Friday, November 1, 2013

Worth Mentioning - Makes Your Brain All Fuzzy

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.
Cody doesn't answer the phone and wants to keep away from Pumpkinhead.


In the midst of divorcing her abusive husband, who she has also filed a restraining order against, Mary Kee moves into an apartment of her own, in which she finds and hooks up a vintage rotary phone. On her first night in the apartment, the phone rings and on the other end is a woman, asking for a man named Bobby. Assuming Bobby must have been the previous tenant, Mary lets the woman know that she has just moved in and doesn't know any Bobby.

The phone calls continue. The woman, who we find out is named Rose, is certain that a Bobby lives in Mary's apartment. She says she walked past the building at night and saw Bobby through the window. Even though Rose talks to Bobby and he tells her he doesn't know a Mary, Rose becomes convinced that Bobby, who is the man she intends to marry, is cheating on her with Mary... And then things take an even stranger turn with the information that, while Mary is living in the present day, Rose thinks it's 1979.

For Rose, it is indeed 1979. And she can prove it, by doing things in the past that Mary can witness in the present, like drawing a picture in the kitchen pantry. The old phone has somehow linked Mary to a woman in the past.

The women continue to chat regularly, bonding over their troubled relationships. But when Mary says something that Rose takes the wrong way, causing the woman in the past to take a drastic and violent action, things quickly spiral out of control. Rose's calls take on a hateful, dangerous tone, and she sets out to hurt Mary. She does some terrible things... And how do you defend yourself from someone who's 30 years in the past?

The Caller is a very intriguing supernatural thriller. Even though she's just a voice on the phone, Rose is an extremely creepy presence in the film and presents a very real danger to Mary. The basic concept to me seemed a lot like something Stephen King would've come up with and coincidentally the movie stars Rachelle Lefevre, who is one of the leads on the King TV series Under the Dome.


Inspired by the true story of the Tri-State Crematory in Georgia, which made national headlines in 2002 when it was discovered that more than three hundred bodies had not been cremated like they were supposed to be, instead being buried or just stacked up inside storage sheds or even outside in the elements on the crematory property for no clear reason, the third film in the Pumpkinhead series centers on the Wallace Crematorium, where the Wallaces and local doctor Doc Fraser (played by Doug Bradley, who's best known for playing the iconic Pinhead in the Hellraiser series) skin and dissect bodies, harvesting skin and organs to sell to an Eastern European black market dealer who hangs out in a hotel on the outskirts of the backwoods community these movies are set in. Doc Fraser uses his ill-gotten gains to provide the people of the town with free healthcare, but the Wallaces can't be bothered to use their cut to fix their faulty furnace, so instead of cremating the bodies like they're supposed to and thus also destroying the evidence of what they've been doing, they either stack them up in a storage shed or dump them in the woods to rot.


Tying directly back into the first film, the lackey in charge of dumping the bodies is a redneck fellow named Bunt, a character who was one of the ragamuffin kids in the 1988 original. Bunt is the one who directed Lance Henriksen's character Ed Harley to the shack inhabited by the woods-dwelling witch called Haggis... the witch who helped the grieving father call on the vengeance demon Pumpkinhead to avenge the accidental death of his young son. The decision to bring Pumpkinhead back into the world led to the deaths of several more people, including Ed Harley himself. All these years later, Bunt is still tormented by the fact that he had a role in what happened then. He has recurring nightmares of being chased by Pumpkinhead and during his waking hours the spirit of Ed Harley (Lance Henriksen reprising his role) appears to him, warning him that he needs to change his ways.

As you can imagine, when the criminal activities conducted at the Wallace Crematorium come to light and townspeople discover that the corpses of their loved ones have been mutilated and tossed aside, there are several among them who would like to see vengeance dealt out to the guilty parties. A woman named Molly Sue, grieving mother of a toddler who was found among the bodies in the Wallace storage shed, gathers together some of her friends and seeks out the witch Haggis.

Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings went on a sidetrack with a story about the deformed "Son of Pumpkinhead" who was looked over by a witch called Miss Osie (who apparently was not the same person as Haggis, as I was confused about in my Blood Wings write-up), but Ashes to Ashes continues on with the mythology established in the first film and the fact that the person who calls forth Pumpkinhead will gradually become one with the creature. When Pumpkinhead is stopped, it's the body of the person who summoned it that is buried and will be used in the ceremony the next time Pumpkinhead is wanted. So this time, it is Ed Harley's body that is unearthed from the (perfectly recreated) pumpkin patch in Razorback Hollow, it is his decomposed body that the blood of Molly Sue and her friends is spilt upon under the supervision of Haggis, and it's that corpse that rises as the reborn Pumpkinhead.

While the demon was brought to the screen in the first two movies through performers in the wonderful looking creature suit, given the year when this sequel was made it's no surprise that the re-designed demon was also at times entirely the product of some dodgy CG effects, effects which director/co-writer Jake West (Razor Blade Smile, Evil Aliens, Doghouse) has himself expressed displeasure with.

Although it was a low budget, Romania-shot SciFi Channel premiere and has the familiar trappings of one of those productions - the look and atmosphere that don't feel quite right for an American setting, local actors that have been dubbed with U.S. accents - it fares better than many of them due to the stylish look West and cinematographer Erik Wilson gave it and the impressive scope of some moments.

I don't enjoy Ashes to Ashes as much as its predecessors, but Pumpkinhead itself is an awesome creature with a great mythology built around it, and I still find it quite entertaining to watch Stan Winston's monster wreak brutal vengeance on wrongdoers.

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