Pumpkinhead ★★½

Hoop-tober 3.0
Other reviews: #1 | #2 | #4

'What I really want to do is direct'.

The want and sentiment occupies every department and field of the motion picture industry. Some people luck into it, some 'come up through the ranks' and others achieve a level of success in their field that allows them to leverage that notoriety for a crack at directing. Stan Winston had ascended to the highest level of respect and adulation in his field when he began his Pumpkinhead chapter. An effects and makeup resume with Predator, Aliens, Starman, The Thing & The Terminator can do that for you.

P-head is a hillbilly parable dealing with revenge and the existence of that monster within us, as well as the toll that raising that beast can have on us. Lance Henriksen is confronted with this after the sudden loss of his son in an accident, and he seeks out a backwoods witch who has been know to 'help people'. When the title character is brought to life and begins to exact Lance's fury on the kids responsible for his loss, we learn that there is a physical & psychological connection between the two. This begins Henriksen's struggle as he is attached to the revenge being carried out.

Winston's debut film showcases what you would expect. It is an effects and makeup heavy film, thick with atmosphere and very good cinematography from a young Bojan Bazelli (King of New York, The Ring, Lone Ranger). The creature itself is a little lazy and derivative by Winston team standards, but its still pretty cool and they do some great physical stunts with it.

Thankfully the technical departments are strong enough to occasionally distract from a poor script that does very little to build a full myth of Pumpkinhead or create much of a connection or a sympathy for the antagonist. The death of his son would have been more impactful with a better sketched relationship with the father.

Winston, unfortunately, doesn't have much in the way of a bag of tricks as a director. He has trouble with pacing during action sequences, and struggles to get a handle on the film in the third act. His strongest work is in the smaller and quieter first act, but he is a bit humstrung by the aforementioned script issues. (If there is candidate for a horror film remake that could be made more effective, this gets my vote)

Not everyone was meant to direct, and that's OK. Countless seminal and landmark films would not be that without Stan Winston. While Pumpkinhead is enjoyable despite its faults, Winston is a bit of a fish out of water in his new roll. It didn't improve to his second effort (A Gnome named Gnorm), and he continued on with what he had done best in films like T2, A.I., Edward Scissorhands and Jurassic Park. His loss was our gain.

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