Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Stan Winston|
|Produced by||Bill Blake|
|Written by||Stan Winston
Richard C. Weinman
Mark Patrick Carducci
|Music by||Richard Stone|
|Editing by||Marcus Manton|
|Studio||De Laurentiis Entertainment Group|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Running time||86 minutes|
|Box office||$4,385,516 (USA)|
Pumpkinhead is a 1988 supernatural horror film. It was the directorial debut of special effects artist Stan Winston. While Pumpkinhead received mixed reviews, the film has built up a cult following in the years since its release.
In the prologue set in 1957, Tom Harley waits inside his farm cabin with his wife and young son, Ed. A doomed man runs through the night and seeks sanctuary at Tom's cabin. Tom refuses and threatens to shoot him if he does not leave. Watching through a window, Ed witnesses the man caught and killed by a grotesque creature.
In the present, Ed Harley (Lance Henriksen) owns a small store in the country. He briefly leaves his young son alone while he runs an errand. A group of teenage campers stop by Harley's. While riding their dirt bikes, they mortally injure Harley's son. One teen, Steve, stays with the boy until his father's return; the rest flee the scene.
At their cabin, the campers fight about whether or not to call the police. Joel, who is responsible for the boy's injury and is on probation for a similar incident, knocks one of his friends unconscious and locks two others in the closet to stop them from contacting the authorities.
Harley goes to see a supposed witch, who says she cannot bring his son back. After Harley says that as a boy, he saw the witch controlling a mysterious creature, the witch agrees to help Harley seek revenge, but she warns him that vengeance comes with a terrible price. On her orders, Harley goes to an old pumpkin patch, digs up a disfigured corpse, and brings it back to the witch's home. The witch uses blood from father and son to resurrect the corpse, which rises as a giant, spindly demonic creature.
Back at the cabin, Joel begins to experience remorse for his actions, and determines to turn himself in to the police. The monster, however, has already arrived. One of the girls, Maggie, hears a voice whispering her name. Seemingly hypnotized, she follows the voice outside the cabin. Steve brings her out of her trance, but he is then attacked by the creature and killed. Harley experiences the murder through the creature's eyes.
While the campers search for Steve, a clawed hand seizes Maggie, dragging her away. Harley has a vision of the creature killing Maggie and he returns to the witch, begging her to stop the monster. The witch laughs mockingly and says that the monster cannot be stopped until its mission of vengeance is complete. She warns that Harley will die too if he interferes.
Joel confronts the monster with a knife, but the monster swats him aside and drags off another of the teens. The three remaining campers beg the locals for help, but the locals refuse, saying the three campers are "marked." Harley arrives and shoots the creature, but when Joel checks to see if it's dead, the creature impales Joel on his own rifle.
A local boy, Bunt, helps the two remaining campers, Tracey and Chris, reach an abandoned church. Bunt relates the legend of the monster Pumpkinhead, explaining that the creature avenges one who was wronged. If anyone tries to stop Pumpkinhead, that person becomes marked as another victim. The creature attacks and throws Chris against a tree, then drags his body back to Harley's house, where Tracey, Bunt, and Harley have taken shelter.
Bunt is caught when Pumpkinhead enters the house. While Harley experiences the murder, Tracey is terrified to see that his face has changed to resemble the monster's. She runs outside and finds Chris struggling to crawl away as Pumpkinhead prepares to kill Bunt. Harley stumbles out of the barn but is accidentally stabbed in the arm by a pitchfork. Both Harley and Pumpkinhead cry out in pain, and the creature releases Bunt. Harley notices that Pumpkinhead's face is turning more human, then realizes that he and Pumpkinhead are one: the only way to kill the creature is to die himself.
