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A group of city kids go into the country to relax. While there, one of them is involved in a biking accident that takes the life of the son of the local storekeeper. In a fit of rage, the storekeeper has a witch unleash an unstoppable demon called "Pumpkinhead" to kill the group. When he realizes he's gone too far, the storekeeper attempts to save the kids, but is continually afflicted by visions of peoples' deaths through the eyes of the monster. Written by
Enthusiastically, if slightly amateurishly, made horror hokum
"Keep away from Pumpkinhead, Unless you're tired of living, His enemies are mostly dead, He's mean and unforgiving, Bolted doors and windows barred, Guard dogs prowling in the yard, Won't protect you in your bed, Nothing will, from Pumpkinhead."
So goes the poem by Ed Justin. I've never heard of it previously. I'm assuming it's more of an American pop culture thing.
Stan Winston may be the man behind many of todays horror icons and creatures but how exactly does he hold up as a director? Not that great I'm afraid to say. But let's be reasonable. This film is almost 20 years old (it was completed in 1987) and Winston has no doubt improved in many ways since. But what he lacks in style he makes up for in enthusiasm.
The ever-brilliant Lance Henrikson (the man with THE coolest voice in the world) is Ed Harley, a backwoods shopkeep who's Milky-Bar Kid-lookalike son is killed by reckless dirt-bikers. After this surprising sad and touching scene, Ed visits the house of a mysterious old hag who has ties with the forces of darkness. Wishing vengeance upon the bikers he is sent on a mission to dig up the remains of a demon buried in a pumpkin patch. With his blood thrown into the mix of an evil spell, the demon is soon resurrected and goes about his usual mission of killing people who deserve it.
And so begins a series of scenes you've seen many times in numerous Friday the 13th films and the subsequent rip-offs. Only instead of a masked killer you get a very tall, weird looking creature that looks a lot like the Xenomorph from the Alien series. Despite Winston's usually awkward framing and cutting, he does pull off a couple of good scares and generates a decent amount of atmosphere. But the constant unnatural lighting, floodlit woods and fog effects get a bit annoying.
Pumpkinhead is, essentially, a tribute to urban legends and ancient scary stories told for generations before TV and mass-communication came along. In that sense, Pumpkinhead ranks alongside other mythical characters such as Spring-heeled Jack, the Skunk-Ape, Shadow People and El Chupacabra. Many of these characters are in the public subconscious, but like I said, perhaps the Pumkinhead myth is too uncommon outside of America to make that kind of impact.
Plus, there is good amount of story going untold. The whole idea of Harley and Pumpkinhead being connected through blood and bloodlust isn't developed too well and the film should have had a stronger showdown between them. The mysterious old hag could have had a bigger part too.
But if you're in the mood for undemanding horror, with slight irony, mild mythology, an interesting killer and one of the coolest actors ever (Mr Henrikson, take a bow) then go for it. Don't expect anything groundbreaking or memorable.
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