Let me ask you a question: If you were making a sequel to the first Halloween, say, would you a) write continued adventures of its established and successful characters, giving audiences more of what they loved in the first place, or b) rewrite the whole thing to send it all off in a new direction; one that is more like any number of other, less successful films? If you answered B, you might love Pumpkinhead II!
The first Pumpkinhead was the first and only film directed by famed movie creature creator Stan Winston, and not only came off like a handmade labor of love, but had actual characters, a good rhythm and overall shape, a delightfully devilish villain, and a great story that placed the whole thing in the realm of folklore. So you can see why the makers of the sequel would want to throw all that out and emulate the shittiest, most generic horror turds of all time instead! I was unable to find out what resulted in this monstrosity, but all I can guess is that someone bought the rights and the original creature costume for $11 [maybe at a garage sale?] and thought they’d make a sequel, despite having the filmmaking talent of a litter of newborn pups.
The first sign that we’re in trouble is that this is produced by something called the “Motion Picture Corporation.” Why not Acme Movie Company? We then see that this film will star Ami Dolenz [Related to Mickey?], B-queen Leanna Quigley, and Andrew Robinson. We open with a black and white flashback [the past was in black and white, you know] to the “Ferren woods” of 1958, where some backwoods lady with hair-care issues goes to leave a plate of slop out for “Tommy,” the local deformed mutant orphan. Every town has one. But then these teens come up with the intention of taking care of Tommy “once and for all.” They chase him to the abandoned mine—every small town has an abandoned mine, as surely you know—where they hang him over the open shaft. Yeah, they just left that thing open. But it was 1958, before people knew that people could fall down mines. The teens stab Tommy to death—which I thought was pretty serious, teen homicide, but is apparently just another day in the bayou—and drop him down into the mine. Can you guess who’s going to turn into Pumpkinhead? This is a complete [and idiotic] revision of the original mythology, in which a person could call the Pumpkinhead to exact revenge on his enemies, but in the process wither up themselves, and end up becoming the NEXT Pumpkinhead, which as the wonderful poeticism of folklore.
Okay, so let’s meet the morons! We have Sheriff Sean Braddock, just moved back into town from New York. This guy is a suburban gigadouche [that’s a douche X1000] and the whole concept of him as a New York City high-level police official is just rather hilarious. With him is his wife, Beth [who barely gets anything to do and we will discuss her hairdo atrocity presently], and their daughter, Jenny, who is kind of like an even-lower-rent Christina Applegate, if such a thing is possible. Apparently Jenny was some kind of problem child back in the Big Apple, and this movie to the backwoods is her chance to begin anew. Also on hand is dreadlocked African-American doctor Delilah, who is descended from a long line of “sorciers” [they’re like saucier’s, but with sorcery, apparently], the Judge, this local good ol’ boy, and the Mayor, who is a bit shaggy.
Let’s start a new paragraph for the kids, shall we? I was furiously writing down their names, but it turns out the only one you really need to know is Danny Dixon, no-account son of the judge. He becomes the insta-boyfriend of Jenny when they invite her to skip school [but she was going to make a new start!] and go hang out at the abandoned mine. No word on how Jenny is adjusting from teen drug and sex-fuelled debauchery in the canyons of New York to hanging out at the old mine with the country kidz, but she puts on a game face. The rest of the kids are a rainbow coalition just one Asian shy of a Benetton ad. Their idea of fun is to drive around country roads with their headlights off, which results in them hitting the old witch from the beginning, named Osie. We’ll just call her the old witch. She, as you may have guessed, is the one who was feeding little Tommy at the beginning, so you can guess that she’s really not the one you want to hit. So the teens decide to go to her spooky cabin to make sure she’s okay, having to cross the creepy ceremonial graveyard to get there. She’s not home when they arrive, so, being no-account teens, they start poking around. They find a model of the ceremonial graveyard [she makes models!], a page from the “book of shadows” [apparently the prop people also did Evil Dead or something—I’m not bothering to look it up for you], and a vial of cursed blood or some such. Marci, one of the teens, has studied just enough witchcraft that this is all centered around bringing back the dead, which Danny thinks is like, uh-uh, SWEET. Then the old witch shows! And the kids say they wanted to make sure she was fine, and run. Except Danny, who she stops, because he’s trying to steal her cursed blood! She tells him that he’s in for some bad juju if he does, but he, like, REALLY wants it, so he BEATS HER [!] and takes off. She curses them all to die.
