Pumpkinhead (1988)

It felt like at the end of the 80s everyone wanted to make the next great monster. Stan Winston made more monsters than anyone else, so when he got the chance to direct his first film, the monster had better be great.

Sure, Pumpkinhead looks kind of like the xenomorphs from Alien, but it also has a throwback to the energy and foggy menace of classic horror. That may be because writers Mark Patrick Carducci (Neon ManiacsBuried Alive) and Garry Gerani looked to the movies of Mario Bava for inspiration.

It’s also the only monster movie that I know that comes from a poem. Yes, Ed Justin wrote this poem, Pumpkinhead, which inspired the movie*:

“Keep away from Pumpkinhead,
Unless you’re tired of living,
His enemies are mostly dead,
He’s mean and unforgiving,
Laugh at him and you’re undone,
But in some dreadful fashion,
Vengeance, he considers fun,
And plans it with a passion,
Time will not erase or blot,
A plot that he has brewing,
It’s when you think that he’s forgot,
He’ll conjure your undoing,
Bolted doors and windows barred,
Guard dogs prowling in the yard,
Won’t protect you in your bed,
Nothing will, from Pumpkinhead!”

Ed Harley (Lance Henriksen) has already lost his wife, so when a bunch of teenagers accidentally kill his son, he gives gold to a witch to get the revenge the law won’t give him. That revenge is the gigantic Pumpkinhead, which pretty much kills everyone and anyone.

I really loved this when it came out on video, as it really has a dark story to go with the effects and so few horror movies at the time mixed the supernatural with the rural. It just works so well and Winston has a great eye for a first-time filmmaker.

You know who stars in this and you may recognize him? That’d be Mushroom, the dog who plays Ed’s dig Gypsy. He also played Barney in Gremlins. And yes, that’s Mayim Bialik two years before she was Blossom.

Here’s the silliest trivia I have about this movie: it’s cinematographer, Bojan Bazelli, directed Mariah Carey’s “Vision of Love” video.

*I learned this from Horror Geek Life.

One thought on “Pumpkinhead (1988)

  1. Pumpkinhead is a film brimming with all the typical horror tropes, sure. But what truly sets it apart is their elegant delivery in the form of good storytelling (like you said, that POEM!), along with the kind of good writing and well-staged events we seldom encounter in horror. Oh, and EXCELLENT pacing, special effects and set design!!! I’ve always been impressed with this one.

    My take on it: https://moviesfilmsandflix.com/2016/04/15/johns-horror-corner-pumpkinhead-1988-an-excellent-case-study-in-over-played-tropes-executed-perfectly/


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