Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings is the sort of film that when you see famous presidential half-brother Roger Clinton in the opening credits, you cringe at the thought of how his gratuitous presence is going to ruin what would otherwise be a serviceable sequel to a decent horror movie, but by the time of the closing credits, you are thinking that at least the two pointless scenes with Roger Clinton as the mayor with an entourage were goofy enough that you actually remembered them, unlike the rest of what is the ultimate in generic straight-to-video 1990s horror trash.
Half-heartedly following the template of the original, the film opens with a flashback to the 1950s but instead of a boy witnessing Pumpkinhead’s rampage and using that knowledge decades later to seek vengeance for the death of his young son, it’s a bunch of high school greasers torturing and killing a deformed teenager. If Pumpkinhead is a vengeance demon called upon to mete out backwoods justice to those who done some hillfolk wrong, it’s difficult to see why we are then transported back to the present where all the people who did this to the kid are still alive and still living in the same town. It’s even more difficult to understand what role the current crop of annoying teens play in all this either.
Once these modern teenagers run over the old witch who lives in the area, you hope things are finally going to get back on track and start making sense, but the movie is intent on being a compost heap of rotten horror movie tropes (the teens decide to resurrect the demon just for kicks – and it works!), characters who either have no qualities to root for (all the teens and townspeople are jerks) or who are just plain unconvincing (Andrew Robinson can be a great presence in the right role, but a tough cop from the city coming back home for an easy job as sheriff? Sorry, but the mustache only makes the effort more laughable.), and an absurd attempt to tie its feeble story to the superior original (the deformed boy was really Pumpkinhead’s son!).
I know! King-sized spoiler, right? Garek from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine rocking the snot mop like its nobody’s business! An even worse accessory that Sheriff Braddock sports throughout the film is the perpetually panicked medical examiner he teams up with to unravel the mystery of all the murders suddenly afflicting his county. Virtually shouting her lines whenever she’s required to announce some spooky discovery about the crimes and providing virtually no help at all (sample medical opinion: “all I know is it’s not an animal, not a human, so what is it?”), you wish that the sheriff would just deputize Roger Clinton already.
Small towns and people being what they are, there is also a certain inevitable interest in the amorous adventures that Pumpkinhead engaged in when he wasn’t busy with his day job as wrathful demon. So after Braddock discovers a victim’s safety deposit box contains newspaper clippings about the death of the deformed boy and then realizes that the boy’s injuries weren’t consistent with the suicide which was the official cause of death, he pulls out his most powerful weapon to help solve things – his library card!
While most of us might write off a deformed child as the result of an unfortunate birth defect or genetic anomaly, Braddock’s books on folklore posit a much more awesome possibility – deformed kids are really demonspawn! Born of a mortal woman and a demon just like Pumpkinhead! It’s not as silly as it sounds when you think about how hideous a half-breed kid from the icky Pumpkinhead and some homely inbred backwoods girl would be!
The witch who was run over and then inadvertently almost burned to death by the crappy teens (including the Sheriff’s vapid daughter) confirms not only that Pumpkinhead had a son that she looked after, but also just how stupid the entire concept of the movie is. Nothing in the first film indicates that Pumpkinhead exists in our world except when summoned to take vengeance on evil people or that when he is here, he has any down time to hit up the local singles scene.
Calling on Pumpkinhead has a terrible price, the thirst for revenge literally destroying those who want it so desperately. The grieving father in the original film ultimately has to die to stop the demon he summoned and then turns into the corpse that is laid back into the pumpkin patch graveyard which presumably will become Pumpkinhead incarnate the next time he is summoned. But this film ignores all that, taking a big demonic dump all over what made Pumpkinhead unique and turns him into a common monster rapist, no better than the scumbag sea perverts in Humanoids from the Deep!
The witch unconvincingly tries to make sense of all this nonsense by circling back to the vengeance aspect of things saying that the ultimate vengeance is taken on behalf of your own soul and that Pumpkinhead, Jr. is trying to avenge his own death. Why he waited 30 years after his death, why the witch didn’t resurrect him earlier to handle it or why he is such a bad ass monster when finally resurrected when he was just a dullwitted moron when alive, is never addressed.
But like any movie as thoroughly rotten as this one is, the climax of things is also the climax of how bad it is. Because the sheriff used to hang out with Junior when they were boys and saved Junior’s life once, he is able to talk the monster down from killing his pretty but insanely stupid daughter. Watching Braddock calling Pumpkinhead, Jr. by his human name, playing the “I saved your life once” card and pleading for Junior to spare his daughter’s life feels like the real Pumpkinhead just grabbed your head in his giant claws and repeatedly squeezed it until you feel your brains run out of your nose and right back into your mouth!
While the original was a good looking, atmospheric tale about the dangers of all consuming grief, Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings is an effortless cash in, about nothing really except for showing off some bloody kills of people who mean nothing to the viewer (the first movie suffered from this as well, but was redeemed a bit by Lance Henriksen’s performance as the father), but even these kills don’t have the impact they should when severed arms and legs begin falling to the ground in comedic fashion.
Even worse for the audience, director Jeff Burr (the decent Night of the Scarecrow, the terrible Gary Daniels movie Spoiler) cruelly deploys a strobe light effect whenever Pumpkinhead, Jr. is on screen forcing you to close your eyes or risk throwing up or going into convulsions. When it all finally mercifully ended, I felt as if both Pumpkinhead and Roger Clinton were owed an apology for being taken advantage of.
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