At one point, it seems like everything Lance Henriksen touched turned to B-movie gold. After his fantastic turn as the heroic (whew!) android Bishop in Aliens, the perennial actor signed on as vamp-clan leader Jesse Hooker in Katheryn Bigelow’s horror-western classic Near Dark. His acting chops and gritty appeal translated well to his next role, headlining SFX legend Stan Winston’s directorial debut, Pumpkinhead.
In the cult classic, a tragic accident claims the life of Ed Harley’s young son. Consumed by the loss of his only boy, Harley (played deftly by Henriksen) evokes an old country curse against the teenagers responsible, leading to unpleasant and unexpected consequences.
According to EW, the rights to the cult classic series were picked up by Peter Block, an executive producer on the Saw franchise. His plans include putting together a Pumpkinhead reboot which would begin shooting in 2017 for a theatrical release at some point thereafter. At the moment, Block is currently searching for the right director for the remake. Block, also responsible for producing John Carpenter’s 2010 outing The Ward, spoke of his love for the original film:
“Pumpkinhead is one of my favorite horror films of the late ’80s, early ’90s. Stan Winston sits on that Mount Rushmore of iconic filmmakers because of his creature designs, and that was his first directing effort. The creature’s great but the emotional story is wonderful as well. I got the rights to Pumpkinhead, and hooked up with a great young writer called Nate Atkins, and we developed our script, which is really solid.”
The producer claims that story, written by Nate Atkins and Block, will take a page from the original, but won’t be a direct remake by any means. Block explained:
“There is a similarity of theme and a similarity of story. There’s a lot of Easter eggs for people who know the original — iconic shots and iconic lines that we’re going to use. But we’ve enhanced the setting, and we’ve expanded the characters somewhat, to give it a different kind of experience.”
With production to begin on the reboot next year, Block is seeking a director who also appreciates the horror genre, especially the original Pumpkinhead – which will also be the redux’s title. He plans on using practical effects to a large degree out of respect for the late effects guru Winston. Block elaborates:
“I am a big proponent of practical effects. That was the great thing about the original. A lot of the films I still respond to most today, it’s because of the practical effects. We think that it’s going to be a nice slow reveal, lots of scares and lots of action in the beginning, and a great creature in the end, which everybody should be able to look at and say, ‘Oh, that’s Pumpkinhead!’ It’s not like you’re all of a sudden going to find that it’s some amorphous, nebulous, CGI wispy thing. You’re going to know it came from the Pumpkinhead family lineage.”
It’s great to know that Block understands the series’ roots. At the same time, Pumpkinhead comes from a very mixed heritage. While the original is undoubtedly a classic, Jeff Burr’s Pumpkinhead II: Bloodwings – a victim of studio tinkering – is a redundant if charmingly gory sequel. After the 1994 direct-to-video outing, Syfy adopted the brand, pumping out a pair of workmanlike follow-ups, none of which rebooted the brand in a big way, if not detracting from its legacy.
Coming into the series after a Pumpkinhead hiatus of nearly 10 years, Block has a unique opportunity. With the right script, he could revive the franchise and further explore the themes which the classic horror flick developed, and its sequels attempted to expand (picking and choosing from what works, of course). Block’s work with the unorthodox Saw series helped make the franchise and its menacing villain a household name. With a tight script and a genre-loving director, he could update the film, bringing the terrifying backwoods creature to life for a new generation.
At the same time, Block’s decision to reboot the ’80s horror staple begs the familiar question: why not create a sequel instead of writing over Pumpkinhead’s grave? Admittedly a restart will get people talking (and grumbling) about the franchise again. It also already has name brand cachet attached to it. Still, a fresh take on the series or an original horror film inspired by the classic would be an interesting way to pay tribute to the film and its late great director.
At this point, though, getting an original horror movie greenlit in Hollywood must be like threading a sewing needle with a nautical rope. It will be interesting to see what Block and whomever he hires to helm the project come up with, though.
We’ll keep you up to date as more news about the Pumpkinhead reboot comes to light.