What’s the first film you think of associated with Halloween? No, apart from Halloween. No, not Trick ‘r Treat either. Yes, that’s one, Stan Winston’s directorial debut, Pumpkinhead.
Its perplexing, a shame, and great that Pumpkinhead is such a very culty cult film.
Perplexing because it’s so very good. Winston is shockingly good when it comes to his direction. Combined with Bojan Bazelli’s cinematography the camera movements, and especially the framing and composition of the footage is at times absolute beauty. Many scenes could be gorgeous paintings or photographs in their own right, with a powerfully effective theatrical quality that fully immerses you in the timeless world the film creates.
It’s a shame because the elements within it and the film itself deserve much greater recognition. Lance Henriksen for example achieves a transcendent performance that is tragic, both heart-breaking, scary and sympathetic when needed. The world that Pumpkinhead creates is also transcendent as it harnesses every kind of concept you’d associate with a classic monster movie and the Deep South, and uses them to create the ultimate representation of the two and somehow, therefore, looking like no other film ever made. It’s a stunning world, both fable-istic and brutal. There’s a wonderfully traditional quality about this film which really emphasises the old fashioned world of Halloween, compared to the newer one Halloween (Carpenter, 1978) represents. In a way this is the perfect Halloween’s viewing double bill with that more widely acknowledged classic.
And why is it great it’s a very cult-ish movie? Because it’s such a ripping surprise. This is a film that it’s very easy to go cold into. In fact due to it being not a widely known creature feature it’s a film one might have a dismissive attitude towards. As such you’ll be more receptive to its formidable charms.
Follow @RJBayley on Twitter