Review : Pumpkinhead (1988)

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.

 

 

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Review : Amityville : The Awakening (2017)

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. 

 

 

Review : Rose Red (2002)

Rose Red is not exactly an adaptation as it is not based on a Stephen King book. King actually wrote the screenplay of this mini-series. The series premiered on ABC in January 2002. The story is divided into three parts, each taking place in present time with flashbacks in the early 1900’s.

Dr. Joyce Reardon, an unorthodox university psychology professor, leads a team of psychics to the massive and antiquated Seattle mansion known as Rose Red in an attempt to record data which would constitute scientific proof of paranormal phenomena. The mansion is publicly thought to be haunted, as at least 23 people have either disappeared or died there and the interior of the house appears to change or increase in size, yet only from the inside. Reardon’s team awakens the evil spirit possessing the house, leading to several deaths and the revelation of the mansion’s deadly secrets. (source : Wikipedia)

I have mixed feelings about Stephen King’s Rose Red. I did enjoy the series but I admit my attention dropped when I reached the 3-hour mark (the entires series is around 4 hours long and I don’t recommend watching it in one sitting, like I did). There is plenty of good things about Rose Red, and just as many bad things.

The location is great, the house’s exterior is both inviting and unsettling. The mansion looks nice and luxurious but as most of those huge properties (at least, in my opinion), “haunted” is written all over it. I was quite impressed how they shot scenes to give the illusion that Rose Red is in the middle of Seattle. It works perfectly. The set design is also fantastic and you feel as lost as the characters inside those endless halls.

I really enjoyed the structure of the story. The flashbacks were well integrated and I liked how they took place whenever a character is explaining the story of Rose Red. It flows really well. My main complaint is that we don’t see the ghosts nearly enough. Their make-up was great and some of them are genuinely scary. The house itself is a character, which unfortunately gets more attention than the ghosts themselves.

But what really, really doesn’t work in Rose Red is the characters. There is too many of them and not a single one is worth caring about or even remotely interesting. The worst of them all is Emery, who has visions. I have no idea what Matt Ross thought he was doing but he gave one of the worst performances ever. I still wonder what is the deal with this stupid disgusted look he has in almost every single scene ! His character is annoying in essence but also to simply look at. The little girl, who is supposed to be autistic, shows autistic traits only when it serves the story. She speaks a few words, then is only capable of making sounds and pointing. The rest of the cast, including the main character (the doctor who goes insane a la Moby Dick), are forgettable.

Overall, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy Rose Red. The story behind the house’s dark secrets is interesting…way more interesting than what is happening to the characters in present time. The ghosts are great, though I wished they had more screen time. I recommend watching Rose Red but do yourself a favor and pause between each part.