Friday, 18 May 2012

FROM THE CRYPT: PUMPKINHEAD


PUMPKINHEAD (1988)



Dir: Stan Winston
Starring: LANCE FUCKING HENRIKSEN, George ‘Buck’ Flower and NOBODY else of any consequence whatsoever

This film is one of my all time guilty pleasures. It’s got a cool, Deep South feel, an awesome monster, a nice little morality tale and LANCE FUCKING HENRIKSEN.
KICK. ASS.

SUMMARY: Back in the 50s a kid who will grow to be LANCE FUCKING HENRIKSEN witnesses two guys get savaged by some massive, evil demon thing while his mum and dad are all “This don’t not be our business nor nuthin’ thar, boy.” This is because they are rednecks, not retarded.
Fast forward to the present day (well, the 80s, check out those hairstyles!!!! YEAH! Bring back the mullet-fro, that look was AWESOME) and LANCE FUCKING HENRIKSEN is all grown up and owns a grocery store in the middle of nowhere. He lives with his son who is the spitting image of the Milky Bar Kid. Seriously. They also have a dog called Gypsy. Traveller was probably too much of a mouthful.
When we first see LANCE FUCKING HENRIKSEN it’s ace because he’s got a flamethrower and is topless and sucking his gut in, with a look on his face that says: “Ladies, I know your boyfriend forced you into watching this, so to thank you for your patience, check out LANCE FUCKING HENRIKSEN’s FUCKING ABS. Grrrrrrr.”
You can tell LANCE FUCKING HENRIKSEN and the Milky Bar Kid love each other because young Milky gives him a really shitty clay necklace thing that he made. LFH is all “Oh wow, thanks, I’ll never take this off… um, now let’s go to work and NEVER speak of this again.”
They head down the road to his shop, which is conveniently placed by the side of the road to catch the trade of any city folk on their way to places that no city folk would ever really want to go to. LANCE FUCKING HENRIKSEN is a genius.
After a while a pair of cars full of city fodder teenagers arrive on their way to some cabin in the woods that no real teenagers would ever really want to go to. There are six of them but only one has any personality. He’s called Joel and I’m guessing the only character notes on his script read: “JOEL IS A COMPLETE COCKHOLE.” He proves this by taking the piss out of the Milky Bar Kid’s glasses.
The rest of the teens say some stuff and one may be COMPLETE COCKHOLE’s brother or something, but seriously, they’re so bland they might as well have arrived wearing body bags.
At this point a group of really grotty rednecks arrives. To show how poor and southern they are, half of them appear to be wearing potato sacks with holes cut in for the arms and head. Not as cool as my body bag idea, but hey ho.
The patriarch of this bunch is George ‘Buck’ Flower. Flower and LANCE FUCKING HENRIKSEN on screen together? My pants just shit themselves!!!!!
As the fodder teens gawp at the amusing poor people the Sack Cloth Kids chant a creepy poem about Pumpkinhead. At this point I realise my life is so much richer for this film.
It seems that while LANCE FUCKING HENRIKSEN has an astute business mind and the chiselled physique of a weatherworn Adonis, he’s shit at remembering things like what his customers want. So after George ‘Buck’ Flower reminds him that he needs his stuff, LFH says he’ll deliver it later. George heads off home with the Sack Cloth Kids and LFH asks the Milky Bar Kid to mind the store while he gets George’s shit.
As this happens COMPLETE COCKHOLE decides to start riding his dirtbike around outside the shop and talks one of the fodder into joining him.
UH-OH…
In a completely unexpected turn of events Gypsy runs in front of the bikes, the Milky Bar Kid runs after her and COMPLETE COCKHOLE hits him with his bike. Unfortunately the Milky Bar Kid is not strong and tough enough to survive this.
Then just to compound what a COMPLETE COCKHOLE he is, Joel runs away and tells the fodder they can’t call for help. The others seem nice enough but they’re all so wet nobody calls him on this. So a couple of them stay there with the boy until LANCE FUCKING HENRIKSEN comes home while the others head to the cabin. I reckon killing a little boy would ruin a holiday even more than if it kept raining. Probably.
LANCE FUCKING HENRIKSEN comes back, and this is good because he’s the best actor in this film by a country mile. He sees the Milky Bar Kid all dead and stuff and LOSES HIS SHIT. One of the fodder tries to say “Sorry, it was an accident” but LFH gives him a BRILLIANT look of DEATH. This is only the second best face in the film though.
LANCE FUCKING HENRIKSEN’s look of DEATH was just the beginning though. From here he chucks the Milky Bar Kid’s corpse in his truck and drives to see George ‘Buck’ Flower and the Sack Cloth Kids in their hut in the middle of nowhere. He isn’t just dropping off George’s shopping though (although he does remember it this time — SEE, EVEN AFTER SUFFERING A PERSONAL BEREAVEMENT HE KEEPS HIS SHIT TOGETHER? LFH RULES!), no, he wants directions to an old woman’s house.
For a while I panicked that maybe LANCE FUCKING HENRIKSEN had decided to deliver meals on wheels to work through his grief, then he clears that up by saying she has ‘powers’. Whoo hoo hoo, YEAH!
George ‘Buck’ Flowers may only have four teeth, a tramp beard and a shack full of kids who will undoubtedly all end up marrying each other, but EVEN he thinks this is a bad idea. Luckily one of the grasping little gormless kids is greedy enough to fuck his advice off and offer to show LANCE FUCKING HENRIKSEN where she lives himself.
Cue: THE SCARIEST LITTLE SWAMP SHACK IN HISTORY. YESSSSSS! I correct myself, NOW is the moment where I realise my life is so much richer for this film.
LFH slowly walks inside the dingy, cobwebbed, candlelit shack as all manner of creepy crawlies and odd beasties appear on screen to remind you that SHIT JUST GOT REAL. He walks inside (carrying the Milky Bar Kid’s corpse) and sees, illuminated only by flickering flames, a venomous old crone, wizened to the point of appearing deathly.
Called Haggis.

