Pumpkinhead, directed by Stan Winston, was released in October 1988 and stars Lance Henriksen as the main character. After his son is killed in a motorcycle accident, a farmer invokes the powerful demon Pumpkinhead in his quest for revenge. He soon comes to regret his actions, however, and attempts to stop the demon, but he may already be too late (source : Rotten Tomatoes).
Upon watching Pumpkinhead, I was expecting nothing more than a straight-forward creature feature. However, the story digs deeper into the motivation of the characters instead of pushing them aside in favor of some creature feature goodness. This is the aspect I enjoyed the most about the film : it takes its time presenting the characters and give you a glimpse into their lives before unleashing a demon upon them. This was very effective as it makes it easy to sympathize with Ed Harley (Lance Henriksen), a loving father who tragically loses his son and becomes blinded by pain and a thirst for revenge. On the other hand, the group of youngsters responsible for the accidental death of the little boy are not evil people, just stupid teens having fun but with no real intention to harm anyone.
I particularly enjoyed how the creature is used as a representation of the father’s blinding pain and inability to grieve. Pumpkinhead is not a being you can reason with, the same could be said about the father who only has one idea in mind : avenge his child’s death, no matter the cost. However, when he realizes what he has done, he decides to help the surviving teens. The shift is very well made and feels natural.
Now, this is a creature feature so let’s talk about Pumpkinhead ! Stan Winston, who directed the film, is a well-known make-up effects creator. The creature has a great design, is very well crafted and looks fantastic. The name seems a bit off as it doesn’t look like a pumpkin at all. However, the film does address the reason behind its name. Pumpkinhead is a great creature feature with a solid script and sympathetic characters. I highly recommend it as both creature and story are entertaining.
Amityville : The Awakening, directed by Franz Khalfoun, is presented as a revival of the Amityville franchise. A mother and her three children (two daughters and a son who is in a coma) move into the infamous Amityville house. Soon enough (and as expected) strange events occur as the son inexplicably seems to recover.
Before watching the film, I had mostly read negative reviews about it. I was pleasantly surprised when the film turned out to be an interesting take on the Amityville story. The main character, Belle (the older daughter and twin sister to the comatose son), isn’t aware that she lives into the infamous Amityville house. She slowly finds out about the horror that took place in the house as her new friends give her information and make her watch the first Amityville Horror film. Now, this was a bit of an issue for me because they acknowledge the original events as real but present the book and the film as fictional (since they are watching it on DVD). This is a minor nitpick and it won’t take you out of the film but still needed to be addressed.
Amityville : The Awakening is a generic horror film but, without being groundbreaking, it does the job well. Given the quality (or lack of) of the Amityville sequels, this is definitely the most interesting entry in the franchise. What is particularly gripping is the family drama at the center of the story. Belle and her mother drifted apart and don’t get along, most likely since James’ accident. Furthermore, Belle takes care of her younger sister since the mother is (rightfully so) so focused on James, her comatose son. It is hard to blame any of the characters for their behavior, whether you agree with them or not, because they each suffer without acknowledging each other’s pain, as it happens so often in real life.
The horror elements are the usual ones you would expect to find in a film like Amityville : The Awakening such as jump scares, strange noises and so on. However, I thought they didn’t overuse those techniques so they didn’t become an annoyance and served the story well. The film is well made, the actors give convincing performances and the story was very interesting given how cliché it could have been, being based on such a well-known story.
I do recommend Amityville : The Awakening. It may not me a great horror film but it is quite enjoyable and filled with interesting ideas.