“I'm afraid raising the dead ain't within my power” - Haggis
Other than its evocative title, this really has nothing to do with Halloween as far as I know, but make no mistake about it – if you haven’t seen it, it’s a great way to while away eighty odd minutes of your life. I’ll be totally upfront, it isn’t going to change your life. You’re not going to sit in front of your TV and have an epiphany while you watch it, and it’s not that movie “that shoulda won an Oscar”.
It’s basically derivative – you watch the film for, say, ten minutes and you can pretty much predict which way the plot will go. But that’s not why we watch these movies is it? If it was, Friday the 13th wouldn’t have got past the first movie, let alone hit double figures. We watch it for the sheer fun of it – and that’s where this movie delivers.
That and a stunning pedigree. The perfect one-two punch for a fun night of horror movies. To begin with, it boasts a fast moving script by Gary Gerani who, in my opinion wrote THE book on TV horror/sci-fi and is, like me, a complete, total, utter Universal Monster Movie nut. If ANYONE can write a horror movie, it’s Mr Gerani. He lives, breathes and drinks this stuff like a fish does with water.
Second, bring in one of Hollywood’s greatest make-up/effects talents, the late great Stan Winston who directed this movie. (Actually it’s one of only three movies directed by Winston tha I’ve ever seen – the others being Terminator 2 3D: Battle Across Time which is part of the stunning Terminator attraction at Universal Studios and Ghosts – an incredible Michael Jackson video that kind of sort of followed up Thriller in that it was a twenty five minute or so long music video with feature film production values and featured Jackson dancing with, well, ghosts. Years ago, I owned the VHS tape, but progress….. to my knowledge, it was never released on DVD though I’m sure you could find it on You Tube. I think that everything that was ever filmed is on You Tube by now.
The film opens in a small farm in 1957, it’s a windy night and Pa is uneasy as he locks up the horse for the night, desperate to get back into the log cabin with the door locked securely behind him. In the cabin, Ma is comforting a young son. Once the door is locked, Pa won’t even open it for a neighbour being chased by something. Pa wants nothing to do with the situation. It’s the young son who peeks out of the window and catches a glance at the monstrous demon slaughtering their neighbour.
Present day – and the kid grew up to be Lance Henrikson, who gives one of the best performances of his career as the farmer wanting vengeance. As soon as you he’s a doting father, a single parent, and there are some goshdurn city kids with dirt bikes making their way to the vicinity – you pretty much know for a fact what’s going to happen. In an accident, the little boy is fatally injured when one of the motorcyclists runs him over.
Dad’s out for revenge and visits a crazy old witch who lives way out in the wilds, if not totally off the beaten track, then pretty much where the beaten track comes to an end. Incidentally, she also gets my vote for the best witch name ever – Haggis. Yep, I thought I had misheard, but checking the credits, the old biddy’s name was indeed Haggis. The distraught father, beside himself with grief, wants Haggis to raise the vengeance demon Pumpkinhead to avenge the death of his son and after that, it’s a Friday the 13th type of ten green bottles as over the course of one night, the vengeance demon tracks down his prey.
There’s one thing I really should mention – there’s a scene where a family of poor mountain folk visit the store run by the father and son, and one of the kids seemed vaguely familiar to me. It bothered me to the point that I rewound the disk and froze the frame. This little girl was definitely someone I recognised. There was something about the expression and the eyes, and suddenly it dawned on me when I imagined that face about 25 years older. I was looking at a twelve year old Mayim Bialik making her acting debut – The Big Bang Theory’s Amy Farrah Fowler. A kid way, way down the cast list back in 1988 , with only a couple of lines – but now, probably the most recognisable actor in the whole film.
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Next film up - Vampyr (1932)
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