A dramatic and scary flashback to the first book provides the perfect springboard opening for Return of the Pumpkins. This sequel is much longer and is more of a psychological horror story than its predecessor; set ten years after his first bloody encounter with the demonic knife-wielding pumpkins, Peter is now a patient in a psychiatric ward being treated for the trauma he suffered many years before. Needless to say, the doctors believe Peter’s stories about killer pumpkins being responsible for the brutal murder of his parents and he himself nearly dying in a fire to be his mind’s way of dealing with whatever happened - Peter’s far from sure of that though and still harbours very real fears of Halloween and any thought of pumpkins.
The hospital setting alone conjures up a mental image of an asylum and helps add to the increasingly sinister tone of the story, the classic scenario of being normal while everyone around you are the insane ones; added to the mix we have some less than sympathetic hospital staff and a downright creepy doctor. Fortunately for Peter, he finds an ally in fellow patient Sue, who seems determined to befriend and help him deal with his traumatic past. With her help, Peter develops a new sense of confidence and hope for the future, but as in any good story, events take a different direction, placing the two of them in the gravest danger, leading Peter to believe the murderous knife-wielding pumpkins are indeed real and not just the delusional creations of his imagination. How Peter and Sue face that danger provides a clever and frightening climax whilst leaving sufficient scope for another instalment to the series should the author decide to write one, which I hope she does.
With just a couple of characters it would have been easy for the author to write this story from a first-person point of view to really get inside the main character’s mind but somehow manages to achieve the same result with a third person perspective, an excellent balance between narrative and just the right level of dialogue and action.
As a psychological short horror story, this (and its predecessor) really is as good as they come, a story that would stand out as a classic Hammer House of Horror episode if it were ever adapted for film/tv - impossible for me to praise this story more highly!