6/28/12

Panels From Beyond the Grave #23

PUMPKINHEAD: THE RITES OF EXORCISM (2 of 4, October 1993)

I haven't reviewed it for the site, but Pumpkinhead is one of my favorite films of all time. It falls somewhere in the Top 5, though I'm terrible at ranking things. You don't know how much it irks me that Stan Winston's directorial debut never spawned a worthy sequel. Years ago, PEOPLE DIED when I heard that Pumpkinhead 3 and 4 were set to premiere on Syfy. Seriously, I fucking killed innocent bystanders. As for Blood Wings, it's only amusing on a popcorn level. To me, the original is perched above b-movie status. The acting is nuanced (especially as it relates to Lance Henriksen), Winston took the helm with aplomb (I could write pages about the shot composition alone) and the creature effects are mind-boggling. Question...why isn't there a credible follow-up?

Answer...there is! But there's a catch; it's a series of comic books. Possibly in anticipation of the following year's Blood Wings, Dark Horse ordered a four-issue slate of Pumpkinhead comics, and the story would pick up where the film left off. Yay! There is just one problem. They only published two issues. For the life of me, I can't figure out why the series was canceled. And it fucking sucks because The Rites of Exorcism is a well-written tale with blistering artwork and three-dimensional characters. I want to know how it ends, dammit! Ostensibly, there is only one way to find out how this saga draws to a close. I'll fill you in...tomorrow. Today, I want to discuss the comic itself. I'm basically reviewing both issues, but the second book has a badass cover. So yeah.

As it turns out, the old witch has a teenaged granddaughter named Mariah. This heady blonde is destined to be a reluctant successor to her thaumaturgic elder. She tries to shrink back from her fate by fleeing the township and absconding with her boyfriend, but it's no use. Her plans are derailed when Haggis passes away. Bound by a sense of loyalty, Mariah curates a death ritual that her runic grandmother would have been proud of. Halfway through the second issue, she is needlessly killed in a skirmish with "ruffians." Naturally, her boyfriend wants revenge, so blam! Pumpkinhead is called upon to kick ass, and that's where it cuts off. I must say, Rites would have made a solid movie, assuming that the ending is sensible. I dig the shit out of it.

I do have a lingering grievance. I'm all for expounding on the titular demon's origin, but I'm not crazy about the backstory that writer Gary Gerani has presented. He traces a stock "they have been around for centuries" ancestry that includes a goofy panel where Ol' Punkin' attacks an assembly of cavemen (replete with Fred Flinstone attire). I'm dead serious. Elsewhere, The Rites of Exorcism is fantastic. I appreciated the fact that the dialogue cites lines from the film verbatim. 'Twas a nice touch. It's a shame that we didn't get to read the rest of this series. However, the remainder of the script exists, and if you're a hardcore collector, you can track it down. Stay tuned for additional information. Yep, a cliffhanger.

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