The creature grabs Tracey by the neck, but before it can kill her, Harley shoots himself in the head. Both he and Pumpkinhead momentarily collapse to the ground. Pumpkinhead grabs Bunt again. Tracey grabs the gun, and Harley begs her to kill him. Harley, now fully changed, tries to attack Tracey. She shoots him several times until both he and Pumpkinhead fall to the ground, dead. Tracey, Bunt, and Chris then watch as Pumpkinhead bursts into flames. Later that night, back in the pumpkin patch, the witch buries Harley's now-disfigured corpse in Pumpkinhead's grave. The film ends showing his corpse still wearing the necklace his son Billy made him.
- Lance Henriksen as Ed Harley
- Jeff East as Chris
- John D'Aquino as Joel
- Kimberly Ross as Kim
- Joel Hoffman as Steve
- Cynthia Bain as Tracy
- Kerry Remsen as Maggie
- Florence Schauffer as Haggis
- Brian Bremer as Bunt
- Buck Flower as Mr. Wallace
- Matthew Hurley as Billy Harley
- Lee DeBroux as Tom Harley
- Tom Woodruff Jr. as Pumpkinhead
Pumpkinhead was inspired by the following poem by Ed Justin:
Keep away from Pumpkinhead,
Unless you're tired of living,
His enemies are mostly dead,
He's mean and unforgiving,
Laugh at him and you're undone,
But in some dreadful fashion,
Vengeance, he considers fun,
And plans it with a passion,
Time will not erase or blot,
A plot that he has brewing,
It's when you think that he's forgot,
He'll conjure your undoing,
Bolted doors and windows barred,
Guard dogs prowling in the yard,
Won't protect you in your bed,
Nothing will, from Pumpkinhead.
However, the producers of the film have not clarified the poem's origin. Neither the poem nor the writer Ed Justin have, so far, been sourced in any pre-existing form.
In the film, the creature "Pumpkinhead" (also referred to as the Demon of Vengeance or simply Vengeance) is a demon that can be conjured by the witch known as Haggis from a pumpkin patch graveyard where it is buried in revenge for a terrible wrong such as murder. Hence, the creature's name of "Pumpkinhead". The conjurers blood is needed to resurrect Pumpkinhead. Once resurrected, Pumpkinhead will only answer to its conjurer's, or conjurers', bloodlust. As Pumpkinhead begins to kill the individuals responsible for the wrong, the conjurer will feel all of the pain that the individuals feel as they are killed by the creature. Pumpkinhead also feels any pain that its conjurer feels. Hence, the only way to kill the creature is to kill its conjurer. In the original 1988 film, Pumpkinhead was conjured by a man named Edward "Ed" Harley, who desired vengeance after his son was accidentally killed by a motorcycle ridden by a teenager named Joel. In the beginning of the film, thirty years before when Ed was only a boy, Pumpkinhead is seen by Ed as he kills a man shortly after that man begs Ed's father to save him from the creature. It is unknown how the creature came to be conjured during this part of the film. There is also a song about Pumpkinhead meant to frighten little children told in the films that was allegedly inspired by a poem by Ed Justin.
Pumpkinhead has pale skin. Pumpkinhead has a large head with multiple lumps and pale white unseeing eyes with reptilian-like pupils and no irises in the 1988 film. Rather than having a nose, the creature has nostrils which follow the wrinkled skin design above its mouth. The creature is completely hairless and has a large mouth with varying pointed and human-like teeth. There are two small pointed teeth on either side of the creature's lower jaw. The creature has a wrinkled neck with clearly visible blood veins and large bulbous objects that sprout from its shoulders. There are also bulbous objects that sprout from the creature's elbows and extra joints on its legs. Pumpkinhead has long arms with four fingered clawed hands and long fingers. Pumpkinhead has a torso with a rib cage-like design and two muscles underneath its chest which replace its abs. There are two extremely small bulbous objects that sprout from the creature's hips above its digitigrade legs. The creature's legs are large and muscular. Pumpkinhead has three-toed feet with thick dinosaur-like claws. The creature's legs sprout another pair of bulbous objects that actually resemble that of small pumpkins. Pumpkinhead has a long tail with a fin-like spike at the end. In the 1994 sequel, the creature's eyes are changed to completely pale bloodshot eyes with no pupils and all of its teeth are sharp.
