Pumpkinhead (1988) - Stan Winston

Director: Stan Winston

Producer: Bill Blake

Writers: Stan Winston, Richard C. Weinman, Gary Gerani, and Mark Patrick Carducci

Starring: Lance Henriksen, John D'Aquino, and Kerry Remsen

Studios: De Laurentiis Entertainment Group and United Artists

Release Date: October 14, 1988

Country: United States

Box Office: $4.4 million

Pumpkinhead is a supernatural horror film from filmmaker and effects icon Stan Winston, and producer Bill Blake. It is the first film in the Pumpkinhead franchise. Starring Lance Henriksen, John D'Aquino and Kerry Remsen. The movie was released on October 14, 1988, by the De Laurentiis Entertainment Group and United Artists. It was given a very limited theatrical run in ‘88 and 1989 and had achieved cult status throughout the years.

Back in the fifties, Ed Harley had seen the demon known as Pumpkinhead murder a man. Years later, Harley and his very young son, are running a general store off of some highway in Nevada. Six young adults, on their way to a cabin, decide to stop off at the store first. Joel and Steve go dirtbike riding. Things are going really well until Joel accidentally kills the young child with his bike. Ed finds out and decides to get revenge on the youths. He visits an old witch that cannot bring the child back, but she can definitely curse those responsible. She can curse them with the evil demon, Pumpkinhead.

Stan Winston turned in a hell of a movie here. I really liked Pumpkinhead. It was different than the usual fare. He told an original story with a scary as hell monster. I don’t exactly know why I had avoided this movie for years. I remember had seen the box in Blockbuster but never picked it up. After that, the movie just sort of eluded me. I would catch it on cable television, but it would always be in the final fifteen minutes and I would change it, afraid of spoilers.

Lance Henriksen is terrific in the lead. He brings a certain intensity to all of his roles. That conviction mixed with great storytelling make for the one really entertaining feature. It’s a terrifying but fantastical story that feels ripped straight from some twisted fairy tale. Stan Winston’s effects are on full display here. His work on the hulking Pumpkinhead monster is breathtaking. Really fantastic stuff for the time. Unfortunately, it doesn’t hold up very well today. The victims get picked-up by something off camera too damn much, the fog machine is set on full blast, and the lighting is wonky.

Pumpkinhead may have flaws. But it came along at a time when horror had become a cliche. The major slasher franchises were becoming parodies of themselves. The peak of the slasher genre, far behind them. This film introduces more elements of mythology and fantasy that make the film far more interesting than the usual fare. I really enjoyed watching this one. It’s definitely appropriate for horror movie marathons and is a cult movie that a lot of people haven’t seen. I suggest this one to those that like movies like Legend, Labyrinth, and Friday the 13th.