Anyway, yes, on to Pumpkinhead. The movie is based on a poem by Ed Justin, and it's a spooky little rhymer:
When I was growing up, I never heard any poems about local terrors. No "1, 2, Freddy's coming for you...", no "Tommyknockers knocking at my door..."- and frankly, I feel a little deprived. Sure there was "Bloody Mary" and that sort of thing, but nothing so grand as to have a real story- a rhyming story, dammit- attached. I can't seem to locate much info on "Ed Justin", either, so I have no idea what the context for this poem is. Is it just a silly rhyme? Was there a real legend somewhere? Does Ed Justin actually exist? I need to get all Nancy Drew on that poem's ass. Ooh, I hope I can nerd out with a microfiche at some point while solving the mystery! Turn the dial- whizzzzz!- stop- headline: Murder in the Heartland!- read read read- turn the dial- whizzzzz!- stop- picture of scary dead old lady- read read read--et cetera. Wouldn't it just all be so exciting? Sigh, dare to dream.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.
OK, I'm not sure what just happened there.
Pumpkinhead is the directorial debut of Stan Winston, the special effects/makeup guru behind such scarefests as John Carpenter's The Thing and the 1977 television special An Evening with Diana Ross. After spending years on horror movie sets, it seems Winston has picked up a trick or two. It's a very strong debut, which leaves me wondering why his other efforts have been such duds.
Lance Henriksen (wicked sweet, as always) stars as Ed Harley, a single dad trying to raise his son Billy (Matthew Hurley) the best he can, getting money from his little general store to support them on their dirt farm. They (and the other locals we meet) are a little like a celluloid version of the James Agee/Walker Evans collaboration Let Us Now Praise Famous Men . They're dirty and poor, but honest, hardworking people who...ah, you get it. Anyway, enter the city kids- the spoiled teenagers on their way to a cabin for a weekend that will include dirt bikes, beer, and probably fornicating. Damn horny teens. Actually, with the exception of the uber a-hole Joel (John D'Aquino), these are good kids- I was shocked that they were all decent and likable. Well, one dirt bike accident later, and young Billy is dead- and Joel is responsible. The teens flee to their cabin, and Ed goes to see the crusty wrinkly old lady in the woods- Haggis- to see about settin' to some revenge. And of course the scary old lady's name is "Haggis"- it couldn't be "Debbie" or something, now, could it? Haggis does some hoodoo and brings about a demon of revenge- Pumpkinhead- who will take care of those teens and anyone who gets in his way.
So we've got your standard revenge story here, right? Ha! WRONG! You are so busted. I smell smoke! Someone got burnt! (What the hell is wrong with me tonight?) Once the killing begins (and Pumpkinhead doesn't fuck around- he busts a move right to the cabin and gets down to bizness), Ed sees the gruesome acts through the monster's eyes, and yes, it bugs him. See the message, there? Who is the monster here? WHO, I ask you? I am the monster, the monster is me! What hath Ed wrought? Revenge is bad! Ed learns his lesson and decides to end what he's started- the Pumpkinhead Rampage- and it may just mean the end of himself as well.
I really enjoyed the early scenes between Ed and Billy. Even this cold-hearted snake (look into my eyes) found it sweet, and I even got a half-tear in one eye when Billy died. The relationship seemed very natural, and while Matthew Hurley was pretty damn cute, he never went for that "Daddy, I wuv you, pwease lowah your cowestewol" shit that makes me want to drown most kid actors in their fucking Cheerios. The acting was decent across the board, and of course the monster effects were stellar. Winston keeps a nice creepy atmosphere throughout, with lots of fog and some very dark, very foreboding woods. I don't really find "monster" movies scary, but this is about as close as one has ever come for me. I liked it quite a bit, and I'll give it 8 out of 10 noble dirt farmers.
There is a Pumpkinhead 2 (Blood Wings) which is most likely awful. But the cast...the cast, man- look at the caaaast! Soleil Moon Frye (that's Miss Punky Brewster if you're nasty), Kane "Jason Voorhees" Hodder, Linnea Quigley (and her bare boobs, I'm sure), Roger Clinton as...THE MAYOR, Steve Kanaly- who played Ray Krebbs on Dallas...oh man, you know I'm all over this one.