Sunday, October 27, 2013

Chiller Classics Presents: Pumpkinhead (1988)

Hello and welcome to another session of Chiller Classics. Today, as you probably figured out, I'll be talking a little about a movie that I watched recently for the first time in over a decade, Pumpkinhead.  It was on my "to watch" list for quite a long time, but there was always a reason that I never got around to watching it, be it another movie took precedence or just life in it's many distracting forms.  But that is finally a thing of the past now.  So allow me to take you back to one of the best decades ever for horror, the 80s.

The plot is very simple: One day Ed Harley (Lance Henriksen) goes to mind his store with his son Billy.  While there, five teens from the city drop in to stock up on some food for their cabin and do a little dirt-biking in the area while parked.  Harley takes off to deliver something to one of his customers and leaves Billy to mind the store.  Billy's dog runs out the door to chase after the dirt bikes, with Billy making chase.  He accidentally gets smashed by one of the dirt bikes ridden by teen Joel, and Joel panics and drives off.  The rest of the teens go to their cabin to call for help, except for Joel's brother who stays behind with Billy.

Even Pumpkinhead can't resist taking selfies.

Harley returns to find Billy on the ground, and drives off with him.  Sadly, Billy later dies in Harley's arms. Devastated by this, Harley takes action.  He has heard of an old woman who lives in the nearby hills who has strange powers and tries to get info as to her exact whereabouts. Upon getting the info, Harley immediately makes his way there.  Unfortunately she is unable to bring Billy back to life.  However, she offers an alternative plan: to summon a revenge-taking demon called Pumpkinhead to find and punish the teens responsible for the death of Harley's son.  Harley goes through with it, but because he is linked to the demon by blood, he psychically sees and feels the suffering that the demon causes.  Unable to bear it any longer, he goes out to try and stop the destruction he has started.

Pumpkinhead is a gold mine of 80's horror and cheese.  Admittedly, there are a few issues revolving mainly around the talent level of the supporting cast, as well as some weak dialogue.  But let's face it, you're only going into the movie to see Lance Henriksen and the Pumpkinhead demon dishing out payback to some dumb city kids.

Ed Harley's hatred of pitchforks was not unfounded.
Even though effects legend Stan Winston directed Pumpkinhead (Winston's directorial debut I might add), he didn't actually do the effects this time around, instead delegating the responsibility to a team of effects artists.  And an incredible job they did.  I personally love how Pumpkinhead looks, and I thought it was a nice touch that Pumpkinhead's face eventually altered shape to gradually take the likeness of Harley's face. Despite the premise of a demon remorselessly killing off people, the movie is not nearly as gore-filled as you might expect it to be going in.  But it still delivered enough to satisfy.

Admittedly, I never really got around to seeing the sequels after all this time.  I do recall one of the sequels being on TV once, and I also recall me turning it off after seeing that whoever was responsible for that particular sequel thought it would be a great idea to go with a CGI Pumpkinhead for the part I watched.  A VERY shitty looking CGI Pumpkinhead I might add.  Maybe sometime if I feel like punishing myself for something I'll dip into the sequels and see what comes of it.  For now though, I'm still feeling that happy feeling after seeing the classic original, and I urge you to make it a part of your Halloween watching quota.

Movie Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Horror Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

- Ken Bucklesworth.

@KenBucklesworth, @BoonsBuckles

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