Let's talk today, you and I, about a little tale from 1988, directed by a special effects pioneer...
Of course, I'm speaking of "Pumpkinhead"
Horror movies are supposed to scare us. God knows, so many of them fail in that, and to a large extent many of them have devolved to the point of camp so much that they're scarcely more than gore-filled comedies in many cases.
"Pumpkinhead" is NOT one of these.
The late Stan Winston, taking an overdue turn at the director's chair, turned out a visually memorable and psychologically visceral tale that punches so many buttons in your head, I'm still shocked it was not more of a mainstream hit. It's a highly original and genuinely suspenseful take on the old standby of revenge, well-written and well-acted...worthy of a much greater share of reknown than it enjoys outside of the circle of us horror-junkies.
As out of place as it seems, I can only say that this is a gothic tale; in fact, that's EXACTLY the word I would use to describe it, in spite of it's rural, somewhat backwoods American setting. To acknowledge the fact that there are mysterious and often dark legends attached to cultures other than Victorian London or 19th century Germany is a refreshing touch...and WHAT a touch! The theme is almost Lovecraftian; the story is filled with gut-punches, moments that strike close to home and really make us feel what the characters are feeling...
...and at times, you really wonder whose side you're on as the tale plays out. THIS factor really struck me during my screening...you learn something about yourself if you watch it with an open mind and really consider what is transpiring.
Lance Henriksen's performance is superb, with the right amount of angst and earthiness to be believed, but never over-the-top. The visuals of the film are haunting and eerie; nightmarish landscapes and snapshots of terror that will linger in your memory.
I believe, as I said, that this film should have gotten far more praise, and should be placed high in the rankings of horror films for it's different approach, it's visuals, and it's underlying moral.