Seriously.

Haggis.

FFS.

It’s a shame, because the character Haggis is fantastic, a nightmarish old witch who just exudes menace. She may be old and decrepit, but she’s survived out in the middle of this swamp for all these years. She knows her shit. LANCE FUCKING HENRIKSEN looks suitably awestruck. I do not blame him, this bitch is BAD NEWS.
At this point the film really hits its stride. After assuring LANCE FUCKING HENRIKSEN that while she’s a fucking badass black magic ninja bitch from hell, even SHE can’t bring back the dead, Neeps and Tatties offers LFH a different deal — Vengeance. And by golly he takes it.
If the film hadn’t veered far enough into some kind of twisted dark fairy tale by Stephen King, Sporran sends LFH out into the woods with a shovel and tells him to dig up a particular grave. LANCE FUCKING HENRIKSEN is still pretty pissed off that he won’t get any more free Milky Bars, so he does it. The pumpkin patch graveyard he discovers is BRILLIANT. If EVER somewhere would be the unholy resting place of the demonic embodiment of vengeance, it’s here.
Also pretty handy for Halloween, I reckon.
So LFH digs up a maggoty, weird giant foetus thing and carries it back to Bagpipes’ shack.
Here Kilt does a seriously evil spell. You can tell it’s evil because a) she takes blood from LANCE FUCKING HENRIKSEN and the Milky Bar Kid; b) the lighting suddenly goes REALLY red and c) LANCE FUCKING HENRIKSEN faints. If LANCE FUCKING HENRIKSEN can’t handle this shit, NATO just went to Red Alert.
Then, in a really cool sequence, the weird maggoty foetus thing grows and transforms into the badass, uber-monster from the beginning of the film. As Stan Winston was a special effects guy who chose this film as his first directorial effort, the monster looks awesome.
Pretty much as soon as Pumpkinhead is revealed, he hares off out the door and after COMPLETE COCKHOLE and the Fodder Crew. So far so good right? I mean LANCE FUCKING HENRIKSEN had to do a bit of digging but we’ve already seen that godlike physique, haven’t we ladies? That’s no sweat for LFH.
But LANCE FUCKING HENRIKSEN didn’t know about the TRUE price of summoning Pumpkinhead. Even though Kestrel Lager mentioned it about a hundred times before the summoning. Sometimes LFH needs to read the small print. Or actually listen to what the terrifying old witch crone is telling him.
Anyway, as the demon mercilessly torments and picks off the teens, LANCE FUCKING HENRIKSEN receives psychic flashes of their fates, forced to share their suffering… and there is even worse yet to come.

Now I’m not going to spoil the whole film here (but I will mention my favourite scenes involving the abandoned old church and when Pumpkinhead gets face to face with the greedy Sack Cloth Kid late on… BEST. FACE. EVER.) so needless to say shit goes down, people get thrown off things (LOTS), the animatronic guys show off their nifty Pumpkinhead model by making him walk around and do cool things and the whole thing comes to suitably ghoulish conclusion. The final sting involving the Milky Bar Kid’s shitty clay necklace is a work of art too.

It’s just a shame they fucking called her Haggis.

HEY, I KNOW YOU:

STAN WINSTON was a special effects genius. He did some of the very best practical effects. The Terminator series, Aliens, the Predator films, Jurassic Park, Iron Man… seriously, the dude was a GOD. May he rest in peace, he made a damn fine contribution to my formative years.

LANCE FUCKING HENRIKSEN is in loads of brilliant things. He’s Bishop in Aliens, a cop in Terminator, he played the lead role, Frank Black, in the TV series Millennium and is mayor of Awesome Town. If I were to make a new version of The Dirty Dozen, LANCE FUCKING HENRIKSEN would probably be at least two of them.