They proceed directly to the ceremonial graveyard, where they dig up the coffin in the middle, which is all twisted and deformed. They pour the blood in its mouth, say a few words, but it doesn’t seem like anything is happening. By now Jenny is freaked out, so she goes back to the old witch’s cabin [uh, if you’re freaked, why not GO HOME?] and finds it inexplicably on fire. Rather than go in and help the woman while the fire is rather contained, she runs back to fetch her teen friends, who all run to the cottage, see it on fire, say “She probably already got out,” and leave. Don’t want to be elderly with these kids around! I should also mention that the more education YOU have, the more this script will make you wish you had never been born.
Well, the old witch lived, and she’s in the hospital. And the Pumpkinhead is on the loose. And Danny has sworn the other kids to secrecy about what happened. Then the first Pumpkinhead victim is local redneck Ernst, who gets hung up and dismembered. You’ll notice that this film doesn’t spend any time trying to keep Pumpkinhead hidden. Hey, they paid $14.50 for that costume, and dang-gumit, they’re gonna show it! Blah, blah, investigation, and next thing you know, some other random redneck [whom we have NEVER seen before] and his ladyfriend [that's Leanna, blink and you'll miss her] are visited by our friendly neighborhood vengeance demon. And you’re sitting there like “Uh, HEY, aren’t you supposed to be killing those kids? What’s all this bullshit about killing the random rednecks? Fuckin’ ADHD Pumpkinhead!” Sheriff Braddock has also found a mysterious sign at the scene of the murders, which he instantly and spontaneously identifies as “blood wings,” although the look like nothing of the sort.
Now not only does this movie suck ass, but we have a mustachioed sheriff in a uniform, various rednecks with facial hair and questionable hygiene—just like I like ‘em—and later, an angry redneck mob, and not a SINGLE hot guy among them! WTF? This movie was like DETERMINED to ruin my evening.
Okay, so after Braddock’s wife offers some negligible advice from behind this hairdo that seems to be inspired by the ancient Pharaohs, he encounters these two woman on the street, clearly portrayed by relatives of the director, who caw in Jewish accents: “Sheriff, they’re saying it’s some kind of MONSTER!” “A DEMON!” says the other. Now we find that the judge is organizing the aforementioned redneck posse. Now—is that really the due course of justice? Then it’s time for Braddock to have a flashback! You see, he grew up there, and knew of the deformed Tommy, and one day saw Tommy playing out by the old mine—which is apparently the only place Tommy ever went. Tommy slipped and almost fell in, but Braddock saved him! Then they made out. This causes Braddock to reflect that “All those horrible things they said about Tommy simply weren’t true!” There are so many important lessons to learn here.
Then the Mayor shows up to—well, what is the only thing mayors apparently do?—they complain that hunting the monster will kill of tourism! The result here is to make you, at home, say: “Wait a minute—THAT town gets tourists?” Maybe if they got lost. Then two more random dorks get killed. Yo Pumpkinhead—the TEENS! KILL THE TEENS!
Then the old witch dies. Then she wakes—literally like one second later. She’s come back to life to deliver an assload of exposition, much of which I will confide that I fast-forwarded through. She gives Braddock an amulet that’ll ward off his little PH problem, though why she should want to help him is unclear.
