Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings was released during the heyday of direct-to-video horror movies. Serving as a sequel to the original film, the movie fulfilled many of the check boxes that audiences expected for films of its brethren. This year marks the movie’s 25th anniversary, and the colorful, neon-tinged cover art of Pumpkinhead II alone is a testament to early ’90s horror.
Inspired by a poem written by Ed Justin, the original Pumpkinhead hit theaters on October 14, 1988 and was the directorial debut of special effects master Stan Winston. The movie stars Lance Henriksen as Ed Harley, a man who summons the creature known as Pumpkinhead to kill the group of teens responsible for his young son’s death. The film turned a profit at the box office and went on to become a video store staple throughout the remainder of the ’80s. Despite its mostly positive reception, a sequel didn’t go into production until five years later, under the direction of Jeff Burr.
“[…] a testament to early ’90s horror”
Similar to the way Pet Sematary Two (1992) was a departure from its predecessor, the Pumpkinhead sequel mostly abandons the darkly serious and creepy tone of the first movie in favor of teenage antics, amped-up visuals, and blue-hued cinematography. Pumpkinhead II follows a new set of characters with a story that is barely connected to what came before. Here we have a group of thrill-seeking teens who do things like go drinking at an old, spooky mine, drive in the dark without any headlights, and ultimately perform a resurrection spell that they found in an old witch’s book of shadows. The latter is the film’s first major plot point, as once the spell has been cast, Pumpkinhead rises from the grave all over again and there is no turning back from the terror that the teens have unleashed on their small town.
Die-hard fans of ’90s horror will recognize some of the cast. During the early 1990s, Ami Dolenz starred in a trio of direct-to-video horror movies–Witchboard 2: The Devil’s Doorway (1993), Ticks (1993), and Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings (1994). The movies were popular video rentals and it seemed that Dolenz would become a longtime horror regular, but she soon veered away from the genre. Dolenz’s co-star in Pumpkinhead II is J. Trevor Edmond, who followed a similar path. In a short time, Edmond appeared in several genre projects, including Return of The Living Dead 3 (1993) and the much higher profile Lord of Illusions (1995), before disappearing from horror altogether. In addition to the likable protagonists portrayed by Dolenz and Edmond, horror regulars Kane Hodder (Jason Goes to Hell) and Linnea Quigley (Return of the Living Dead) also make cameos.
The first Pumpkinhead is notable for the practical creature effects that were on display. The design for the monster in the sequel is both similar and… different. The look of the monster takes many cues from the original, but is also able to stand on its on. It’s important to note that the monster in the sequel is not the same one featured in the first movie. Instead, he is the spawn of the original creature. Once again, the monster consists of puppetry and a man in a rubber suit. During the first portion of the movie, director Jeff Burr teases the creature for a few scenes by only showing glimpses of various body parts. Ultimately, the monster makes his grand entrance onto the screen by crashing through an old barn door. The shot is one of direct-to-video horror glory and sets viewers up for the remainder of the ride.
Of course, the movie is not without problems. Most of the characterizations in Pumpkinhead II are paper-thin, and the story can be confusing at times. Many of the scenes play out like they were taken from a daytime soap or sitcom. Trying to connect the movie to the first film is quite a stretch, but the connections are there. Despite its flaws, Pumpkinhead II remains a fun sequel. Even though the movie takes a sharp detour from the original, both stylistically and storywise, it continues to build the overall mythology and Pumpkinhead lore. The structure suggests the possibility of a ’90s franchise that would churn out a long line of direct-to-video sequels, ala Leprechaun, Children of the Corn, etc. Sadly, Pumpkinhead didn’t appear on screen again until twelve years later.
After Pumpkinhead II, two additional sequels were produced exclusively for the SyFy Channel. The first, Pumpkinhead: Ashes to Ashes premiered in 2006, and the fourth film in the franchise, Pumpkinhead: Blood Feud, aired in 2017. Both movies have been mostly forgotten by fans, and many people don’t even know of their existence. However, even with the exception of a couple of shoddy CGI shots of the monster, the filmmakers made the wise decision to stick with using practical effects throughout the productions. In the end, both of the made-for-TV movies failed to achieve the creepiness of the original Pumpkinhead or the undeniable ’90s charm of Pumpkinhead II.
Upon Pumpkinhead II‘s release, there was a big marketing push to get the feature in front of horror fans. In addition to the movie’s titular monster being prominently featured on the cover of Fangoria magazine, there was also an ill-received video game tie-in. Over the years, interest in Pumpkinhead merchandise has continued to exist. From t-shirts, comic books, masks, and action figures, the image of Pumpkinhead persists. The lasting appeal of the monster has me hoping that the property will soon be revisited in cinematic form. A reboot was recently announced, but, as of this writing, there appears to be no new information on the progress of the production.
“Even though the movie takes a sharp detour from the original, both stylistically and storywise, it continues to build the overall mythology and Pumpkinhead lore.”
I’ve been a fan of Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings from the beginning, and revisiting the movie is a nostalgic look back at 1990s direct-to-video horror. Are you a fan? Would you like to see Pumpkinhead rise from the grave again? Let us know your thoughts on Twitter, in the official NOFS Subreddit, and in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!