Pumpkinhead (1988) – Movie review

pumpkinhead 1988 pic 2

Pumpkinhead (1988)

Directed by Stan Winstonmy top 10 1980s horror

Lance Henriksen
Jeff East
John D’Aquino
Kimberley Ross
Joel Hoffman
George ‘Buck’ Flower
Chance Corbitt Jr.

By now it’s become obvious what I like about 80s horror films, original creatures and monsters, practical effects, some good eerie Synth music, and most of all, classic storytelling. Pumpkinhead is simultaneously an original and unique creature-feature film and a throwback to classic 1950s sci-fi/horror flicks. The monster is an amazing humanoid design with a unique origin/manifestation story. A spiritually demonic entity in pumpkinhead 1988 dvdphysical form is a subject in horror films rarely handled as good as it is here.

To recap the story, the cutest kid in the world has Lance Henriksen as a dad, how cool is that? Kinda’ makes up for not having a mom. While helping his ‘Pa’ at the farm stand, the boy is run over by a dirt-bike riding, city slicker who, along with a group of friends, quickly seek shelter at their nearby log cabin. Ed Harley(Henriksen) takes his boy home. Now get the tissues ready, cause the boy dies. Harley asks the locals about an ol’ woman rumored to have some powers and who can assist with vengeance. The witch woman, Haggis, is one creepy witch and one of the highlights of the movie. She offers Ed Harley a means to avenge his son but it comes with a terrible price. Pumpkinhead is called forth and hunts down the city folk. Seeing the wrong in his hateful vengeance, Ed Harley joins the battle to try and stop the creature.

This film is the directorial debut from Stan Winston, famous effects artist responsible for bringing to life: Alien, Poltergeist, the Thing, and the Dinosaurs from Jurassic Park, among others. I love the duo-tone lighting in the night scenes of this film; blue tints for outdoors, yellow-orange for the indoor scenes. The back lit scene when Pumpkinhead enters the hallowed land of the burnt out church, drips with dark atmosphere and mood. The creature hisses at the cross and halts his relentless pursuit of the city folks in order to break the cross into pieces in a nasty display of evil.

Pumpkinhead follows a classic mythological storyline involving the fulfillment of a wish or desire and adhering to the adage, be careful what you wish for, because you just might not like what you get. Self destruction by the desire for revenge is another theme here, along with similarities to classics like The Monkey’s Paw, Pandora’s Box, and the cursed granted wish of a Genie. The film spawned several sub-par sequels which I would ignore, the effects were not handled as well and the stories were not nearly as good.

I’m sure most horror fans have seen this fantastic film but for those looking for a not-so-gory Halloween Creature Feature, this would be a great choice. I can’t even guess at how many times I have watched it; it’s one of my all time faves. A true Modern American Gothic classic!

pumpkinhead 1988 pic 35
Fun Facts:
The film was inspired/based on a poem by Ed Justin.

The boys dog, Gypsy, was the same dog that was in Gremlins

Lance Henriksen gathered his own props for his character, including visiting Pawn Shops to purchase silver dollars to pay the witch for her services.

Though the creatures head is not shaped like a pumpkin it is birthed from a pumpkin patch.

George “Buck” Flowers was an often called upon character actor in the 80’s, playing small parts in films like, The Fog, They Live, and Back to the Future

23 thoughts on “Pumpkinhead (1988) – Movie review

  1. I loved this movie back in the day but I watched it again last year and the romance was gone… it’s a masterpiece compared to the second one….

  2. I would have watched this for Halloween, but my VCR is on the fritz. I love the second movie. I remember catching 3 and 4 on the SyFy channel around the time Kurt Angle signed with TNA and thinking they were decent. At least Henriksen returned. Good times.

    • VCR, lol. Time for an upgrade, ya think? 🙂 A few years ago when everyone was upgrading to Bluray, they were dumping all their dvd s for almost nothing on eBay and Amazon. I bought a whole lot of flicks on DVD at that time for only $3 to $5 each.

      • Lol, well I also have a DVD player and my PlayStation 3 doubles as a Blu-Ray player. I was hanging on to the VCR out of nostalgia. Yeah, I buy most of my movies used now from video stores for $2 to $3. Ordering them new, especially the weird cult movies I’m into, was getting expensive, and I realized I had different priorities.

      • Yeah, you like a lot of those weird movies (I mean that in a good way), and I notice a lot of those less popular ones never go down in price. I’ve been trying to find the Count Orlok films at a good price and can’t seem to get them.

  3. Excellent review of an 80s creature feature!

    Pumpkinhead is definitely an original looking creature with an old school, science-fiction vibe. The origin of the story as you pointed out is interesting. The whole film in general is excellent, and I need to re-watch it in the very near future.

    I have to confess, while I have always thought the original was a great offering from the horror genre of the 80s, I have yet to see any of the sequels. I was going to ask you if you watched any of them, and if they were worth investing the time to check them out, but you answered that question toward the end of your blog. Thank you for saving me wasting my time watching sub-par sequels.

    Lance Henriksen was competent in his role, as he always is. He simultaneously demonstrates his overwhelming love, and the grief he felt for the loss of his son, by his willingness to pay the price, but at the same time, still maintains enough of his humanity, so that he knows what Pumpkinhead is doing is wrong. I think he plays his role perfectly.

    I had forgotten that piece of trivia you provided that this was Stan Winston’s first film. Thank you for including that information in your blog, I love facts like that. I also was unaware that the film was inspired by a poem, I will have to check out Ed Justin’s work.

    I can’t honestly say I remember anything as it pertains to the lighting of the film, but I will definitely look for it when I re-watch the movie.

    • I wanted to mention in my article that Henrickson s acting in this was outstanding and probably the best of his career.I guess he wasn’t pretty-boy enough to be the leading man in movies, because he sure could act.

      • I thought he did a really good job when he had the chance to be the lead star on the television show Millennium. I don’t know if you remember that show, or even watched it. I have always found him convincing in whatever role he plays.

  4. Great write up, Michael! Dig the factoids you included. Man, do I miss Stan Winston. Love this film to no end. Not sure why I have never reviewed it.

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