***/**** Image A Sound A Extras A
starring Lance Henriksen, John D'Aquino, Kerry Remsen
screenplay by Mark Patrick Carducci with Gary Gerani
directed by Stan Winston
by Walter Chaw F/X legend Stan Winston's directorial debut, Pumpkinhead is a strong piece with a few indelible moments. The first is when a country witch summons the titular bogey using the blood of a dead kid; another is when that same creature stalks past a kitchen window like an early draft of the Alien hybrid from Alien: Resurrection, with a similar miscegenated backstory. Between and around these high points is a boilerplate vengeance intrigue that literalizes the sins of the fathers in a Passion Play surrounding widowed dad Ed (Lance Henriksen), who, in blind grief over the loss of his adorable young son (Matthew Hurley), binds himself psychically, and physically, to the monster he's raised as his avatar. It's a Frankenstein story in that way, one with shades of E.T.--the bond between Elliot and his wrinkled flesh buddy is reconstituted in the relationship between Ed and an eight-foot monstrosity that's a little bit one of those naked cats and a little bit Giger. An impressive shot establishing Pumpkinhead as he strides into the skeleton of an old, broken-down church in blue half-light suggests more than the triumph of practical effects on a low budget and tight shooting schedule: it suggests that the film's simplicity could--should--be read as pagan folktale, complete with cautionary spiel, brutal exposition, and a surprisingly strong moral grounding. Pumpkinhead is literally about the impossibility of objective violence--every action, no matter how intimate or remote, has a spiritual impact on both victim and perpetrator. It's a surprisingly rich vein for something like this to mine, and it resonates.