31 Days of Horror: Pumpkinhead (1988)

31 Days of Horror - October 2011

They said it couldn’t be done. A fifth year of 31 Days of Horror? 31 more terror, gore and shower scene-filled movies worth highlighting? But Rejects always say die and never back away from a challenge, so we’ve rounded up the horror fans among us and put together another month’s worth of genre fun. Enjoy!


Hell hath no fury like a slighted, backwoods widower with access to a witch. I mean, right? After country store owner Ed Harley’s (Lance Henriksen) simple life is shattered by the accidental death of his son under the wheels of a careless city slicker’s dirt-bike, he helps resurrect vengeance incarnate. The demon Pumpkinhead proceeds to stalk those Harley holds responsible for his son’s death, killing them more often than not by unnecessarily climbing on top of stuff and grabbing their faces. When Harley sees the error of his actions, it’s showdown time between he and the hell-beast he summoned.

Killer Scene

Pumpkinhead, in spite of his terrifying pedigree, clearly has a sense of humor. Be it his penchant for crawling on top of cabins for head grabs, climbing giant trees just to throw people out of them, or smooshing faces against windowpanes simply to be a dick, it’s clear he has a flair for the comically dramatic. Still, Pumpkinhead’s killing-idiots-in-funny-ways opus occurs a little over an hour into the film when he impales Joel, one of the city punks, with his own rifle — then proceeds to break his neck…twice. Nobody can ever accuse Pumpkinhead of not being thorough.


Kill Sheet


0 Skulls Out of 5

Save for a few short scenes worth of one of our inevitable lady victims sporting a midriff-baring tank top, there isn’t much going on in the sex department. This is a movie all about the kills, with not much in the way of horny teenager filler. That said, if demons with nipples and ambiguous genitalia crank your shaft, this flick has your weird name written all over it.


3 Skulls Out of 5

The body-count in Pumpkinhead is comparatively low when set against a lot of modern horror, with only four at the hands of our baddie, but the movie makes them count. I think it’s noteworthy that the deaths aren’t even overtly gory, but they’re still impactful and, frankly, fun. Outside of the actual killing, there’s also a whole lot of suckas getting rag-dolled all over the place just for kicks.


2.5 Skulls Out of 5

For me, the film is more about imagery and mood than overt scares. Even watching Pumpkinhead as a ten year old, I was more geeked out getting to see Lance Henriksen in another film again (I had only experienced him as Stryker in Savage Dawn at that point; I was behind the curve on Aliens), and the iconic creature design of Pumpkinhead himself. Perhaps I’m in the minority, but I’ll say it; I’d be just as terrified if not moreso seeing Stan Winston’s Pumpkinhead step out of the mist as an H.R. Giger Xenomorph. One is going to kill you quickly, because that’s what it does; the other is going to steal your motorcycle chain and chuckle before treating your body like a lawn dart.

Final Thoughts

Pumpkinhead was practical effects master Stan Winston’s directorial debut. The story, also partially penned by Winston, doesn’t have a lot of depth, but it doesn’t need to. It’s fast, fun, and the camp just makes it that much better. Henriksen overacts, as does everyone in the cast with a line. You genuinely don’t care, however.  He creates a fantastic rural legend come to life, and seeing Pumpkinhead in action reminds viewers just how much poorer the landscape of practical effects is without Stan Winston in the world today. Even if you don’t like the film narratively, it’s difficult not to marvel at Winston’s incredible talent.

How Can You See It?- Blu-ray/DVD/Netflix/On Demand

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Dustin is a California transplant by way of West Texas, spending most of the last ten years anywhere between Oceanside and Santa Barbara. Dustin has been writing since adolescence, winning such illustrious honors as first grade teacher Ms. Wall's Creative Critter Writing Award.

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