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The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: Pumpkinhead

October 17, 2018 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Pumpkinhead

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #481: Pumpkinhead

The 2018 October Horrorthon: Week 3

Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that firmly believes that dirt biking anywhere is just a bad idea that’s just going to lead to someone getting hurt, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number four hundred and eighty-one, The 2018 October Horrorthon continues with the 1980’s classic monster/revenge movie Pumpkinhead, which hit movie screens in October of 1988.

Pumpkinhead

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Pumpkinhead, directed by the now late but always great special effects legend Stan Winston, is a bizarre horror flick that, despite a great looking monster and a fine performance from star Lance Henriksen, doesn’t quite gel as well as it probably should. For one thing, I don’t think it’s violent enough. A movie like Pumpkinhead, at least to me, needs to be gory, or at least have a few gory moments. The monster should also be able to move and be a true blue physical threat to the characters it’s after. Instead of a physical threat, the monster in Pumpkinhead is essentially something that can rarely be filmed actually doing something other than stand there and, maybe, throw someone. Why the hell isn’t this thing biting people’s heads off?

So what the heck is Pumpkinhead about? The movie stars Lance Henriksen as Ed Harley, a single father and small business owner in a mega rural community that seems to be about thirty years behind the times. When Harley isn’t running his little general store, he’s working on his farm or doting on his young son Billy (Matthew Hurley). It’s a life that Harley likes and enjoys. Things change drastically for Harley when Billy is accidentally killed by Joel (John DiAquino), a city slicker douchebag in town with a group of fellow city slicker douchebag friends to camp and ride dirt bikes and whatnot (Joel hits little Billy with his dirt bike when Billy tries to gain control of his rambunctious dog Gypsy). Seeing his son dead transforms Harley into a vengeance seeker, but instead of taking matters into his own hands and hunting down Joel and the others, Harley seeks out Pumpkinhead, the legendary monster that, when summoned, kills those that need to be killed.

Now, some people believe in Pumpkinhead and know he’s real, while others don’t quite know if the killer creature is real but still respect the possibility that it’s real. Harley knows that Pumpkinhead is real, as he saw the creature kill a man when he was a child (we see this at the very beginning of the movie). Harley just doesn’t know how to bring Pumpkinhead out. Harley asks the wise hayseed patriarch Mr. Wallace (the great George “Buck” Flower) if he knows where Haggis (Florence Schauffler) can be found. Haggis is allegedly some sort of old country witch that knows how to conjure up the monster. Wallace tells Harley to stay away from both Haggis and Pumpkinhead and bury Billy, as getting involved with the witch or the monster is bad news. Harley doesn’t listen, though. Harley wants vengeance for his dead son.

Mr. Wallace’s oldest son, Bunt (Brian Bremer), overhears Harley’s anguish and agrees to help him find Haggis, as he thinks he knows where she is. Bunt isn’t going to take him all the way to her domicile, though, as he’s terrified of the deep, dark woods she apparently lives in. So Bunt takes Harley about halfway to the Haggis hideout and Harley manages to find the old woman’s house. Harley explains his situation, explains what he wants to have happen, and tries to gain Haggis’s help. She doesn’t want to help at first, as bringing Pumpkinhead out into the real world is dangerous and a real pain in the ass. Haggis eventually agrees to give Harley what he wants and tells him what he needs to do. Basically, Harley needs to go out to an old cemetery and dig up a weird grave that has some sort of creature thing in it. That little creature is Pumpkinhead.

So then some stuff happens, Pumpkinhead grows to its full size, and Joel and his friends become targets for destruction. Now, while all of that was happening, Joel tried to hold his friends hostage. Joel didn’t want any of his friends to call in the authorities as doing so might reveal that Joel was drinking when he hit and killed Billy. If that happens Joel might go to prison (he has a record). Joel’s friends try to talk some sense into him, but he won’t budge. It’s too bad that the little kid died, but Joel just isn’t going to pay a price for it. Joel has better things to do.

Before Pumpkinhead shows up, Joel’s friends almost get the upper hand on him. Almost. There’s a fight, there’s lots of yelling, there’s crying, etc. There’s a chance someone in the group might do the right thing and bring in the cops. But Pumpkinhead shows up and kills Steve (Joel Hoffman) and everyone both panics and decides to band together to get the hell out of there and, maybe, defeat the creature. Before the friends can come up with an actual plan, though, Pumpkinhead kills more of them, and suddenly it’s a race against time for the slowly dwindling group of friends. Will they be able to survive the night?

