked the ending and the “romance” in it. I think it’s a bad film in its own right, but when compared to IA is a truly dreadful one.

        I know nothing about whitey etc.

      • Jarv says :

        Actually, detested is a bit strong. I need a word that comes between that and “Strongly disliked”

    • Tom_Bando says :

      I really liked the Departed. Including Jaack. Alien III was okay.

  5. koutchboom says :

    Jarv, I’m curious. What comic book movies (if any) do you like? And don’t say A History of Violence. I’m talking custom characters comic book movies.

  6. Continentalop says :

    Actually Flash was originally a comic STRIP character.

    But personally I think there is actually a big difference in comic book heroes (Superman, Batman, Captain Marvel) and comic strip heroes (Flash Gordon, the Phantom, Dick Tracy). The movies always fuck up by treating them like comic books.

    • koutchboom says :

      So you didn’t like The Shawdow or the Dick Tracy movies?

      • Continentalop says :

        I hated the Shadow. It was trying to hard to be Batman and didn’t have the tone of the pulp magazines or the radio show.

        Flash Gordon I like, but just because of the sound track and campiness. But my favorite version of Flash was the Filmation cartoon made in 79.

      • Tom_Bando says :

        Conti Pops for the Win here.. Yes, the Filmation Flash Gordon was GOOD. Shockingly–Filmation had a was of lousing up Anything and Everything (Bat Mite, anyone?) it got its hands on. But the Flash Gordon from ’79 was pretty good.

    • Jarv says :

      That I did not know.

  7. Continentalop says :

    And I agree with koutch, they should make a Sub-Mariner or Aquaman movie. Two words: underwater & 3-D.

    • koutchboom says :

      Yeah it would be something different with the genre. Because both those guys are gods (well I don’t know Aqua mans full deal). Thats why I’m very interested in Thor, because its not some scientist gaining power one day. Nor are they vigilante stories.

      • koutchboom says :

        I just hope Thor has some fucking bad ass score. Because that has been something that is seriously fucking lacking in all these new comic book movies. I like TDK stuff but for Thor I want a more basic pure, Fanfare for the Common Man style of epicness.

    • kloipy says :

      I just want to see two comic book movies. Bone and The Maxx

    • Jarv says :

      Isn’t Aquaman kind of shit, and I always thought that the Sub-Mariner was a villain.

      I know nothing

      *Hangs head*

      • koutchboom says :

        Sub Mariner is off and on again good guy/bad guy. He started off as a bad guy.

        Aquaman gets made fun of because of his silly custume. They did do a pilot for a possible show, after all the buzz about a Aquaman movie from Entoruage. It was a spin off from Smallville.

      • Jarv says :

        I’ve only ever seen him have the piss taken out of him in things like family guy.

        His costume is ridiculous as well.

      • koutchboom says :

        Yeah I don’t know a hell of a lot about him. I think he’s part human part manfish people. And his father is the king to atlantis or whatever the underwater world is called and his mum is human.

      • Jarv says :

        Underwater city would be Atlantis.

      • koutchboom says :

        hahah BOTH Namor and Aquaman come from Atlantis. I thought one of the big two would’ve thought of some silly made up underwater world other that atlantis.

        To be fair Atlantis is my favorite real life myth. Thats why i hated that shitty Disney movie.

      • Continentalop says :

        Sub-Mariner is a classic anti-hero.

        Aquaman is a Sub-Mariner rip off, made much more family friendly by DC.

        Aquaman does have a cool looking arch-enemy with Black Manta.

      • Jarv says :

        Shouldn’t sub-mariner have been introduced in a Fantastic Four film? I’m sure he was their villain.

      • koutchboom says :

        I think he was the Avenges first villian. I think he’d make for a good villian for that film. But he was around before both Avengers and Fan 4. I’ll let Conti give justice to the history I’m just briefly skimming over on Wikipedia.

      • Jarv says :

        The Villain of that shitpile will be Hulk. And it has “epic failure” written all over it.

