It's September, which means Halloween season has officially begun! And that means you'll be seeing a lot more from me! I know, I know, you've been craving more horror movie reviews for a while and I aim to please, and we're kicking this season off with a bang! So sit back, relax, and enjoy this review of Pumpkinhead and as you know, spoilers for this 30-year-old movie. Seriously if you haven't seen it yet what are you doing with your life? It's on Hulu right now go watch it!
Pumpkinhead is the 1988 masterpiece directed by Stan Winston and starring horror legend (yeah, I said it) Lance Henriksen. The movie gets a fresh rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes at 65%, while only 48% of audiences liked it which leads me to believe that 52% of moviegoers wouldn't know a good horror movie if it slapped them in the face, but I digress.
The movie follows Ed Harley (Henriksen) and his son Billy, who live a simple life in what is presumed to be the backwoods of some southern state judging by their accents. One day a group of "city folk" come through and stop as Harley's grocery store. Through a series of events that aren't really important Billy gets accidentally run over by one of the teens. Grief-stricken, Ed Harley vows revenge for his son's murder. It is the simplicity of Pumpkinhead's that allows it to be as effective as it is. Such an easy revenge story means that we don't need to focus too much on the plot, which leaves room for the characters (mainly just Henriksen if I'm being honest) to develop.
While we're on the subject let's talk about the characters. Ed and Billy are really the only two that matter, and even Billy's character doesn't really matter as he's only there to die to really get the movie going, but you can tell that Ed and Billy really share a strong bond. The grief that Ed goes through which leads to the events that we're all waiting for feels real, and the realization that he's done something wrong by unleashing Pumpkinhead on these teenagers and subsequent attempts to save the ones that remain is a good arc for him to have. Outside of Ed Harley though, there is only one other character who is any good and that's Haggis, the old witch who summons Pumpkinhead on Ed's behalf. She is without a doubt the coolest character in the movie, even though she doesn't get much screen time. She's so cryptic and awesome but without being campy. She's just very matter-of-fact about everything and her scenes are easily the creepiest in the movie.
But we all know why we're here, right? We want to talk about the the actual Pumpkinhead! As you can tell from the picture up there, or if you've seen the movie, Pumpkinhead's design is very reminiscent of the Xenomorph, but with more facial features. If you look at it go "well, that just looks like a low-budget Alien reject" I can't fault you for that, but the Pumpkinhead design brings its own strengths to the table. As I mentioned, it actually has a face which allows it to emote unlike the Xenomorph, and watching that monster smirk and snarl is both creepy and awesome. Secondly, since its design isn't as complex as the Xenomporph's we get to see it on screen much more often, moving around and actually doing things. I know a lot of times in horror less is more, and there might have been a few instances where we didn't actually need to see Pumpkinhead on screen. In fact, some of the creepiest moments are when we only catch glimpses of it, like when it's walking past a window, but overall I didn't mind having more monster because unlike Alien this is not a slow-burn movie and I think trying to make it so would have put a damper on how Pumpkinhead felt as a whole.
There is one issue I take with this movie, and that's the kills. The kills are honestly on the boring side. There's a lot of pick this person up, throw them, drop them, etc. But there are two kills that I absolutely loved. The first one is when he has one of the girls by the head and has her smushed up against the window. Her face is that moment is (I think unintentionally) hilarious. The second kill is the one at the very end of the movie. They try shooting Pumpkinhead, burning Pumpkinhead, nothing works. It turns out that Pumpkinhead and Ed are linked by whatever magic Haggis did, and the only way to hurt Pumpkinhead is to hurt Ed. Knowing this, Ed tries to commit suicide by shooting himself in the head and completes his arc which is pretty tragic. Unfortunately he fails, and one of the two remaining teens has to shoot him herself in order to finish off Pumpkinhead.
Overall, I love this movie. It's a fantastic revenge tail and a solid horror movie. If you've somehow gone your entire life without having seen it, I recommend that you correct that issue immediately. If you have seen Pumpkinhead, what did you think? Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts!