Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday Flashbacks: Pumpkinhead

Pumpkinhead 1989
Director: Stan Winston
Writers: Mark Patrick Carducci and Gary Gerani
Starring Lance Henriksen, Jeff East, John D'Aquino, Kimberly Ross, Joel Hoffman, Cynthia Main, George "Buck" Flowers, Mayim Bialik and Chance Michael Corbett

Original horror is very rare to find nowadays, so when you discover something like Pumpkinhead it is a real cause for celebration. I remember when I first discovered this film and it is such a nice diversion from the Freddy's and Jason's. It is a shame that Stan Winston never got around to directing any other horror films, but at least when he did this film he created a true modern masterpiece. The creature is horrifying and actually looks like it could exist. The film is also anchored by what I think is Lance Henriksen's finest performance other than Bishop in Aliens. The pace of the film is just deliberate enough to keep the story going, but not bring it to a full stop before the mayhem begins. This is probably one of the last great creature features made, I cannot really think of one that is as exceptional as this film.
The plot basics are this, Ed Harley (Henriksen) is a shop keeper out in the woods who lives with his young son, Billy. They seem to have a very idyllic life together, but that all changes when a group of teenagers come around to run around on their motorbikes. While Ed is running some errands, the teens are running on their bikes when one of them hits and kills Billy. Ed stricken with grief and rage, remembers something from his childhood of a demon killing some one and decides to get his own brand of revenge on the teenagers. He goes to visit a reclusive witch who has the ability to arise the vengeance seeking demon known as Pumpkinhead and as it kills the teenagers one by one, Ed see the deaths through the eyes of the demon and realizes what a horrible price he has paid to enact his blood filled revenge. He begins to feel pangs of conscience but a ultimate sacrifice must be paid if he wants the demon to stop and one wonders if Ed is strong enough to make that sacrifice.
This is a great film. Winston's direction is phenomenal. The way he uses the shadows of the darkness in the film is amazing. When he does show the monster in all it's glory it is well worth the wait. The script is very good, it is set up at first like a old fairy tale that has come to life. It is a excellent change of pace from many of the slasher films that were being released at that time. The character of Ed Harley, is of course the strongest character in the script, as the entire story hinges on your believability of his grief and rage. The cast is very good, with special props to Henriksen as he really inhabits the role of Ed Harley. He makes you feel the rage and loss that propels Harley to do this act of desperation for justice and revenge. Flowers is very good too, as the neighbor who tells Harley how to find the witch who can help him enact his revenge. He does a lot with a small but vital role, just like he does in all the genre films he has been in like They Live and Wishmaster. The SFX and effects in the film are outstanding. The demon looks real and not like some guy in a rubber suit. All the kills are quite bloody and realistic too, and really make the film that much more memorable. The score by Richard Stone is another important element to the film. It is evocatively eerie and haunting, just what a film with themes like this needs. This is a original piece of horror filmmaking and well worth a look if you have not seen it yet.
This one gets 5 out of 5

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