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Look what came in the mail! 🎃 This year, I’ll only be growing one kind of pumpkin, Mini Harvest. I’m moving in a few weeks and we have not had a lot of good luck in the past with pumpkins so my mom only wanted one kind this year since she will mainly be taking care of them. I hope to one day have a huge yard with lots of space for a pumpkin patch of all kinds of pumpkins, but for now I’ll only have space for some house plants and an indoor herb garden.

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Pumpkinhead isn’t a particularly frightening or suspenseful or horror film but I still find myself recommending it. The acting is pretty good, the special effects are terrific and the story original.

Ed Harley (Henriksen) has just learned that his son has been killed. The teenagers who ran him over just left him behind to die. Filled with a desire for vengeance, Harley calls upon a vengeful demon to make them pay. This vengeance, he soon realizes, comes at a cost too high for even him to pay.

I know Pumpkinhead has its work cut out for it due to that title but it works when you see it play out. Set in a remote area in the southern United States, there’s something otherworldly about the land. The isolation, the slow crippling heat that compels people to laze around, the natural mythology of the south makes this strange tale feel like the origin of an urban legend. You assume “Pumpkinhead” is the name people give to the monster because everyone who knew what it was actually called is long gone. It’s an effort to get people not to take the macabre tale too seriously but everyone knows, deep down, it’s a very real evil.

The characters are more developed than you’d assume. Ed and his son make for a sweet, believable family. I’m always wary of child actors, particularly in horror films, where the acting can often be sub-par. Young Matthew Hurley is great in his role. When the kid got hurt, I felt genuinely upset because I’d grown to like him. Similarly, I thought the teenagers -for what they are- were well developed too. They give a legitimate explanation for their actions and are foolish but generic bullies. While there isn’t much tension in the scenes where Pumpkinhead is walking around killing these teenagers, seeing them try to figure out if they should stay with the injured boy, run away, find a scapegoat to blame or do something else and then have their decision literally come back to haunt them makes you unsure how to feel about either camp.

The titular monster lacks personality. It does have a supernatural element to it that you haven’t been before, however, and the special effects are terrific. I would have expected nothing less of Stan Winston.

It’s funny that the elements you’d expect the film to put all its efforts into do not achieve the same level as what you assumed would be afterthoughts like the characters, drama, and original mythology. Pumpkinhead is skillfully brought to life but it looks more like an alien than a demon. The kills? not particularly interesting because Pumpkinhead is nothing more than a monster who grabs people and tosses them around until they’re dead.

I’m unsure who will enjoy Pumpkinhead more; hardcore horror fans will want to check it out as a curiosity, casual movie-viewers won’t really find it frightening… maybe special effects enthusiasts? Ultimately the ideas and story (particularly the ending, which is terrific) are more interesting than the final results. It’s more of a rental than a forgotten classic. It’s still far better than anything titled Pumpkinhead has any right to be. (Fullscreen version on DVD, December 30, 2014)

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