Once upon a time there was a drought in British video horror due to beurocratic arse wipes with no love for this genre churning out latex filled US imported dross in the name of horror and commerce. From out of that glut of late '80's slasher fare there would occasionally shine slivers of perfection that are still held in regard by lovers of true horror. One movie stood head and shoulders above the rest, and the idiots in power decided to call it "Vengeance: The Demon". That's gonna make 'em queue right 'round the block, right?
God bless those fine people at Tartan distribution, then, for unleashing this perfect slice of power-horror, under it's original and unbeatable title, to what should be a very very grateful public. Pumpkinhead is the brainchild of make-up effects mainman Stan Winston, who directed and came up with the stunning creation that is Pumpkinhead.
Set in the backwater, and almost mystical setting of down home, deep South America, replete with scruffy kids, distanced distracted fathers and creepy, ancient tales of witchcraft and revenge. Lance Henriksen plays single father Ed Harley who's cuter-than-hell young Son is killed by 'city folk' as they enter the village and desectrate the silence with the noisiest dirtbikes ever commited to celluloid. Revenge is all that Ed Harley can think about, and goes in search of a semi mythical Witch-like figure that, in deserving case, promises retribution in the shape of the titular character. The cost of this service, however, is more than anyone could bargain for, and here is where the movie truly shines as one of the most potent, disturbing and moving pieces of horror/drama that America has ever invented. With a monster!
Lance Henriksen is a marvel as Ed Harley, taking the smallest details of the character and feshing out the personality until you can almost smell the cajun smoked authenticity. The 'city-folk' are as annoying as they should be in order to feel a slight twinge of pride every time one of them is 'offed' by our heroic demon. And as for 'that' demon, Pumkinhead is of the top five malevolent creations of all time. You'll be rooting for him every time his large skrawny shape fills the screen. Sinewy and evil and really fucking big...the way movie monsters really should be, if there was a law.
Stan Winstons direction is strong and assured, with moments of real pathos handled with almost Spielbergian skill. The death of Ed's son is particularly harrowing, and when the movie leaps up a gear, and revenge is the order of the day, Winston handles the shocks like only a real, and very talented fan could.
The gore is restrained, favouring gushing blood over body parts and entrails, but when it comes it comes in unflinching gusto as the body count escalates and the younsters are dispatched without the slightest remorse.
And the final twist-in-the-tail is one of the more ingenious of horror history.
Pumpkinhead is a sheer joy from start to finish, with sumptious settings, smokey woods and glorious colours off setting the fan-boy love for the genre that the cinematographers obviously have. As proffessional a labour of love as anyone could possibly expect in a genre that uaually gleefully resists quality in favour of trendiness.
May Stan Winston be forever remembered as a gifted man with a love of horror movies, and not 'the guy that made Arnie famous'. The Terminator series highlights are not fit to sniff the shit of Stans most beautiful creation, Pumkinhead.
All fucking hail!
Review by Ginger
|Released by Tartan Terror|
|Rated 18 - Region All (PAL)|
|Star and director filmographies, Scene Selection, Original theatrical trailer, Tartan terror trailer reel, anamorphic presentation|