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Wednesday 14 October 2015

Burl reviews Pumpkinhead! (1988)

In an Octobery frame of mind, it’s Burl, here to review you a corn-pone backwoods Gothic tale of curses and hullabaloo! Yes, of course it’s Pumpkinhead I’m talking about, the original one I mean, the one that opened exactly twenty-seven years ago today! Ha ha, I’ve yet to see any of the others they made, the blood wings or what have you!
But this one I saw at the picturehouse, the same cinema in which I saw Child’s Play just a few weeks later! But, ha ha, when they were screening this one, the theatre was in the midst of some kind of renovation; they had taken out the entire huge middle section of seats, leaving only a thin strip of seats, rows of six or eight perhaps, up each side! The floor was clean, so naturally my friends and I, the only ones in the theatre, sat on the deep grade and watched from there! We had our big coats to recline on, so it was very comfortable!
And I was excited to see the movie, for I had been primed by the stills in Fangoria magazine and by the mere fact that the picture was directed by famed trick effects man Stan Winston! Ha ha! And indeed the trick effects were very fine, and the backwoods atmosphere with its big fake pumpkins was artificial but thick, and although it wasn’t a case of discovering my new favourite movie, I did not come away disappointed!
That, however, was in 1988; how does the movie stack up these days? Ha ha, glad you asked! The story of course has quite purposefully the feel of a rural fairy tale, of the sort meant to ward off bad behavior! It seems that in some unnamed but remote region of the United States, a pumpkinhead is running around! Or at least, he’s running around once someone commissions him to commit some vengeance!
That someone is Wally Schirra himself, Lance Henrikson, well-known from The Quick and the Dead, Nightmares, Aliens, The Horror Show and of course The Visitor! Some citified young folks happen by and go dirtbiking, and before you know it, Henrikson’s beloved little son, who looks a lot like the kid from Death Valley, has been run down! This part of the picture made me sad! Anyway, most of the city folk aren’t bad sorts, but Lance doesn’t know that, so he visits an old crone and gets that gosh darn pumpkinhead on their tails! Ha ha! Watch out, kids, it's a pumpkinhead!
From there it hews closely to the structure of a slasher picture, with the pumpkinhead taking out the city kids one by one! Lance has a change of heart and decides blood vengeance isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and it turns out that he and the pumpkinhead have a closer relationship than either of them would be comfortable admitting, which makes sense because Lance and the pumpkinhead don’t look all that dissimilar! The pumpkinhead has bigger shoulder blades though, that’s for sure! Ha ha!
I like the multiple layers of backwoodsiness in this picture! Ha ha, Henrikson already seems to live in the backwoods, but when he goes looking for vengeance, he has to travel further still into the backwoods to find George Buck Flower, whom we know from The Fog and Teen Lust and who’s always a welcome presence even in all the crazy cornpone sk*n flicks he did; and there he is told he’ll have to go further into the backwoods to find the old crone, who tells him that he’ll have to travel still further into the backwoods to dig up the pumpkinhead!
Anyway, it’s still a pretty charming little picture! It looks nice and moves fairly quickly, and, like its contemporary Scarecrows, it’s reasonably Halloweeny! It could stand to be a bit gorier though, I think – it has a bit of tomato paste, but a couple of Rawhead Rex-style head pullings would have gone a long way! Ha ha, and though I think Stan Winston did a fair job for a neophyte, it never really gets as creepy or scary or hillbilly weird as you want it to! Still, an enjoyable fricassee, and I give Pumpkinhead two and a half extra-big shoulder blades!

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