      • koutchboom says :

        Yeah actually Namor was the villian in Fan Four #4 (1962) and Avengers #4 (1964). But he has a whole long history on Golden Age Marvel comics.

  8. Continentalop says :

    Underwater city is actually Poseidonis. Atlantis in DC is a lost continent.

    • Jarv says :

      Righto then.

      I stand corrected. I could have sworn I saw a cartoon recently (either FF or some Batman iteration) that featured one of them and talked about Atlantis/ Atlanteans.

      • koutchboom says :

        Ok Namor was born in Atlantean, but raised in Atlantis. Sort of like Mel Gibson’s American/Aussie upbringing. Fuck Mel would been a good choice for Namor right now He’s acting, not so much phsycially.

      • Continentalop says :

        Sorry I thought you were talking about Aquaman. In Marvel Atlantis is a city, in DC I think they say it is a let continent.

        Well in Marvel it was a continent as well because REH’s Kull stories were part of the Marvel Universe.

        So in short, even I’m confused.

  9. Continentalop says :

    Sunny first appeared in the Golden Age, 1939. He fought against and with the Original Human Torch. In 1946 he teamed up with Captain America, the Torch, Whizzer and Ms. America as the All-Winners Squad. His last GA appearance was in 1954.

    Then about a decade later he reappeared in FF#5 and teamed up with Doom in #6. He was a noble villain who fought the surface world and the FF, and was attracted to the Invisible Girl.

    He later on did fight the Avengers and was the one responsible for Captain America returning (he found him in a block of ice).

    My lunch money will be on the table.

    • koutchboom says :

      Hey if you actually had all those issues….then you’d have a fuck ton of lunch money.

      • Continentalop says :

        I have the reprints.

        The should do a Golden Age Human Torch movie, because then you could have him fight Subby when Namor hit NY with a giant tidal wave and do an Invaders movie.

        It would bomb but I would love it.

      • Tom_Bando says :

        Wasn’t there this goofy story line in the 70’s where it turned out the Vision was a combo of Wonder Man’s mind and the Orig Human Torch’s Body–?? *Hangs head in shame for remembering this*

        I had some of those *Hangs head in shame again*

      • Continentalop says :

        Yep Tom. Immortus revealed it as part of the Celestial Madonna storyline, right before he performed a double wedding of Vision & Scarlet Witch, and Mantis and a dead Swordsman.

        They should adapt that story.

      • Tom_Bando says :

        They should but they won’t. Conti Pops is da man w/ the comics trivia/history stashed inside.

  10. Continentalop says :

    Hulk should be the villain – the Avengers formed to stop th Hulk’s rampage but than realized he was just the real villains patsy.

    If you are going to have the biggest heroes team up, you need a good reason. A rampaging green monster who can dropkick a tank is a good reason IMO.

    But I still bet the movie sucks.

  11. ThereWolf says :

    All right, Jarv. I might have a look at Pumpy 3 then. The series seems to be following the A Nightmare On Elm St series with regard to the level of quality – 1 good, 2 honk, 3 good… 4 not so good?

    For the record:

    Alien – Classic.

    Aliens – Classic.

    Alien 3 – Poor.

    Alien Resurrection – Shite.

    AvP – Shite.

    AvP: Rectum – Fucking, fucking, fucking malignant.

  12. Jarv says :

    The first one is the only one worth seeking out. Two is garbage, three is surprisingly acceptable. Four? Well, you’ll find out tomorrow

  13. Jarv says :

    And Alien 3 is grossly underrated.

  14. Jarv says :

    I understand that on the wet side of the Penines you tend to get things back to front, but it’s good and unfairly maligned.

  15. DocPazuzu says :

    That new Alien box is seriously making me consider going against my reflexive hatred of Blu-Ray and buying the fucker. Have you seen the shots from the restored Aliens print? Wow.

  16. DocPazuzu says :

    I have the quadrilogy set too, as well as a bunch of other fan-assembled documentaries and material officially unreleased on DVD, but that BR set is making my mouth water. And I hate Blu-ray.

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