9/10/08

Lance, Stan, and the Great Pumpkinhead


Sometimes when I sit down to to research on a film it takes me a lot of digging and scraping about and hunting. I found most of what I was looking for right off, but the information that I was really wanting to search for is not to be found. So Ed Justin you will remain a mystery. One that will not only puzzle me, but tons of people far and wide over the internet. That's not the only mystery involved in this movie; there's also the mystery as to why more people haven't seen it.

Pumpkinhead (1988) starring Lance Henrikson, Jeff  East, and Florance Schauffler. Directed by Stan Winston. 

Stan Winston the special effects wizard responsible for Aliens, Terminator, Jurassic Park, and tons of others. (Including a movie that I'll get around to reviewing someday a personal favorite, Heartbeeps, with Andy Kaufman.) Sadly, Stan passed away earlier this year, but his vision in special effects will live forever. What I also think is regrettable though is that Stan only directed four films, and only one of them was a horror movie (A Gnome Named Norm,  the film for the T2 Universal Studios Ride, and  Michael Jackson's Ghosts are the other three.) Stan also is one of the credited writers on this movie, and he based the story on a poem by the mysterious Ed Justin. 

Keep away from Pumpkinhead,
Unless you're tired of living,
His enemies are mostly dead,
He's mean and unforgiving,
Laugh at him and you're undone,
But in some dreadful fashion,
Vengeance, he considers fun,
And plans it with a passion,
Time will not erase or blot,
A plot that he has brewing,
It's when you think that he's forgot,
He'll conjure your undoing,
Bolted doors and windows barred,
Guard dogs prowling in the yard,
Won't protect you in your bed,
Nothing will, from
Pumpkinhead


The movie opens in 1957 with a man trying to seek shelter at family's house and the father will not let him. The little boy looks out his window and witnessing the man getting killed by a huge monster. Cut to present day, and the boy, Ed Harley (Henrikson), is a single father himself. He runs Harley's Grocery and lives with his boy Billy and their dog Gypsy. They seem to lead an idyllic life until what the DVD box called a "biker gang" comes to town. Now when I picture biker gangs, it conjures pictures of Hells Angels and leather and loud bikes, but what actually comes to town is a bunch of 80's era college kids with dirt bikes. The "biker gang" is showing off on the hills in front of Harley's Grocery and the most dickish of the bikers accidentally runs over Billy and kills him. 

Ed arrives and takes his boy away. Accident or not, he's pissed off. With the help of some local mountain folk, he seeks out Haggis, a witch that lives in the woods. He hopes at first that she can bring back Billy, but she says that is beyond her power, but there is something else that Ed wants. He asks for vengeance, and she sends him to a graveyard for unwanted bodies to bring back a special one. With the mix of his blood and his boys, she summons the spirit of vengeance, Pumpkinhead. (All the scenes with Haggis are masterfully shot with a foreboding glow of orange light that picks out every wispy hair on the witches head.) Pumpkinhead gets down to business picking off the "bikers", and soon Ed realizes that his wish comes with a price (don't they all?). He can see as through the monster's eyes and feel the physical toll the killings take on him. Ed knows he must put a stop to the killings even if it means doing it at any cost. 

The LB recommends this one highly if you haven't guessed yet. This flick is a great story of vengeance and loss, and with Stan Winston's film making and one of Lance Henrickson's best performances, it all comes together in a way very few creature features do. If you haven't seen this movie, then see it. If you haven't seen it in a while, then go back and give it a watch again. Stan Winston you will be missed, but you left us a legacy that will last and a movie that is a great watch time and time again. 




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