“Bolted doors and windows barred,
Guard dogs prowling in the yard,
Won’t protect you in your bed,
Nothing will, from Pumpkinhead.”
Despite the title, this 1988 film is not about a serial killer who wears a pumpkin on his head. That would be dumb. Rather, it is an interesting take on both the revenge and teen slasher sub-genres, and with one lovable denizen of Hell on center stage.
Our story begins with Ed Harley (Lance Henriksen), rural storekeeper and really great dad to his young son, Billy. They really seem to be best pals from the various exchanges between them. One would say that each is all the other really has in the world and you gain a real sense of connection between them. Well, just as you’re getting rather attached to this adorable pairing, little Billy is inadvertently killed by a reckless motorcyclist, while the accidental killer’s teen pals look on in horror. When Dad returns to discover his dead son, it’s a real tug on the heartstrings, let me tell you.
It’s fair to say that Ed doesn’t take too kindly to all of this. So, he enlists the help of a local witch named Haggis to conjure the demon of vengeance known as Pumpkinhead — a Giger-esque figure with one insatiable appetite for obnoxiously dressed adolescents. The witch warns him that there is a “powerful price” to pay for calling up Pumpkinhead, leading into the morality bit of this picture, which was a minor annoyance when it’s obvious that this movie is all about the irrepressible charisma of our titled revenge demon. I mean, who wants a Sunday school lesson when the sweet smell of payback is so much more gratifying?
Yes, Pumpkinhead really steals the show with his charm and personality. It especially shows in his handiwork, the way he deals out justice. One might even call it style. In fact, I just did. Oh, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll cheer like a deranged sports fanatic. Hail Pumpkinhead!
Pumpkinhead was directed by the late Stan Winston, a man otherwise known as a top Oscar-winning special effects artist for movies including the Alien franchise, Terminator, Predator, Edward Scissorhands, and others. This is Winston’s directorial debut and, oddly enough, doesn’t contain any of his own SFX work. The movie didn’t do well at the box office, but it made up for all of that by becoming a complete cult classic. Having now seen it, I understand why. Rent it today!
An aside: While watching the scenes of the teenagers hiding out in their cabin, I actually freaked a little when I realize that this cabin wasn’t merely familiar to me, it had to be the same cabin the Jarvis family occupied in Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter. One look on Wikipedia and other places, and it appears that I’m totally friggin’ RIGHT! Same cabin for both shoots. I knew I wasn’t crazy. At least in this case.