SPOILERS > > >
So Braddock and Delilah [who is in the movie much more than I’ve mentioned] pore through the old yearbooks and realize that the hockey team [or something—maybe it was the debate team] were called the Blood Wings, and were comprised of all the rednecks [and the Judge] that have been killed so far. Okay, so this whole movie PH has been killing people we have no interest in, and leaving the kids we are interested in alone, because of the tiny setup story no one was paying attention to. Nice. There’s a lesson to be learned in movies that draw out their “mystery” to the point that everyone loses interest in its solution. But at least now the shit starts hitting the fan, so there’s something to keep you awake until the movie ends.
First, Danny is hangin’ with the gang when Jenny starts saying she has to tell her dad what happened, causing Danny to whip out a gun! He holds his friends at gunpoint, often right to their heads, so they can’t leave. The sudden spiking of hysteria is actually a bit hilarious. Then PH goes after the Judge, who has a conveniently-timed flashback to realize that it’s Tommy, and feel super bad before he is ripped limb from limb. Then PH comes after the teens [fucking FINALLY!] and rips Danny’s head off, but the other teens get away clean [I think, I was fast-forwarding by this point], except that PH has the precious Jenny. Maybe I’m just a bitter, vengeful person [which I am], but I want to see my wrongdoers suffer a bit more. A second or two of remorse and then a fatal head severing is getting off easy in my book. And for the other teens to get away with just one night of slight trauma is not appropriate, methinks. But these are my issues.
So PH takes Jenny—where else? Can ya guess? If you guessed “the old abandoned mine,” you’re RIGHT! Daddy Braddock gets there just in time and addresses PH as “Tommy!” Well I think a little respect can go a long way! Dad then pulls out the special PH collectible amulet and hangs it on a nearby post—Uh dad, don’t you want to hang that thing where he can SEE IT? Don’t want your Pumpkinheads having to strain their eyesight during stress situations. Then Dad reminds Tommy that he saved his life once—even though they never spoke again and Daddy Braddock never made any other attempt to be nice to the outcast boy—although perhaps he was pushed down the mine the next day, who knows. Pumpkinhead listens to reason and let’s Jenny go, and then—well, redneck vigilante posses always DO show up at the most inopportune times!
They shoot him which causes PH to fall back and get hooked on one of the chains hanging over the mine—they have indeed been hanging there these past 30 years—and now he’s swinging over the mine, just like he was all those years ago! History does indeed repeat itself, which is the deeper, larger lesson I’m sure you’ll have to make top priority in your journal tonight. PH hangs there, waving his perfectly straight arms that are suddenly articulated only at the shoulders. Blah, blah, then he falls back into the mine. We have a short coda showing us that now Jenny is going to be a good girl and only freebase in the home, under parental supervision, and we out.
< < < SPOILERS END
It’s total shit. It’s just that simple. This is a direct-to-video title from the time in which it was not conceivable that a direct-to-video movie could be good, and, as noted, goes out of its way to ensure that it will NOT supply you anything of what you loved about the original. The additional irony is that the original was beautifully set up to generate unending sequels, but the filmmakers here decided that some perfectly generic shit-horror story that mimicked all the other shit-horror stories out there was a better route. Way to go, fellas!
Who are the people responsible for this? Looking into this, I found quite a few surprises. Andrew Robinson turns out to be kind of movie royalty, having played the Scorpio Killer in Dirty Harry, Harmon in Charley Varrick, the lead in Hellraiser, and quick roles on every TV show of the 70s and 80s. Ami Dolenz is INDEED the daughter of Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees! Soliel Moon Frye as Marcie was FUCKING PUNKY BREWSTER!!! Gloria Hendry as Delilah was in many important blaxploitation films and Savage Sisters. And then of course Leanna Quigley, who’s been in everything. The director, Jeff Burr, has a long list of horror sequels to his credit. Or demerit, however you’d like to think about it.
Anyway, your life may be a pathetic mess, and I have no doubt that it is, but it’s highly unlikely that your life is such a pathetic mess that you need to—let alone DESERVE to—sit through this shit. Run. If you loved Pumpkinhead—watch Pumpkinhead.
No. It’s shit.
PUMPKINHEAD is one of the rare horror films that has real characters, real motivations, a great sense of humor, thrills and chills, and is all-round GOOD!