Ed Harley is a widowed father who owns a small general store out in the country. While Ed’s busy running his day to day business, he gets some new customers one evening: a group of city kids who are out in the area to stay at their friends cabin and do a little camping. The kids take a break in their traveling to do a little dirt-biking on the hills surrounding the store. It’s all just in good fun, but after Ed has to leave to run an errand, his young son Billy chases his dog out into the hills. The kids try to stop him, but perhaps inevitably poor Billy ends up struck by one of the bikes as it comes jumping over a hill. Billy is mortally wounded, and all but one of the kids leaves the scene. Uncaring of the teens excuses, Ed is enraged and heads into the wooded hills in search of the local witch to seek help. The witch turns him away, telling him it’s impossible for her to raise the dead. But when his words turn towards revenge she offers to help…. and offers a warning that his vengeance will come with a terrible price. But Ed doesn’t care, and soon the local demon known as Pumpkinhead is raised to enact revenge on the teens who left the scene of his son’s accident. Ed seems satisfied at first, but his thoughts soon turn to regret when he realizes that he and the demon are now linked, and he experiences every death the monster inflicts on its victims. Now it’s a race against time as Ed tries to stop the beast before it kills all the kids, and with them what’s left of his soul.
Ah, yes, Pumpkinhead. Believe it or not, this is one of my favorite B-horror movies. It’s just got just the right amount of heart and skill behind it, that you can almost forgive it all it’s faults, even though it’s a little on the cheap side and isn’t a very flattering portrait to mountain folks. It helps that it stars Lance Henriksen, who is, as always, just excellent. Too bad much of the rest of the cast, especially the teens, are pretty bland. Oh, except for the witch. She’s suitably creepy as all hell.
Of course, the real reason to watch this is to see the awesome effects of Stan Winston himself. The design of the Pumpkinhead monster is exquisite, and articulate, and surprisingly expressive, and the film’s atmosphere only adds to the creepy feel surrounding the slender demon. There’s no CGI at work here. It’s all blissful, skillful practical effects. Praise be.
And while I will admit that the creature’s appearance is a little reminiscent of the Alien model (paint him black and I’m convinced people would have to look closer to tell the difference), it’s Pumpkinhead‘s intelligence and relentless unforgiving nature that sets them both apart. The aliens in Alien franchise, for the most part, just gather people as hosts for their evil little offspring. They’re just mindless, ruthless creatures going by instinct. Pumpkinhead, on the other hand, is just a sinister monster. He’s not just getting revenge for someone, he’s enjoying the hell out of getting revenge for someone. You can just tell he enjoys hurting people and scaring the hell out of others. He smiles when someone cries out in pain, plays with his victims dead bodies…. Whatever this thing is, it’s seriously messed up. It’s not out there getting revenge just because it’s being forced to. It’s out there killing and tormenting people because it enjoys the trill of screwing with people. The closet scene at the end of the film is a perfect example:
Please refrain from all the “In the Closet” jokes that may have popped in your head.
In the scene, he literally tricks a boy (and the audience) into thinking the closet was a good hiding place (Though in a horror movie, when is it ever?). Then he looks like he’s all pleased with himself at not just having found the kid, but knowing that he gave him a false sense of security as well. It’s a disturbing characteristic, but it’s also appropriately demonic and twisted. You gotta love all those nice, little touches like that.
Pumpkinhead is not a perfect movie, but it’s definitely a fun one for genre fans. The effects are great, the monster looks awesome, and it’s appropriately moody. It’s got it’s fair share of flaws, and it’s not very flattering to certain people, but despite it’s downsides it ends up being a pretty entertaining ride. If you like monster movies, then this one is a no-brainer.
There is also news that a re-boot may be in the works. But news regarding that has been circulating since 2017. So until filming actually starts, don’t get too excited about that news just yet.
Pumpkinhead is available on a variety of streaming services.
Pumpkinhead is also available on DVD and Bluray.