Thursday, May 7, 2009

Movie Review: Pumpkinhead (1988)

PUMPKINHEAD - Stan Winston/Lance Henriksen horror - Cover Image

Written by Mark Patrick Carducci
Directed by Stan Winston
Based on a poem by Ed Justin

Lance Henriksen .... Ed Harley
Matthew Hurley .... Billy Harley
Brian Bremer .... Bunt
Florence Schauffler .... Haggis

"According to the legend, if one man does something bad to another man--it's got to be real bad, like killing--then that other man can have Pumpkinhead conjured up to take revenge."

PUMPKINHEAD - Stan Winston/Lance Henriksen horror - Pumpkinhead

Or so tells us Bunt, a possibly inbred local boy in the small bumpkin town of Bradley Mountain.

Widowed farmer and grocery merchant Ed Harley--played by Lance Henriksen of Aliens and TVs Millennium--and his young son Billy live in a decrepit backwoods house with their faithful dog Gypsy. Everything is peaceful and copacetic, although from the very beginning it's obvious that all they have left in this world is each other. Not that either of them are complaining. As is the norm, Billy goes down to Harley Grocery with his father to run the store after breakfast, at around the same time that a group of hotshot city kids--comprised equally of sensitive-types who are sympathetic to the "po' white plight" and stereotypical asshole thugs--are arriving in their flashy automobiles. They're here to stay in one of their parents' cabins, and apparently, to raise hell around the countryside on their dirt bikes. Right away, Gypsy has a grudge against them, which could be foreshadowing but instead becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

For, you see, Gypsy runs out into the field where the kids are riding their bikes, and Billy of course runs right out after him. In dramatic slow motion, we see him hit and killed, like in a Scooby Doo cartoon, all because of those meddlesome kids and that damned dog.

PUMPKINHEAD - Stan Winston/Lance Henriksen horror - Pissed Off Ed

After the kids scatter, and Ed gives the one left behind a look that quite clearly says "Lance Henriksen is not someone to fuck with," he takes his son to an old woman in the mountains who is said to have special powers. Her name is Haggis, which is a fitting name, because she is definitely a hag of the worst kind and lives in the spookiest cabin ever caught on film that appears to have been built out of whichever branches happened to have fallen from the tree. At Ed's insistence, Haggis conjures up Pumpkinhead--"Cruel, devious, purest venom ...VENGEANCE!"--to get a little payback. Haggis warns him that there is a great price to pay for such a deed, but Ed chooses not to heed her warning.

I won't tell you what the "great price" was, and I won't give away the ending, but I will tell you this: It was excellent.

This is a genuine horror film that doesn't have to rely on horny teenagers and age-old clichés for its thrills. Lance Henriksen is not only possessor of the world's craggiest face, but he is also one hell of an actor, and the relationship with his son is utterly believable and touching. Quite an achievement seeing as how Billy dies so early in the film. And although some of the city kids' acting could be poor and overdone at times, it simply adds to the enjoyment of seeing them killed off. The director does a fine job with atmosphere, especially the use of shadows and fog, although the electrical storm that seems to follow old Pump around could be considered a bit much. The film was also brilliantly scored, at times flaring up with an electric bluegrass vibe that was befitting.

Definitely a classic.

Rated R
86 minutes
United States

"That old woman scares the piss out of me!"


  1. Pumpkinhead owns, one of my all time favorite creatures and ranks highly among Stan Winstons most amazing creations

  2. my favorite part of this movie is when Lance says to the old Hag :"god damn you! god damn you!' and she says "he alredy has Ed Harley. he already has." i love this movie cheesy at times but it adds to it's charm.


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