Tuesday, October 14, 2008

There is Always a Hollower Hill

Pumpkinhead (1988)
directed by Stan Winston
rating: 3 out of 5 cravats
on DVD from Netflix

With a horror film from the eighties, I can always get comfortable a little faster knowing that the special effects, however enjoyable, will look just dated enough to take the edge off my weak nerves. Oddly - or not, since directing his first feature probably required most of Stan Winston's concentration - it's Pumpkinhead himself who's the least convincing member of this otherwise atmospheric parable about the cyclical nature of revenge. As I added Halloween III: The Season of the Witch to my queue today, I read that Carpenter never intended for the Halloween franchise to focus on Mickey Myers exclusively. Instead, John wanted a series of films with the holiday as the loose thematic center. Pumpkinhead could have qualified. Minor in the best sense, and much better than the recent Hellboy story The Crooked Man, Winston shepherds a spooky little backwoods story complete with a wise Appalachian witch, the perfect fog-filled demonic cemetery, and lots of deep, dark hollows along its narrow, creeping path. Turns out there are plenty of ways to package "deserve's got nothing to do with it" without ten-gallon hats and no fun.