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Vintage 80s Horror Film "Pumpkinhead"


10/15/2018

The 1980s were a golden age for horror fans and in 1988 special effects wizard Stan Winston got behind the camera to direct a moderately successful film called “Pumpkinhead”.  This was a movie that was popular on late night Cinemax and HBO also on VHS. 

We open on a small farm house in 1957 with a mother, father and their small son.  There is a furious banging at the door, a teenager running for his life is looking for help, but the people inside don’t move and refuse to help him.  The boy outside is taken by some kind of monster with the little boy inside seeing the outline of a tall an ominous being.  Flash forward to the present (1988) and the little boy is all grown up.  His name is Ed Harley, played by Lance Henriksen, he has little boy of his own now named Billy.  He has a sweet and loving relationship with him that is built up for what looks to be an upcoming tragedy.  This appears in the form a couple carloads of teenagers from the city.  The teens are not overtly mean or evil except for maybe one of the guys who is kind of a douche.  Being that its and 80s movie the teens are hauling a trailer with a couple of totally rad dirt bikes that are taken out for extremely reckless driving.  Ed owns an old dusty road ride grocery store and leaves Billy alone with the teens to run a quick errand.  What could possibly happen right? Well, when Billy’s dog runs out the door after the bikes, Billy is close behind after him only to get a face full of rampaging dirt bike.  He lies unconscious as the teens all rush over to him, after some arguing some of them leave, while a few go for help while one of them stays with him until Ed gets back.

Riddled with unbearable grief Ed searches out a backwoods woman named Haggis, a witch with supernatural powers.  She performs a ceremony, with Ed’s blood, to summon the demon Pumpkinhead who resides in a pumpkin patch/graveyard.  Pumpkinhead is resurrected and sent on a mission of revenge against the teens responsible for Billy’s death.  Although as the teens start to die one by one, Ed also feels it and starts to regret his actions.  He then goes out to stop Pumpkinhead before they are all dead.

“Pumpkinhead” is a good but not great film from a decade that has so much more to offer.  Its got a very nostalgic feel to it, for me anyway.   The story is quite simplistic and deals with some well worn themes.  It plays out like a twisted fairy tale  The effects and performance by Henriksen do stand out as well as Pumpkinhead himself.  Shout Factory gave the movie a Collector’s Edition blu-ray release a few years back with number of special features that are worth checking out.  The movie is also available to watch for free with Amazon Prime.


"Run Lola Run"


8/23/2018

German Filmmaker Tom Tykwer set the world on fire with his 1998 hyper-kinetic film “Run Lola Run” starring Franka Potente and her blazing red hair.  A master class in editing, pacing and the use of music to pump up the action.  No matter what language you speak, Run Lola Run should be enjoyed by all.

When Lola’s boyfriend Manni leaves a bag of money on the train meant to pay off some pretty serious dudes, she now must come up with 100,000 Deutschmarks in 20 minutes in order to save his life.  The film is structured in a way that we see her goes through three different attempts each with different outcomes.  With a driving techno score, the pressure and urgency is bumped up to the max.  Color also plays a key role in the film with red obviously being most prominent, not only in her hair but with various other objects she comes in contact with.  Red is emergency, danger, and love.



Lola follows the same path and runs into the same people in each of her attempts to save Manni.  Although everything is just a little different each time.  Like a different plane of reality.  So where is Lola going to get the money?  Her father is a bank manager, but she is a little estranged from him as he left her mother and is in a relationship with another woman.  This plays out like a cheesy soap opera, but in a satirical way, just another distraction in Lola quest.  Manni contemplates robbing a supermarket and when Lola is held up and doesn’t meet him at the agreed time he goes for it only to be shot down in front of her.  After each attempt we have a scene with Lola and Manni in bed bathed in red light talking about their relationship.

Lola seems to learn from her mistakes in her previous attempts, but fails on the second time as well.  Will the third time be the charm?  This time she’s tries her luck at a casino and for a second time she lets out a glass shattering scream that seems to stop time.  Will she crack the code this time and make all the right moves to save Manni once and for all?  “Run Lola Run” is truly an intoxicating experience that will keep you going for all of its brief 81 minute run time.


John Waters "Pecker" is Full of Grace!


8/22/2018

If there is such a thing as an accessible mainstream Jon Waters’s film it would be the 1998 film “Pecker”.  Without going into an in-depth biography on his long and storied film career, lets just say he has a passion for the trashy and distasteful.  Most all his film take place in his hometown of Baltimore, Maryland and are filled with eccentric larger than life characters.  While set in Baltimore, the characters of “Pecker” are actually sweet and endearing while being just a little off.

Edward Furlong plays the title character of Pecker, the nickname was earned because of his picky eating habits.  When not working at the Sub Pit, he roams the streets with his camera photographing his world.  From the rats screwing in the alley to his girlfriend Shelly (Christina Ricci who works at the  Spin ’n Grin laundromat.  The Sub Pit will eventually become the scene of his photography exhibition that spins his life in a crazy new directions.




This film is jam packed with interesting characters that that occupy Pecker’s life.  His klepto maniac best friend Matt, his Memama and her statue of the Virgin Mary, and we can’t forget his little sister appropriately referred to as Little Chrissy, who ends up trading one addiction for another.  His older sister is a bartender at a gay bar, who teach us about “tea bagging” and his mother who helps the homeless dress in style at her Thrift Shop.  Last but not least his father and his bar, that has a stringent belief that pubic hair and liquor don’t mix.

