Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Film #15: 'Pumpkinhead'

"How have you not seen 'Pumpkinhead'?" used to almost be the catchphrase of a friend of mine.
I don't see him all too often anymore, but I'll probably bump into him at this year's Horrorthon, and my response now would be that "I have seen the film, and it was wonderful!"

OK, he probably won't have a point of reference for this outburst unless he happens to mention 'Pumpkinhead' in conversation, but I'll explain what I mean after.
Before that, I'll explain it here.

'Pumpkinhead' is a 1988 horror film, directed by special effects artist Stan Winston. It tells the story of a man who seeks the help of a witch to help him after his son is knocked down and killed by some teens. The witch - unable to resurrect the dead boy -  summons a demon, Pumpkinhead, to seek bloody revenge on the kids, who fled after the accident.

This film was Stan Winston's directorial debut, having previously worked as a special effects artist on films like 'The Terminator', 'Aliens', 'Predator', and notably creating the monstrous dog creature in 'The Thing'. The film also stars Lance Henriksen as the father.
It stars some people as teenagers, and another person as a kid, but considering how early on he dies I think giving him a credit in this review would be using up a lot of space for something I only intend to brush over.

'Pumpkinhead' has been described as a dark fairy tale, and it's hard to argue with that description - the whole film feels like a folk tale, no police are called, no hospital consulted after the death of his son, the man heads straight to a family in the woods to seek a witch, who then tells him that in order to help him she will need him to visit a cemetery, dig up a corpse, and perform a ritual with it. Everything up to and after that point is a dark tale straight out of a (probably Germanic) fairy tale.

No, it's not the most polished film. The screenshot above is a good example of how this film is one errant stick away from being great. It's not always a stick in the way, sometimes it's the dialogue because, yes, the dialogue is a little dire in parts - No, it isn't so bad that it's funny though.

But the story in this film is such a d*mn good idea, well told, and the creature alone makes this a strong recommendation. The creature design might borrow a little from the aliens in 'Alien' but it's so distinct in its own way, gruesome and expressive, so well detailed that it doesn't need to be cloaked in the shadows to be effective. Considering how much time the creature spend dragging teens up into trees, swinging them about, throwing them, and stabbing them with guns hiding this thing wasn't high on Stan Winston's list of priorities so the detail that went into really be appreciated.

Out of 10 I'd rate 'Pumpkinhead':
"Yes, in hindsight, it took me an embarrassingly long amount of time to finally watch this film" out of 10.

Side note: This film was also a nice relief after a slow run of sh*t films, to be put back on the horror track by a film that genuinely deserves to be a cult classic was just a blast.

'Pumpkinhead' is available of DVD in places that sell DVDs. If your local DVD seller doesn't stock it, throw whatever proportion of hissy-fit you deem necessary to let them know that they have let you down.

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