Pumpkinhead (1988)

pumpkinhead-posterWhen will you city folk ever learn? When you done and gone killed Ed Harley’s little boy in a drunken dirt bike accident, you left Pa Harley no choice but to seek out the old witch who lives up on the mountain so that she might conjure up hisself a demon to right this terrible wrong y’all did.

And if you think this is just a regular run of the mill demon summoned from some lame ritual involving satanic douche bags in bathrobes uttering a bunch of Latin mumbo jumbo, well that’s just one more thing you city slickers are ignorant of!

For you see, poor country folks like Ed Harley, who runs the dilapidated food stand by the highway, doesn’t have two pots to piss in so a lot of this demon business is a do it yourself affair. The mountain witch tells Ed that if he’s serious about this supernatural revenge, there’s a price to pay! And the down payment is nothing less than having to dig up the demon’s corpse and bring it back to her!

A good majority of you big city turds would no doubt just abandon the idea right there cuz you don’t want to get sweaty and put your soft hands at risk of a few callouses. Why, I’d wager most of you fancy lads would simply chicken out and just report your boy’s death to the police. I mean, it’s not like twas your iPhone that got all broke or anything, right?

For folks who love our country for what it was before it was overtaken by rich entitled snots on their two wheeled racing contraptions, Pumpkinhead, through the use of absurdly hilarious stereotypes (all hill folk dress in brown rags and are allergic to soap and water), takes us back to a far simpler (and simple-minded) time where a boy and his pa (and their awesome dog – remember this an idyllic existence as filtered through the experience of miserable dirt poor folks) would joke and eat together. And even where the boy would give his pa some ugly necklace that pa freaking loved (and would surely sell to urban rubes as primitive folk art for $50 if he got the chance) all while soft golden light, which must be some sort of atmospheric condition caused by a widower’s love for his only child, enveloped the scene.


The early part of the film, all kindness and sunshine, is just part of director (and special effects legend) Stan Winston’s strenuous effort to make Pumpkinhead a kind of live action hillbilly fairy tale. The witch is an old crone straight out of Snow White named Haggis and she’s lit in a sickly and hellish yellow. When she cuts Ed and his dead boy’s hand to help raise the demon, you instinctively know Ed has literally made a deal with the devil.

Then once Pumpkinhead is rampaging through the countryside, despite it being night, scenes are often suffused with blue lighting either giving things a nightmarish quality or distracting you with how staged it all looks depending on how much you are enjoying the film. (Pumpkinhead himself occasionally abruptly ruins the grim tone of things when he does things like taunt his victims by holding one of their faces up to a window and rubbing it against the glass for everyone to see before smashing it through the window. How do you not laugh at that?)


As is usually the case with guys who dig up demons from pumpkin patch graveyards, Ed gets more than he bargained for as Pumpkinhead begins to slaughter the dopes who killed his boy (and who we care nothing about – their leader is a drunken lout who even makes fun of the kid’s eyeglasses and the rest of them are even worse for tolerating his boorishness) and Ed realizes that maybe it’s wrong to turn to demonic vigilante justice. I’m sure it had nothing to do with the psychic connection he had to Pumpkinhead that let him see and feel everything that was happening to Pumpkinhead’s victims.

Much of the sympathy you had for Ed evaporates once he suddenly develops a conscience. What about his dead boy? You weren’t man enough to get revenge yourself but then when your vengeance demon starts doing it for you, you get cold feet when you see what it involves?

He can’t feign ignorance because as the beginning of the film shows, he knows all about Pumpkinhead from seeing it when he was a child. Even the wimps who might say he was redeemed because he realized revenge is wrong likely won’t appreciate that it took the violent deaths of several folks who didn’t even kill his boy to realize it.


Still, it’s undeniable that Pumpkinhead, anchored by the great Lance Henriksen as the grieving father, has all the right trappings for a spooky Halloween flick (dead kid, witch, gravedigging, ruined church, friend whacking friend in head with firewood) and will entertain if you are in the right mood.

Pumpkinhead himself is what I would expect a backwoods monster born of a body buried in a pumpkin patch to look like and he isn’t afraid to be seen when skulking about, as evidenced when he smugly sits high up in a tree while everyone stares before dropping some poor girl to her death. But even as terrifying as Pumpkinhead looked, as anyone who is familiar with a Lance Henriksen film knows, Pumpkinhead is only the second scariest character in the movie!

© 2016 MonsterHunter

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