What is it you should focus on when reviewing a movie called Pumpkinhead 4: Blood Feud? Do you compare it to (the generally very disposable) Pumpkinhead 2: Blood Wings and Pumpkinhead 3: Ashes to Ashes, thereby summing everything up with "yup, it's pretty much more of the same"? Or do you note that the original Pumpkinhead presently enjoys a small cult following among the horror faithful, thereby explaining why we're getting half-baked sequels some 15 years after the fact? I could just say "Well, hey. Lance Henriksen is in it -- and there's some gore," which is all that most of you will need to hear, anyway.
After resurrecting ol' Pumpy and handing the series to Evil Aliens
director Jake West, the producers turned to Michael Hurst for the third sequel. (If you've seen Room 6, The Darkroom, and House of the Dead 2, then you know Hurst's work. As a director, he's getting better. As a writer ... about the same.) The story takes place, if you can believe it, in the middle of an old feud between the Hatfield clan and the McCoy family. So while that familiar old tale keeps spinning, we also get a small-yet-goofy dose of Romeo & Juliet mixed in with all the familiar trappings of a Pumpkinhead movie. Suffice to say that someone kills someone else and then a third someone goes to see a witch who resurrects the demonic Pumpkinhead so it can wreak gory vengeance on the Hatfields ... or the McCoys. I have the movie on right now and I still can't remember which family is which.
But here's the main problem with the flick: Between the eternally bickering hayseeds, the soapy dopey mini-love affair, and a flat back-story involving a devious sheriff -- this 94-minute movie has way more blather than it needs. Heck, it's got enough rambling and redundant dialog to fill three more Pumpkinhead sequels! In an effort to pad this thing into feature length (it originally premiered on the Sci-Fi Channel), Hurst has his characters explain EVERYthing, from what just happened in the last scene to what's coming next and how they feel about that particular development. But (to be fair) when the movie's not knee-deep in pointless exposition and flimsy character development (like, when it gets down to the creepiness and the carnage), Hurst knows how to dole out what the genre fans want.
Normally it would be outrageously amusing to see series regular Lance Henriksen pop up as the new Obi-Wan of the Pumpkinhead universe, but the guy's (too-few) scenes come as a very welcome respite from all the "You killed Ricky!" and "Well, you killed mah Petey"! nonsense. Plus let's give some props to Hurst for trying to stick some 'series continuity' into the equation. The fans do appreciate the effort, even if the movie could stand to lose about 30% of its dialog scenes. As far as the exploits of the popular beasty are concerned, it's a fairly solid
menu: The costume and make-up are suitably creepy, Hurst comes up with a little atmosphere for the stalky scenes, and the gory bits are pretty satisfying.
Just another direct-to-video sequel, in other words. If you're a diehard fan of this particular series, I'd say that Blood Feud is certainly worthy of a weekend rental, but feel free to skip through most of the chatty parts -- and there's one dinner table scene near Act III ... I swear I thought it was never going to end. Plus it's always nice to see good ol' Henriksen again, isn't it?