While all of that is going on, Harley starts experiencing weird sensations that coincide with each Pumpkinhead kill. These sensations cause Harley to drastically rethink his need for revenge. He goes back to see Haggis and tries to get her to stop Pumpkinhead. Unfortunately for Harley, once Pumpkinhead is set into motion, the creature can’t be stopped until it fulfills its purpose. Harley can’t accept that rule as a rule. There has to be a way to stop Pumpkinhead.

So Harley sets out to find a way to stop the vengeance seeker and save the dwindling group of friends. Will Harley figure out how to stop the creature, or will Pumpkinhead complete his assignment?

As I said at the beginning, the Pumpkinhead creature is phenomenal looking. As portrayed by Tom Woodruff, Jr., Pumpkinhead is a terrifying and formidable creature. However, since the creature barely moves he isn’t as scary as he could be. In retrospect, Pumpkinhead may be a little too alien looking for what the movie really needs, mainly a monster that can move. There are a couple of instances where Pumpkinhead actually moves and it’s freaky as hell. It just doesn’t happen enough. Also, as I said at the beginning, Pumpkinhead just isn’t violent enough. Why isn’t the monster ripping off arms and legs, crushing heads in its jaw and being just generally nasty and disgusting? There are a few nasty moments, yes, but to be truly great Pumpkinhead needs to be way more violent.

Why isn’t Pumpkinhead more violent? I don’t know. I don’t understand why director Winston didn’t want more nasty stuff in his directorial debut. Perhaps Winston wanted to do the opposite of what was expected of horror movies in the late 1980’s? Maybe he thought the Pumpkinhead story was a tad too “classy” for “standard blood and gore.” I don’t get it. It just seems obvious that what Pumpkinhead needs more than anything else is more gore, more nastiness.

The group of city slicker douchebag friends isn’t great, either. None of them really stand out and, truthfully, outside of Joel, I don’t remember any of their names. None of them have much personality and, as a result, when they start dying it doesn’t matter. Had they all been torn apart perhaps we’d feel some sympathy for them. Maybe. As the movie currently exists, though, they’re just a group of friends you couldn’t identify if your life depended on it.

Lance Henriksen does a great job, though, as Ed Harley, the vengeance seeking single father. He makes you feel his pain when his son dies, and then makes you feel his pain in a different way when he tries to stop Pumpkinhead from killing people. He’s totally committed to the part and there isn’t one false note in his performance. It’s always a pleasure to see an actor of the caliber of Henriksen do his thing. His performance is the main reason to see Pumpkinhead.

It’s also a hoot to see the great George “Buck” Flower in anything, and he’s awesome as Mr. Wallace, the old guy with a large farming family. There’s an innate authority in his voice and, hell, with the way he stands. It’s also cool to see him play a non-nut job type character. If only he were still alive and working, because I think he’d be a much sought after talent in both movies and television.

Brian Bremer does a decent job as Bunt Wallace, the kid that helps Harley find his vengeance. He’s annoying and a bit of a smartass, but then you expect that from a teen male, regardless of where he’s from.

As for Florence Schauffler as Haggis the old witch? She will give you nightmares. Her voice, her look, it’s all unsettling. She deserves to be just as much of an icon as Pumpkinhead.

Pumpkinhead isn’t that great. It’s entertaining and, to a degree, deserves its place in the pantheon of somewhat popular cult movies. Lance Henriksen is great in it, the Pumpkinhead monster is scary looking, and it’s Stan Winston’s first movie as a director. Those are all important facts in Pumpkinhead’s favor. It just needs more nastiness. With a creature as cool and scary as Pumpkinhead, Pumpkinhead should be a gorefest. I just don’t get why Winston and company didn’t go that route.

Still, see Pumpkinhead if you haven’t already. It’s worth it, even if it isn’t as good as its “classic” reputation suggests.

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: 7

Explosions: None.

Nudity?: None.

Doobage: A pretty moody opening titles sequence, double barrel shotgun hooey, a guy running in the woods, a scarecrow, an unseen attack, a flamethrower, a necklace, dirt bike hooey, an old wives’ tale, dirt bike stunt bullshit, apple eating, more dirt bike bullshit, total phone destruction, a massive punch to the face, firewood to the back, a family with way too many children, silver coins, a skeleton, grave digging, a weird ceremony, hand slicing, blood dripping, more hand slicing, face scratching, head smashing through glass, body dropping, more shotgun hooey, gun rammed through a man’s chest, coyote attack, hayseed bullshit, an old, abandoned church, cross breaking, of screen total vehicle destruction, motorbike throwing, flamethrower hooey, weird eyes, bullet to the head, a full on body on fire, and a deliberate set up for a sequel.

