It was in March, 2004, that I got to meet a very nice guy named Jeff Burr. We were at the South By Southwest film festival, me as a geeky movie critic, and Jeff as the director of a rather good war film called Straight Into Darkness. Our first meeting was perfectly professional and polite, but as the festival went on, Jeff and I seemed to bang into each other all over the place: the press office, a restaurant, in line for a screening, at parties, etc.
It was during one of those accidental meetings that Jeff and I actually got to talk about some of his older movies. I admitted to Mr. Burr that I quite enjoyed his Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3, his Stepfather 2, and his two Puppet Master sequels. (He did #4 and #5.) And then I went a little too far. Excited to be talking horror movies with a well-established schlock-director, I actually said:
"Yeah, and Pumpkinhead 2! I think it might be even better than the first one!"
Jeff looked at me with a smile on his face and said, "Really?"
My response was, "Well, no. But it's pretty good for what it is!"
Jeff laughed and said, "Yeah, I agree. But the original is definitely better."
So it was with some enthusiasm that I sat down to revisit Pumpkinhead 2: Blood Wings, a cheapie follow-up to an already cheapie monster movie, and you know what? It is pretty good for what it is: a fast-paced and rather enjoyable little horror sequel that boasts a solid body count, some gruesome gore, and a few familiar faces to keep the thing moving along smoothly.
Here's all you need to know about Pumpkinhead 2: Don't piss off the titular beastie, because if you do, he has no problem coming into your cabin/tent/barn and dismembering your entire body. And in this sequel, good ol' Pumpy has two new batches of bastards to terrorize: The snot-nosed teenagers who desecrated his grave, and the pompous-ass town fathers who put him down there in the first place.
Sprinkled throughout the shrieking beast attacks and the piled-up corpses are a few "hey, I know that guy!" performers, and each of 'em bring just a little class to the project. The young and lovely Ami Dolenz is on hand as the "good girl," and her papa / town sheriff is played by Hellraiser's Andrew Robinson. Talented actor Hill Harper pops up in an early-career role (the kind he'd probably prefer to forget about), and he gets to smooch with "Punky Brewster" herself! Yes, Soleil Moon Frye actually appears in Pumpkinhead 2: Blood Wings. Also keep your eyes peeled for scream queen Linnea Quigley, Kane "Jason" Hodder, and the beautiful blaxploitation veteran Gloria Hendry.
And would you believe me if I told you that Roger Clinton plays the snooty mayor of Pumpkinheadsville? ("Roger," as in "brother of Bill.") And if you squint hard enough you'll also recognize the lovely Caren (My Tutor!) Kaye as Mrs. Sheriff! It's a true B-movie ensemble!
But let's cut to the nitty-gritty: You don't actively rent Pumpkinhead 2: Blood Wings for the actors. You rent it for the beast and the blood, and I'm happy to say that both are delivered in fine form here. Once we get past Act I, the kills are freakish and frequent, plus the creature effects (as delivered by those lovable KNB boys) are pretty damn tight. Frankly I've always had a soft spot for this particular monster; good old Pumpkinhead's a dangerous-looking character, he kills in hardcore form, and he's smart enough to know who deserves to survive. So while the crazy, creepy creature only earned two movies (as compared to his colleagues, one sequel isn't all that impressive), I think he's pretty darn cool.
I mean: Pumpkinhead vs. Pinhead. Who wouldn't want to see that?
Video: The good news is that the picture quality is, aside from your standard grain-sheen, rather clean and crisp for such a low-budget DTV-quel, but the bad news is this: Full Frame presentation! I didn't notice any obvious panning and/or scanning, which means the flick may have been intentionally framed for TV screens.
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0, which isn't flashy, but delivers the audio in perfectly acceptable fashion.
Extras: My old buddy Jeff Burr contributes a feature-length audio commentary, which is loaded with production information, low-key compliments for cast & crew, and lots of background anecdotes. Mr. Burr has obviously listened to his fair share of commentaries, because the chatter never once slows down. The filmmaker is modest, talkative, and full of interesting info for the horror fans. You'll also find a 16-minute featurette called "Pumpkinhead 2: Earning Your Blood Wings," which consists of cast & crew interviews and on-set footage.
Stan Winston's Pumpkinhead has grown into a bona-fide cult classic among the horror aficionados. Surprisingly, the sequel holds up pretty darn well, although only as a complement to the original, and not a replacement.