Come! Come! Rise again! Seek you vengeance, our Pumpkinhead!
Time again for one of the almost horror classic creatures. Some are the Freddy's, Jason's and Chucky's. And some are the ones we maybe kinda remember, but not really. Pumpkinhead is distinct, but not fully clicked with audiences.
It's a force of nature, that comes at trying times in a persons life. Still he's so much the instrument of others that he lacks...something.
But once you see him, he does stick with you, sneaking around in the back of your head.
The film is the creation of effects genius Stan Winston in 1988. It was his first effort at directing a film.
It follows a father (Lance Hendriksen) who is working hard to be a good father for his son, as they go through their day to day lives in a rural off the highway section of the country. They have a close and happy relationship, and they have a dog name Gypsy.
Their lives are pleasant, until a group of young folk arrive from the city.
They arrive in 2 vehicles. One is a truck hauling motor bikes, driven by Steve.
The other is a sports car driven Joel, who is racing around and drinking heavily. .
Along the way, they start telling stories about creepy country people, pointing at some along the road. They are enjoying treating them like Others. But it won't be long before they'll be living and dying as a matter of the locals compassion and decency.
Stopping at a small store, they see some locals arrive and watch some siblings taunt their young brothers, warning him about Pumpkinhead getting him.
The shop is owned by the father, Ed Harley. He is a little nervous about the city kids, but has to leave on some business. He tells his son to stay in the shop.
Meanwhile, Joel and Steve ride around on their bikes, jumping hills at high speed.
Harley's son stays put, but his dog is agitated, and runs out at the bikes. Worried the young kid runs out of the store. He ends up in the path of the bike's and is hit by Joel.
He suffers for awhile, but dies.
Joel runs away, to a cabin they were going to (He was drunk, and he's on parole for some similar activity in the past.). Everyone, but Steve, follow him, soe they can call for help.
Steve waits for the father, who is distraught. He leaves a broken man.
At the cabin, Joel refuses to let the others call for help, and he then traps them.
Ed Harley is in a daze. He sits at home for a with his dead child, then he takes off with him. He decides to take some action. Their was a woman who has special powers. He talks to people and eventually learns where she lives.
And he goes to find her.
He brings his child to rest.
But, in the end, he has come to Haggis for one thing. To make things right. To make the people who have wronged him and his son pay.
Haggis warns him, but he is beyond reason.
So she sends him on a quests. Bring back a special body to her.
The trip to the body, and the place it lies should have warned him off. But he was still lost in his loss.
And soon, Pumpkinhead had arisen. And once it arises, it is after it's target, focused on bringing death.
Before long, it strikes. Harley learns about the cost of his deal to raise this creature. He experiences it's kills. The pain. The terror. The horror.
It's too much for him. He wants to stop it all. But it is too late. Once the process starts it cannot stop. He was warned.
And that may not be the only cost to poor Ed Harley.
Pumpkinhead is a fascinating creature. A being of vengeance, cost, and final punishment.
The design is a curious one, with it's stretched face and form. It's tall and gangly. Has a strange hiss, with a lot of lightning effects around it.
In many ways, when I watch this movie, Pumpkinhead feels like an alien more than it does a demon. His movements and sounds match that style. But it can't be said that Pumpkinhead isn't unique. I would be interested in hearing sometime about Stan Winston's thinking on the character and film.
There is an interesting undercurrent to it about justice, punishment, and capital punishment in particular. The people who do wrong show a sense they can learn, and maybe change. The wronged are driven to extremes that they eventually see as evil in themselves.
Definitely make space for this movie in your marathon this year, particularly if you've haven't seen it yet.
Here's something from Stan Winston's team on making the creature effects.