The films plot is quite simple but well executed with all the wonderfully drawn characters and Waters signature wicked humor.  Pecker’s photo show at the Sub Pit is seen by a New York Gallerist Rorey Wheeler, played by Lili Taylor.  She turns Peckers life upside down with the promise of becoming a famous New York City artist or more likely flavor of the month outsider.   Pecker enjoys all the attention but the photo he took are now unwittingly alienating the friends and family of his close knit neighborhood.  This premise has been covered by both “The Simpsons”, “Family Guy”, and probably many other non-animated shows.  Waters captures Baltimore as the dirty little step child to the glossy sexiness of New York.  Also emphasizing that not matter what you can’t escape your roots and home is where the heart is.  The film is crafted in such a way that multiple viewings are just as enjoyable as the first.  From the Pelt Room to the Fudge Palace, Jon Waters vision of Baltimore is hilariously human and down to earth.



"The Witch" Casts a Spell of Terror!


 4/4/2018

“The Witch” is a painstakingly authentic look at a dark time in the New World called America.  This is an immigrant family’s tale of terror from 1630s New England.  Set before the infamous Salem Witch Trails a family of six has been banished from the safety of the plantation and forced to make it on their own.

William, Katherine and their four children Thomasin, Caleb, Twins Mercy and Jonas and baby Thomas settle on a small farm on the edge of the forest.  Day to day life is a struggle and when forces outside your control seem to be conspiring against you a desperate search for answers drives people to insane lengths. The dialogue in the film is of the period and taken from the actual journals of the people who lived in that time.  The atmosphere created by director Robert Eggers is amazing and together with the haunting score its adds to the many layers that make up the film.

This story belongs to Thomasin, a beautiful blonde teenage girl on the verge of womanhood.  In there very religious and very repressed society, the most dangerous and fearful thing imaginable is a young woman’s burgeoning sexuality and its effect on everybody else.  While playing and innocent game of peek-a-boo with baby Samuel, the baby suddenly disappears.  Although we the audience see what happens to Samuel, the family does not.  Numerous other strange happenings start occurring.  The crops wither and die, Caleb has impure thoughts of his sister.  The Mother exudes anger and jealousy over Thomasin’s youth and beauty.  The animals also take on a sinister appeal, none more than Black Phillip the goat.  This overarching feeling of doom and dread all seem to point to Thomasin.


When Caleb and Thomasin slip out to look for their baby brother, the horse gets spooked and the dog runs away.  Caleb goes after them but gets lost only to find the witch house.  Thomasin is found by her father, but Caleb doesn’t return until a day later and in some sort of trance, he’s been bewitched.  The family in physically and psychologically being torn apart leaving Katherine home sick for England.  Everyone gets swept up into hysteria leading to accusations of witchcraft.  Everyone turns on each other.  Katherine’s hallucinations are absolutely frightening as well as Caleb’s delirium right before he dies.  Everyone has their spirit shattered in horrific ways all ending up with Thomasin being that last one standing.  Eventually walking into the woods to join a coven of Witches dancing naked around a fire.  This “New England Folktale” is extremely well made and acted and seethes authenticity and fear.  


"The Autopsy of Jane Doe" is the Sleeper Horror Hit of 2017!


3/30/2018

Truly great Horror films are very hard to find these days.  Since they are relatively cheap to produce and proven money makers there is a lot out there.  Most of which are pure crap.  “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” is a rare treat, it’s engaging, suspenseful and well acted.  The absolute sleeper hit of 2017!

Veteran actor Brian Cox plays Tommy who with his son Austin, played by Emile Hirsh, run a generations old Mortuary and Crematorium business.  Both actors give grounded and realistic performances even when things a little crazy.  The perceived ages of the two characters seems a little off, but it’s a minor complaint in an otherwise believable duo.

The film opens with crime scene investigation and a mysterious young woman half buried in the cellar.  We then cut to our guys Tommy and Austin as we watch them perform an autopsy on a man who is burnt to a crisp.  The gory nasty bits are extremely well done.  They go about their business of cutting up the body weighting the organs and such.  Although they seem to have a good working relationship there is some tension between them.  When the work is done, we meet Austin’s girlfriend Emma.   Emma is exited and curious to see some dead bodies, while initially hesitant, the lockers are opened.  As a throwback to an earlier time one of the corpses has a bell tied to their toe.  This little item is used to great effect later on.   Austin and Emma’s plans for a night out are put on hold when the Sheriff rolls in the body of the Mystery woman.  Not wanting to leave his dad with all the work Austin goes back to help solve the mystery of the Jane Doe.

On the outside the woman’s body looks immaculate except for some dirt (or peat) under the nails.  Her insides however tell a much different story.  She looks to have been beaten and tortured.  Her lungs are black suggesting she died in a fire.  Although you get the hint of what she is and what’s really going on, the characters take their time and eventually come to the realization.  The film succeeds in its execution of the material and the portrayal of its characters.  Tommy and Austin are people we care for, they are our close friends.  They are not your typical horror stereotype douche bags whose only reason for being is to get sliced and diced.

When they’ve finally had enough weird shit happening to them they decide to leave.  With a raging thunderstorm going on outside, a large fallen tree has blocked their escape.  Needless to say things start get a little crazy and they guys must double their efforts in finding out who this Jane Doe really is.  The ending to all this mayhem is a little unsettling but does fits well within the whole mythology of the story.  It’s a fun late night movie that is a step above most other scary movies.