George ‘Buck’ Flower is one of those character actors who have been in more 80s films than you realise. He usually played a wino and is ace. Examples of his work include Back To The Future, They Live!, The Fog, Escape From New York and on and on. He’s alright!

John D’Aquino played Joel the COMPLETE COCKHOLE. He’s been in tonnes of shitty TV series. This is still a lot more than all the rest of the cast of this film managed.

‘WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT THING?’ Pumpkinhead is a demon. Notably, the embodiment of vengeance. Beautifully designed and brought to life by the effects guys, Pumpkinhead looks kind of like a bigger, more expressive version of the knobblier xenomorphs in Aliens.

Also, Pumpkinhead is a FUCKER. He’s properly sadistic with his victims, prolonging their deaths and even taunting the remaining fodder with his prey. The scene where he holds a seriously injured girl’s face to the window to scare the fodder hiding inside is so bastardly, it’s great.
Furthermore, he seems like he’s having fun with it and is especially contemptuous of faith. He carves a crucifix into the face of one victim, mocking her religious views and goes batshit in the abandoned church, smashing a crucifix to buggery just because he can.
It also appears to know a little bit about motorbikes. Hmmmm.
In terms of deadliness, Pumpkinhead is crazy strong, super resilient to damage and one helluva climber to boot. His only real weakness seems to be… SPOILERS… the psychic link he shares with his summoner. If any harm befalls them, it damages him too. Needless to say, this plays a pretty big role in the resolution of the film.
One last thing of note… SPOILERS… those who summon Pumpkinhead are doomed to become him in death. SO that’s right… in the sequel it would be LANCE FUCKING PUMPKINHEAD taking on the world.
Game over, man! GAME OVER!!!!!
PS It’s also A THING (see DIALOL)

BODY COUNT: 11 (6 to Pumpkinhead)

CREATIVE CARNAGE: Pumpkinhead is a FUCKER, so there’s a surprisingly tasty amount to choose from. The best, perhaps unsurprisingly, is when COMPLETE COCKHOLE finally gets his comeuppance. A broken arm, then a broken leg, then impaled through the gut with a shotgun, then lifted up bodily into the air while skewered on said shotgun and finally sliding down the barrel while Pumpkinhead sniggers at him. That’s the only way to describe what he does! He’s like a big, grey bastard Muttley.

CLICHÉ CHECKLIST: AAAAARGH! A SCARECROW!, I’M SO SCARED MY LEGS DON’T WORK!, LOCAL HARBINGER OF DOOM! (although this one is at least decent enough to not say “Y’all gonna die up in them thar hills, y’all.” Instead he stares at them. WITH A BEARD!) CHARACTER’S CREEPY POEM INTRODUCTION, ‘Are you man enough?’, NUMEROUS ‘Goddamn you!’s, FOG = EVIL!, ‘This is all I got’, ‘Oh, you’ll know… you’ll know!’, AAAAARGH! A BIRD!, THIS PLACE WOULD LOOK JUST SWELL WITH SOME BONE DECORATIONS!, ‘Now it begins!’, ‘We’ve gotta get the hell outta here!’ (only one! BOOOOOO!), PETS CAN SENSE EVIL (more than once!), IT’S A HOLY PLACE — IT MUST BE SAFE, OMINOUS THUNDER AND LIGHTNING (pretty much EVERY time Pumpkinhead turns up), FLAMETHROWERS ARE COOL!
AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST… ‘Kill me!’

DIALOL: Just about everything that Haggis says should go here.
Even the way she says LANCE FUCKING HENRIKSEN’s character’s name — ‘Eeeeeed Harrrr-leh’. I can only assume this is why they don’t just call him LANCE FUCKING HENRIKSEN.
COMPLETE COCKHOLE: ‘If you want to stay here and play with the vegetables, that’s fine with me’ (to the others as they talk to the Milky Bar Kid)
George ‘Buck’ Flowers: ‘She can’t help him, all she can do is take you straight to Hell!”
Haggis: ‘What you ask for got a powerful price…’
Haggis: ‘There’s an old graveyard way back in them woods. Mountainfolk used to bury kin in there — kin they’s ashamed of’
Haggis: ‘For each of man’s evils a special demon exists. You’re looking at Vengeance — cruel, devious, pure-as-venom Vengeance.’
LANCE FUCKING HENRIKSEN: ‘God Damn you! God Damn you!’ Haggis: ‘He already has, son. He already has.’
COMPLETE FUCKING COCKHOLE: ‘It’s got her!’ Fodder: ‘What’s got her?’ COMPLETE FUCKING COCKHOLE: ‘It’s a thing!’ Fodder: ‘What thing, man?’ COMPLETE FUCKING COCKHOLE: ‘I don’t know, IT’S A THING!!!!!!’

10 WORD WRAP UP: LANCE FUCKING HENRIKSEN in Stephen Kingesque redneck vengeance demon classic


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