Kim Richards?: Big time.

Gratuitous:1957, Lance Henriksen, hand washing, running into the house, feeding the dog under the table, receipts, Lance Henriksen making funny faces, a group of douchebag young people, fresh vegetables, a cannibalism story, George “Buck” Flower, talk of Pumpkinhead, kid’s rhyme about Pumpkinhead that makes Lance Henriksen have a flashback to when he was a kid and saw Pumpkinhead kill a guy, dirt bike hooey, Lance Henriksen digging a grave, a crucifix, multiple instances of body throwing, a dog hiding in s toy chest, Lance Henriksen using a flamethrower, and a deliberate set up for a sequel.

Best lines: “Will it be all right? Should I be afraid?,” “Why doesn’t Daddy let the man in? He can’t. He just can’t,” “Daddy, I made you a present,” “Why do you always have to carry that stupid rifle with you? Cus you never know what you gonna find in the jungle, yo,” “Check out this kid’s glasses! We’re talking Coke bottles!,” “Do you have any beer, sir?,” “Jimmy Joe, you done bad,” “Do you have to encourage him? Maggie, he’s my brother,” “Where the fuck is he going?,” “Did you call for help? Jesus, this is crazy,” “Joel, just give me the keys, all right?,” “Man, I don’t believe this!,” “I told him it was just an accident!,” “Looking for your pa,” “Mr. Wallace. Please,” “She can’t help him. All she can do is take you straight to hell,” “Who are you?,” What you’re asking got a powerful price,” “When we get out of here Joel is going to be carrying his balls home in a knapsack. Remind me never to piss you off, Tracy,” “You can go now, Ed Harley. Now it begins,” “You gotta do the right thing and you gotta do it now,” “Lock the door!,” “It’s what you wanted,” “Goddamn do! Goddamn you! He already has, son. He already has,” “I’m the one you want!,” “No! No! Joel! No! You don’t know if it’s dead!,” “What do you know about that thing that’s after us?,” “I think it’s here now,” “You get away from here. You get away from my kin,” and “Can’t you stop this? Can’t you call it off?”

Rating: 6.9/10.0

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Things to Watch Out For This Week

Reprisal

Reprisal: This is the latest low budget action flick featuring Bruce Willis, and it looks like he’s got Frank Grillo co-starring with him and Jonathan Schaech is the bad guy. Grillo’s presence in the movie is a plus as he’s one of our newer action stars and he rarely delivers a bad performance. Willis doesn’t seem to be very engaged in the proceedings, though, based on the trailer (which I can’t display for some reason. Just go to YouTube and check it out). I hope I’m wrong and this movie is entertaining. I really need to dig into these low budget Bruce Willis movies and see what the heck is going on with them. Why does he keep doing them? Is it a money thing? How much money could he possibly get for making them?

BonehillRoad

Bonehill Road: I saw this low budget horror flick last year at the Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival and it was weird as hell. Written and directed by the great Todd Sheets, Bonehill Road starts out as a werewolf movie and then, after about a half hour or so, it becomes a very different kind of horror movie. To say that things get sadistic would be a serious understatement. Watch for the great Linnea Quigley, who shows up in the middle of the movie and goes through some nasty shit. I liked it, but I do kind of wish that it stayed a full on werewolf movie. Those monsters are scary as fuck.

BuyBust

BuyBust: This action flick from the Philippines has quite a bit of buzz at the moment, as it’s apparently both a solid, well made action flick and a sort of “explanation” of what the heck is going on in the Philippines right now when it comes to that country’s “drug war.” I have no idea how accurate that description of the plot is, but I’d also imagine that the average movie watcher is going to pick this up because of the action, not so much the politics. I think it looks okay. The running time worries me (over 2 hours? Really? Why?), but I’d say that this is worth a rental. Anyone out there see this? Anyone at all?

AntManandtheWasp

Ant-Man & the Wasp: I missed this new Marvel movie when it was in theatres this past summer, which is a personal shame for me because I don’t like to miss Marvel movies on the big screen. I enjoyed the first Ant-Man movie, and this one looked to be, at least, just as good. What sort of new adventure would Ant-Man get into with his new superhero partner the Wasp? And how would this movie fit into the Marvel Cinematic Universe after what we all saw with Infinity War? Definitely going to make an effort to see this, along with The Incredible Hulk and Dr. Strange, the other two Marvel movies I haven’t seen. Man, I am so lame.

