In B-circles, Lance Henriksen is something of a legend. He's in darn near EVERYTHING, and he's usually the best thing in every flick he makes. Lance has carved a distinguished career by being an unforgettable force in largely forgettable movies. Many of which even HE hasn't seen. But the man's probably best known for being a phony human in Aliens, or for his brilliant portrayal of Frank Black in the bungled TV series, "Millennium." Where Lance once again proved, that no matter how bad the show got, he was ALWAYS fun to watch. He'd grumble laughable stuff like, "I see what the killer sees. I put myself in his head. I become the thing we fear the most. I become capability. I become the horror. What we know we can become only in our heart of darkness. It's my gift. It's my curse." And we'd BELIEVE the man. Eight years before signing on with Chris Carter, Henriksen teamed with effects whiz extraordinaire Stan Winston for a horrific creature feature best known as Pumpkinhead (1988, 86 minutes, aka. Vengeance: The Demon).
The movie: A widowed general-store keeper, Ed Harley (Henriksen), really loves his little boy and their simple, country way of life. But wouldn't you know it, a mess of hell-raising city kids come tearing into town looking for fun and accidently pancake Ed's boy under the wheels of a speeding motorcycle. This makes Ed angry. Ed heads to the hills looking for this old bat who everyone says can conjure up the devil at will. She can't raise the boy from the dead, but if Ed brings her the ingredients for her spell, she'll summon a demon to even the score -- hence, Pumpkinhead. The beast wastes no time whupping hiney. It uses its long, clawed fingers to twist the necks of city folks like caps off beer bottles. Ed starts to feel bad about looking to the spawn of hell to solve his problems, only it's too late, and the only way to stop Pumpkinhead is man-o to beast-o -- and the odds of THAT working out don't look good. Fantastic flick, followed by a passable sequel, which CineSchlockers know starred Punky Brewster who'd grown up into the enormously talented Soleil Moon Frye. Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings also featured Roger Clinton, Bill's brother.
Notables: No breasts. Eight corpses. Gratuitous flame throwing. Branch to the brainpan. One rat. Two tarantulas. Grave robbing. One buzzard. Bloodletting. Fainting. Dog attack. Slobbering. Pitch fork to the shoulder. Gratuitous Rambo dialogue. Dirt bike disaster.
Quotables: B-veteran Buck Flower as Mr. Wallace, who doesn't want to help Ed find the old crone, "She can't help him. All she can do is take you straight to hell! Now go on home. You go home and bury your boy." Tracy doesn't like being locked in a closet, "When we get out of here, Joe's going to be bringing his balls home in a napsack."
Time codes: Our first glimpse at the demon (4:41). Kiddos issue the spooky Pumpkinhead taunt (16:15). The creature awakens from its graveyard slumber (44:10).
Audio/Video: Fair to poor FULLFRAME print. Bring me the head of the bonehead at MGM who OK'd this mishandling of a creature classic. Respectable Dolby Digital Stereo soundtrack.
Extras: Fat chance. A grainy, fullframe trailer.
Final thought: The flick's too good to pass over, even with the studio's lackluster presentation. Fantastic beastie, and Lance delivers a powerful performance. Recommended.
G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.