Sunday, 30 June 2013

Pumpkinhead (1988)

I must say I was disappointed that the demonic baddie in Pumpkinhead (Stan Winston, 1988) didn't actually have a pumpkin for a head.

He had a head for a head.
When country bumpkin Ed Harley's (Lance Henriksen) cherubic little boy is run down by teenagers on motorcycles (details at eleven), Harley turns to swamp witch Haggis (Florence Schauffer) to help him wreak revenge. Using remains disinterred from a nearby pumpkin patch, Haggis calls forth a hell demon (the "Pumpkinhead") and unleashes it on the hapless teens. Said adolescents are picked off one by one until they realize that Harley and the Pumpkinhead share a magical connection. Then they do the logical thing and riddle Harley with bullets, and both he and the Pumpkinhead drop dead.

Pumpkinhead is sort of a deeply okay movie. It's not really bad (and indeed it's much better than a movie called Pumpkinhead has any right to be). It does some interesting stuff. The lighting and colour are gorgeous (there's a really striking orange/blue palette). Plus, it's a cool about-face the film pulls with its POV, starting with Ed Harley as protagonist, then switching gears halfway through to follow the imperiled teens. Generally, though, Pumpkinhead doesn't do much that a thousand other horror movies haven't done before and after, both better and worse.

The middle of the road is a dangerous place for a horror movie. The worst entries in the genre often wind up as popular as, or even more popular than, the best: look at Friday the 13th (a terrible film). There's something unique enjoyable about bad horror: the Sears catalog model woodenly reciting her lines, the monkey-with-a-typewriter script, the jump scare you see coming for ten minutes. There's a place in the annals of film for bad horror. But mediocrity? That's less sellable. (It's worth noting that Pumpkinhead got three sequels, though. Why? Who watched them?)

No Bain, no gain.
FINAL GIRL: Tracy, played by Cynthia Bain. She's unremarkable. Most of this movie's teenagers are just corn-fed, interchangeable Pumpkinhead fodder.

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