Quite often in a Mindless Monday post, the movie showcased can be at least a semi-stinker. But it's not my intention to cut up every movie presented. It's more of a way to differentiate movies that you have to really pay attention to from flicks you either don't have to really think about while watching or movies that try waaaay to hard to be intelligent and come off less than coherent.
But this film is just pure fun.
Hence, my thoughts on Pumpkinhead (1988). I have to say, this film is one of my favorite guilty pleasures! But you honestly don't need much of a brain to enjoy it.
If you didn't already know, Pumpkinhead was the first film directed by the late special-effects guru Stan Winston. In my opinion, it is a strong debut as director for Winston, despite its obvious clichés.
Ed Harley (the hardest-working man in horror, Lance Henriksen) is a simple, hardworking chap who runs a small general store out in the boondocks of Poorville, USA.
When our story starts, it gives us a mini-background story, showing Ed as a youngster. He watches from inside his house as a man is attacked and murdered by a huge, demon-like creature. When he asks his father why they cannot help the victim or let him inside, he explains that it's none of their business, and that the man is "marked".
Flash forward to the present, where Ed and his son live in hicky backwoods harmony running their store - apparently the child's mother has died, so it's just the two of them, and they're quite close.
When a group of college students show up and start riding their dirt bikes and acting like typical a-holes, one of them accidentally runs over the little boy.
When Ed Harley finds out what happened, he gathers up his son, gives them a menacing look, and takes his boy home, where he proceeds to die in his arms. (*Sniffle*)
Wanting vengeance for his son's death, Ed finds out from one of the local boys where an old crone lives who supposedly has the power to conjure this said creature (locally named Pumpkinhead, natch) so revenge can be taken against the twenty-somethings.
At first hesitant to help, the witch finally agrees and sends Ed Harley to a secluded old pumpkin patch to dig up the remains of the creature and bring it back to her, where she uses blood from both Ed and his dead son to bring Pumpkinhead back from the dead.
Bad thing is, once the creature starts his killing spree, it won't stop until everyone associated with the curse is dead. It starts killing mercilessly and unbeknownst to Ed until then, he is forced to experience the murders through the eyes of the creature. Quickly figuring out this isn't what he wanted, he desperately tries to stop the cycle of killing. Unfortunately, the more Pumpkinhead kills, the more Ed begins to morph into the creature, as if they are becoming one and the same.
Helping Ed is Bunt, the local boy that led him to the witch, and together they try to save (at this point) the one remaining victim. Realizing nothing will stop Pumpkinhead, Ed figures to take his own life, thinking it is the only way to end the violence.
There's really nothing here that screams special, except the creature itself. For some reason (!) it resembles Alien... a lot. But standing in the murky fog of the deep woods, Pumpkinhead makes for a menacing presence.
And the relationship between Ed Harley and his son Billy in the beginning of the film is really quite poignant - they are so sweet together, and it makes it all the worse when the boy meets his untimely death. And to be honest, Ed and Billy are so likable that it doesn't help the teens cause in the slightest. You actually want them to pay, big time. I couldn't sympathize one iota.
While this probably fits into a typical folktale/urban legend style of film, it manages to rise above most fare of this kind, between Henriksen's presence and the creepiness of the creature.
The acting skill of the college kids is all just barely passable, in fact it's kinda bad. Relatively predictable as far as plot goes, but again, the style and look of the film more than make up for it.
And yes, there is a bit of gore in here, as well.
Checking your brain at the door quite often means sacrificing either quality or believability. Thankfully, you have to do neither here. It's just a fun, atmospheric 80's-era horror movie that stands well above a lot of the rubbish made in that decade.