Sunday, June 12, 2011

30 Day Horror Challenge Strikes Back Day 12: Favorite villain (non-human).

Pumpkinhead is one of the last classic style monster movies. It was right before CGI started creeping in and making practical monster design the dying art form it is today. We’ll get back to that in a minute. The movie has quite a few other things going for it too. First and foremost is Lance Henriksen. In my opinion this is the best performance of his career. That glare that he gives when he’s cradling his dead son in his arms is a acting masterpiece. The flick has amazing atmosphere. Southern Gothic has never been pulled off better. The foggy forest, deep shadows, great sets, and stylish lighting all work together to absolutely soak the flick in a creepy ambiance. The thing that holds it all together is my favorite non-human villain, Pumpkinhead himself.

While he didn’t actually design the creature, monster maker extraordinaire Stan Winston obviously inspired his effects team to achieve greatness. Pumpkinhead is creepy, no bones about it. The long, bony frame, the claws, that slow stalking gate, the dead, soulless eyes, it’s all beautifully made. Pumpkinhead is right up there with the Alien as the top tier of “suit” monsters. Of course, why would we expect anything less from Stan freakin’ Winston’s effects crew?

Physical monsters have a reality that just isn’t possible with CGI. No matter how good the CGI is, if the monster isn’t actually there in the shot and on the set with the actors, you can tell. Want an example? Watch the Pumpkinhead monster in part one and, if you’re brave enough, part 2. I warn you though, the sequels suck pretty bad. Then watch Pumpkinhead: Blood Feud where the monster is partially computer animated. The practical monster looks great. The CGI monster looks absolutely ridiculous. Practical effects ALWAYS look better, dammit! Ok, I’ll get off that rant now.

Physical appearance aside, Pumpkinhead is also a very intriguing character. While he’s an unstoppable killing machine, he isn’t evil. He’s karma come to life. He is a creature of pure vengeance. He doesn’t kill the innocent unless they get between him and the guilty. He’s summoned by someone with a score to settle. They’re the ones actually responsible. It’s such a great plot device for the summoner and the demon to have a psychic link. Over the course of the flick Ed Harley (Henriksen) and Pumpkinhead even begin to look like one another. Pumpkinhead is also fun because he seems to be enjoying his job. For a character with a remote controlled face, they sure gave him a lot of expression. My personal favorite is that smirk. The “I’m gonna enjoy the hell out of tearing you apart” smirk. Chilling. Overall, Pumpkinhead is a great movie, and a great character. Besides, besides Freddy, how many other characters can you think of who have their own nursery rhyme?

Keep away from Pumpkinhead,
Unless you're tired of living,
His enemies are mostly dead,
He's mean and unforgiving,

Laugh at him and you're undone,
But in some dreadful fashion,
Vengeance, he considers fun,
And plans it with a passion,

Time will not erase or blot,
A plot that he has brewing,
It's when you think that he's forgot,
He'll conjure your undoing,

Bolted doors and windows barred,
Guard dogs prowling in the yard,
Won't protect you in your bed,
Nothing will, from Pumpkinhead.


Cash Wampum said...

I have to be unoriginal and say The Alien. I don't think you can top that organism when it comes to sheer awesomeness. Acid for blood, can live in deep space, a perfect hive minded organism. Very smart, can climb walls. Its two phase existance from egg to drone is wonderful. It can assume the physical attributes of it's host as it gestates. Unbelievable cool piece of fiction. Not to mention it was originally designed by the genius of H.R. Giger!!!

SonOfCelluloid said...

I will never dispute the badass-itude of the Alien. I'm just trying to make sure to use choices that I haven't seen anyone else use. Plus, I think Pumpkinhead is often unfairly looked over in discussions of the great movie monsters. Either way, I think we can all agree that Stan Winston was a freakin' GOD! RIP.

Cash Wampum said...

Yeah, special FX lost a good Lord when he passed. Now everything is KNB with Nicotero and pals. I like their work.

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