31 Days of Horror(1)


The Original

Pumpkinhead is the film that dares to ask, “What if Rawhead Rex was slightly better?”  It is the only worthwhile film directed by the late special effects master Stan Winston (I’m sure I’m gonna get hate mail from hardcore A Gnome Named Gnorm fans over that.)  The film concerns a group of motocross douches who accidently kill the adorable young son of Ed Harley (Lance Henriksen).

In anger, Harley goes to an old witch-woman named Haggis (Florence Schauffler) who instructs him to go to the pumpkin patch and bury his dead son.  So doing, he summons the demon Pumpkinhead (whose head, annoyingly, looks nothing like a pumpkin) to avenge his boy’s death.  Pumpkinhead goes around killing motocross douches until Harley feels bad about it and comes help vanquish the monster.

The film is too good to write off but not much better than that.  Stan Winston has a solid premise, a decent atmosphere, and a genuinely great pratical movie monster.  Unfortunately, it has no memorable characters beyond Ed Harley and the demon mostly just throws people around, completely defeating the point of having something so awesome and scary looking.

Pumpkinhead 2 - 01

The Sequel

Pumpkinhead 2 is directed by Jeff Burr, who directed yesterday’s surprisingly decent Stepfather 2 as well as the vastly underrated anthology horror film From a Whisper to a Scream.  It concerns a young deformed boy, supposedly the son of some incarnation of Pumpkinhead, who is beaten to death by generic 50s popular boys.

Sean Braddock (Andrew Robinson) is the new sheriff in town, he’s a local boy who moved to the city but has come back to keep his rambunctious daughter under control.  Unfortunately, his daughter Jenny (Ami Dolenz) has broken the land speed record for falling in with the wrong crowd and ends up with a group of rambunctious teens who break into an old witch’s house, recite a spell to resurrect the dead over the deformed child’s grave, and burn witch’s house down.

Naturally, the boy comes back as a Pumpkinhead, starts killing off the guys who killed the boy in the 50s so it can move on to killing the teens who hurt the witch and woke him up.  Also, his amount of wings (blood or otherwise) are equal to the amount in which his head bears a likeness to a pumpkin.  There’s a justification for “blood wings”, but they should really just learn how to title more literally.

Pumpkinhead 2 - 02

Does It Hold Up?

Totally controversial statement and I want to remind that I’ve only ever seen this movie one other time when I was 12 on the Sci-Fi channel, so I’m as surprised to hear me say this as you are, but I think it’s actually a little better than the first one.  Pumpkinhead 2 does commit the sin of overexplaining the monster and I really feel like the literal demon from Hell is the last character who needs sympathetic qualities.

The streamlined nature of the first (it pretty much happened over one night) is jettisoned for a much more slasher-style framework that doesn’t quite kill the moment, but try’s its damnedest.  Fortunately, the actors and characters are better (if only somewhat this go-round), Pumpkinhead still looks amazing (he’s especially creepy from a distance), and we get a handful of pretty decent gore effects.

I will say that casting Andrew Robinson is a mistake.  Robinson is wonderful but having him play a bland nice-guy sheriff, whose only traits are loving his daughter and doing the right thing, is like starting a campfire with napalm.  Otherwise, the casting is solid and it’s fun to see Punky Brewster as a witchcraft-obsessed goth girl or a young Kane Hodder with sensible-sized arms as a big dumb good ‘ole boy.

I don’t think anybody needs this movie in their life but the stories of its infamous awfulness are greatly exaggerated.  Save your hatred for parts 3 and 4.

Pumpkinhead 2 - 03

Watch, Toss, Or Buy?
I’d say give it a watch.

Where Can I Find It?
There’s a pretty solid blu-ray release by Scream Factory.