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Do you like Cult TV?

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The 1970’s TV thriller Kolchak: The Night Stalker is first up! Check out what I think about the show with the links below!

Issue #1
Issue #2
Issue #3
Issue #4

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B-Movie News

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Universal Soldier getting remade?: Well, not really, I guess. According to this story over at Action Flix, Richard Wenk, who did the screenplay for The Equalizer, has come up with a “re-imagining” of the Universal Soldier concept and is hoping that it gets made at some point. Whatever this new Universal Soldier happens to be, it won’t have anything to do with the Jean-Claude Van Damme/Dolph Lundgren original or any of the sequels.

On one hand, I’m disappointed that no one wants to do a movie about reanimated dead soldiers killing bad guys and then malfunctioning or whatever. You can do that story a million times and I’ll never get bored with it. On the other hand, Wenk did a great job with The Equalizer, and I’m curious to see what he does with the idea. What sort of hooey does he have in store?

I mean, are we going to get a down and dirty action flick with sci-fi overtones? Are we going to get some sort of straight up action flick? Will it be more sci-fi than anything else? Will it end up being a kind of superhero movie? I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough, if and when this reimagining happens.

Any Universal Soldier fans out there?

Oh, the first Universal Soldier movie is set to be a part of the upcoming “Van Damme December”this December right here in The Gratuitous B-Movie Column. So, you know, be on the lookout for that.

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Check out my Widow’s Point set visit report!

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Read it here!

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Who is the Douchebag of the Week? Go here and find out!

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Next Issue: The 2018 October Horrorthon continues with Minutes to Midnight!

MinutesToMidnight

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Interviews

david j. moore
Jino Kang
Vladimir Kulich
Paul Mormando
Shahin Sean Solimon
Michael Matteo Rossi
Tyrone Magnus
Hector Barron
Jeffrey Orgill
Michael Baumgarten
R. Marcos Taylor
Don “The Dragon” Wilson
Paul Kyriazi
Eric Jacobus
Juju Chan
Luke LaFontaine
Marco Siedlemann
Sam Firstenberg
Amariah Olson
Alexander Nevsky
Mathias Hues
Kristanna Loken
Steve Mitchell
Albert Pyun
Brad Thornton
Mathieu Ratthe
Damien Power
Kelsey Carlisle
Mike Dwyer
Nicholas Bushman
Brahim Achabbakhe
Etcetera
Richard LeMay
Andrew David Barker
Cynthia Rothrock
Leslie Simpson
C. Courtney Joyner
Shahin Sean Solimon (2)
Eric Miller
Alexander Nevsky (2)
Christopher Lawrence Chapman
James Mark
Casper Van Dien
Chris Mark
James E. Wilson
Barry Hunt
Vincent J. Roth
Mathew Ziff
Brandon Tyler Russell
Barry Hunt (2)
Lobsang Tenzin
Dylan Reynolds
Paul Kyriazi(2)
Lincoln Bevers
Nassasin Nuri
Hannah Janssen
Harry Mok
Daniel Roebuck
Sage Croft
Stephen van Vuuren
Cheryl Wheeler Sanders
Eric Jacobus (2)
David William No
Nicholas Verdi
Luke LaFontaine (2)
Roger Yuan
Dominik Starck
Tamas Nadas
Tyler Savage
Robert McGinley
Tim Gouran
Billy Ray Brewton
Leo Scherman
Harley Di Nardo
Jino Kang(2)
Alexander Nevsky (3)
Steve Latshaw

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Well, I think that’ll be about it for now. Don’t forget to sign up with disqus if you want to comment on this article and any other 411 article. You know you want to, so just go do it.

B-movies rule. Always remember that.

Pumpkinhead

Lance Henriksen– Ed Harley
George “Buck” Flower– Mr. Wallace
Brian Bremer– Bunt
Jeff East– Chris
John DiAquino– Joel
Kimberly Ross– Kim
Joel Hoffman– Steve
Cynthia Bain– Tracy
Kerry Remsen– Maggie
Florence Schauffler– Haggis
Mathew Hurley– Billy Harley
Tom Woodruff Jr.– Pumpkinhead

Directed by Stan Winston
Screenplay by Mark Patrick Carducci and Gary Gerani, based on a story by Mark Patrick Carducci, Stan Winston, and Richard C. Weinman and a poem by Ed Justin

Distributed by United Artists, MGM Home Entertainment, and Shout! Factory/Scream Factory

Rated R for violence and language.
Runtime– 86 minutes

Buy it here or here

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