In the last two sequels, Pumpkinhead's design is changed because there is a different costume used for the films. The creature's head is smaller and its teeth are yellow. The creature apprears more muscular and has a more human-like posture. The creature's upper body is notably more muscular and the creature is larger, although seems to shrink as its conjurers are killed. The creature's skin is a rotten green color and its bulbous objects that sprout from its shoulders, elbows, hips, and extra joints are replaced with sharp spikes. The creature's hands are smaller with black claws and the fin-like spike on the creature's tail is changed to resemble its spikes, making it more resemble a devil or demon.
The horror punk band The Misfits released a song entitled "Pumpkin Head," which was featured on their album Famous Monsters, released in 1999. The lyrics are basically a re-telling of the plot of the film, with the first lines being: "Now this is a story, of a good man named Ed, left his son for a moment, returned found him dead". The song ends with the first four lines of the poem that inspired the film "Keep away from the Pumpkinhead, unless you're tired of living, his enemies are mostly dead, he's mean and unforgiving." Boondox, a horrorcore country rapper with Psychopathic Records released an EP entitled 'Punkinhead' May 1, 2007. It features a song of the same name.
After a series of delays and tentative release dates, the film was given a limited release theatrically in the United States by United Artists in October 1988 and again in January 1989. It grossed $4,385,516 total at the domestic box office.
The film was released on VHS in the U.S. by MGM/UA Home Entertainment. MGM released the film on DVD twice; once in 2000 as a standard edition and again in 2008 in a 20th Anniversary Edition featuring an audio commentary and over an hour of featurettes.
Two additional sequels, titled Pumpkinhead: Ashes to Ashes and Pumpkinhead: Blood Feud, were filmed in 2006 as made for television movies and aired on SCI FI. Pumpkinhead: Ashes to Ashes aired in October 2006, and Pumpkinhead: Blood Feud aired on February 10, 2007.
Dark Horse Comics also published a Pumpkinhead comic book series called "Pumpkinhead: The Rites of Exorcism". The comic was supposed to be a four-part mini-series but only two issues were published. The second one ended in a cliffhanger leaving readers with the prospect of a winged Pumpkinhead that would have appeared in the third issue.
In 1994, GEOmetric Design, Inc., a St. Paul, Minnesota company and producer of model figure kits (see "garage kit") in the U.S., produced and marketed a vinyl Pumpkinhead model kit called "Pumpkinhead: The Metamorphosis". This version of Pumpkinhead has wings and the model kit depicts the demon perched on an aging stone staircase. The model stands about 17 inches tall, was licensed by MGM/UA, Inc. and endorsed by Stan Winston Studios, and Carducci and Gerani, the writers of the original film. Sculpted by internationally famed Japanese artist, Takayuki Takeya (竹谷 隆之), the kit was based on the Pumpkinhead sequel story written by Carducci and Gerani and published in the Dark Horse Comic's series.
While it is true that Dark Horse's comic book series was cancelled before all four installments were published, GEOmetric Design provided authors Carducci and Gerani the opportunity to publish the rest of their sequel story. With each Pumpkinhead model kit sold, the company included a glossy, full-color booklet. The booklet contained the authors' conclusion to the "Pumpkinhead: Rites of Exorcism" story, original illustrations and paintings by a number of well-known hobby artists, and instructions for building and painting the Pumpkinhead model kit. Even at a whopping $120, it was GEOmetric Design, Inc.'s best-selling monster kit of all time.
A few years earlier, GEOmetric Design, Inc. had produced and marketed the first licensed Pumpkinhead model kit. That kit was released in 1991 and featured the demon on a display base depicting a portion of a burned out church. The model kit was sculpted by American artist Randy Bowen. That collaboration not only helped launch Bowen's successful career in sculpting, but helped launch GEOmetric as a leader in the garage kit industry. The kit was discontinued when GEOmetric Design released its Pumpkinhead: The Metamorphosis kit.