From rough­ly the mid-‘80s to the mid-‘90s, low-bud­get film­mak­ers enjoyed what might be the last great era of direct-to-video pro­duc­tions.  One of the eas­i­est ways to turn a prof­it with­in this trend was to knock out a quick sequel to any vague­ly pop­u­lar exist­ing prop­er­ty.  For exam­ple, Pumpkinhead wasn’t a box-office hit due to a bun­gled the­atri­cal release but did decent­ly on home video.  As a result, some enter­pris­ing pro­duc­ers picked up the rights and knocked out a home video sequel five years lat­er.

Pumpkh2-posThe result­ing film, Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings, is a pro­gram­mer that is caught between try­ing to rekindle the charm of the first film and deliv­er­ing the goods for the home-video gen­re audi­ence.  Any plot threads from the first film are dropped but the leg­end of Pumpkinhead is retained and plugged into a new sto­ry with dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters.  The pro­tag­o­nist is Sean Braddock (Andrew Robinson), a cop who has returned to his old home­town to be a sher­iff with his wife Beth (Caren Kaye) and daugh­ter Jenny (Ami Dolenz).

Unfortunately for Sean, Jenny has a rebel­lious streak and falls in with the local group of “badass­es,” tak­ing up roman­ti­cal­ly with group lead­er Danny (J. Trevor Edmund).  The teens are out cruis­ing one night when strange cir­cum­stances get them involved with an old witch (Lilyan Chauvin).  They fool around with the witch’s spells and acci­den­tal­ly res­ur­rect Pumpkinhead.  Corpses start to pile up as the mon­ster goes on a ram­page while Sean and local coro­ner Pumpkh2-1Delilah (Gloria Hendry) try to find a way to stop it.  The solu­tion has to do with a long-ago tragedy that has ties to Sean’s child­hood.

The orig­i­nal Pumpkinhead had a cer­tain mag­ic to it: the script had a fairy­tale qual­i­ty to it, the direc­tion was rich­ly atmos­pher­ic and the mon­ster effects were off the chart.  Pumpkinhead II is less inclined to reach for the mag­i­cal.  Instead, it aims at being at a pot­boil­er and does a mid­dling-to-poor job of it.  The script from one-time screen­writ­ers Ivan and Constantine Chachornia has a com­pe­tent if famil­iar plot but suf­fers from weak char­ac­ter­i­za­tions and tin-eared dia­logue.  It’s also more crass in its approach to the gen­re, com­plete with a Pumpkh2-2mon­ster attack dur­ing a sex scene and hill­bil­lies dis­cussing incest.

Director Jeff Burr is more tal­ent­ed than the sequels he was doing this time and one can see him strug­gling to jazz up Pumpkinhead II by adding unique cam­era angles and using some tricky edit­ing rhythms for a few set­pieces.  However, that can’t over­come the rushed qual­i­ty of the pro­duc­tion, which has a kind of cheap, lim­it­ed-scale look one asso­ciates with straight-to-video fare.  The effects by KNB-EFX do a faith­ful job of recre­at­ing the mon­ster but its appear­ances are often over­l­it in a way that spoils the illu­sion.

A fun aspPumpkh2-3ect of Pumpkinhead II is the array of famil­iar names it throws in: Steve Kanaly of Dallas fame shows up in a thank­less role as a crooked may­or, Linnea Quigley appears as vic­tim who gets top­less and president’s broth­er Roger Clinton shows up for a mem­o­rably goofy cameo as the town’s may­or.  The teen actors come off poor­ly, most­ly because their char­ac­ters are so bad­ly writ­ten, but Soleil Moon Frye actu­al­ly man­ages to out­shine teen lead Ami Dolenz in a small­er role.  Robinson does the best work, giv­ing a sin­cere per­for­mance that is bet­ter than the script deserves, and Hendry adds some nice sup­port despite some clunky, expo­si­tion-heavy dia­logue.

All in all, Pumpkinhead II is typ­i­cal of the straight-to-video hor­ror fod­der from the ear­ly ‘90s.  It is con­tent to hit its marks instead of try­ing to be unique… and the rushed pro­duc­tion and weak script make it a pale shad­ow of its pre­de­ces­sor.