There’s nothing scarier than pumpkins, apparently. Pumpkinhead would like to make you think that one of the scariest objects you could encounter in the dark is, in fact, a villainous, orange squash. In some ways, that is true, and whilst this Lance Henriksen led horror is, in fact, devoid of pumpkins, director Stan Winston puts together a solid enough attempt at a creepy environment plagued by a vengeful father, who seeks help from a witch. I’m not a horror junkie, and have yet to really divulge any parts of the genre, so the best place to start is a film about pumpkin monsters, I suppose.
Pumpkinhead himself, looking like a slightly anaemic Xenomorph, terrorises our group of characters and deals with them in a relatively quick fashion. I’m not entirely sure what Pumpkinhead has to do with pumpkins, nor do I know if any pumpkin can sprout arms, legs, teeth and the brain power necessary to torment a group of somewhat troublesome, bland teenage caricatures. Summoned by a witch as an act of vengeance, the torment begins and ends relatively quickly. Much of the film dedicates itself to faux build-up, with no real depth going into any of the characters. It manages to avoid cliché style with characters that don’t fall to predictability. They instead teeter on the fence, never quite falling into detestable or enjoyable, they’re merely present. Ripe for the pumpkin monsters picking.
With Lance Henriksen in the leading role, I did indeed have high hopes. Henriksen seems to be a staple of 80s classics, with Aliens, The Terminator and Near Dark. His performance as Ed Harley is fine, one that starts off strong but soon devolves into rather meandering brushes with tedium. An interesting character, devoid of any real, major interest thanks to an unwieldy plot. There’s not so much you can do with a straight forward horror where a monster terrorises a group, but I wasn’t expecting Pumpkinhead to re-invent the wheel. All I wanted was good, gory fun. What I got was rather underwhelming. The kills are apparently the most engaging part of a slasher or horror, so it’s surprising to see that all of the deaths within this grisly, eerie setting are rather drab and predictable.
Boiling down to Pumpkinhead picking up one character and then dropping them on/throwing them through various objects around a barren wasteland of a sparsely populated town makes for rather boring moments. Henriksen, by this point, has fallen apart entirely. His performance of a good-natured father turns sour, he soon dons the cold, furrowed brow we all come to fear, and from there it’s just not all that interesting. He mopes around, his mouth agape half the time, the other half spent scowling at these meddling kids.
Not the worst introduction to forgotten horror flicks, as I’m sure it could’ve been far greater a disaster than this. A lot is left to be desired from Pumpkinhead, a film that nails the atmosphere with some chilling and beautifully choreographed scenes from director Stan Winston, it’s just a shame none of it comes together to provide something scary or entertaining. A colourful, technical marvel, packed to the gills with cannon fodder characters we never get to know, and a leading performer who finds himself in over his depth. I hate to inform you of this, but the monster has no physical resemblance to a pumpkin either, so apologies to those that have been let down by this.