Pumpkinhead, released in 1988, is a campy horror with a cult following. From the start, I was excited because with a name like Pumpkinhead, what could go wrong? The film is about Ed Harley and his young son. When his son is fatally injured in an accident involving a bunch of out-of-town teens, Harley summons Pumpkinhead from the depths of hell to seek revenge on the teens.
Don’t let the title fool you - Pumpkinhead doesn’t actually wear a pumpkin on his head, which was the first disappointment of this film. He actually looks more like an alien and only got that name because he comes from a pumpkin patch. I found myself daydreaming of ways this villain could have been much cooler and more sinister. One thing this film has going for it is that the relationship between Mr. Harley and his son is beautiful. The movie sets you up with several adorable father-son scenes and it truly is heartbreaking when he dies. I had no trouble understanding Mr. Harley’s loss or need for revenge. And even though it was an accident, nothing more, the teen responsible for it is a grade-A asshole, so it’s easy to hate him. The character and plot development was all there, but for me, the movie was just missing something.
For starters, it seemed to move at an incredibly slow pace, to the point where I was often bored. For such an intriguing villain, I wanted more action. Pumpkinhead is a legend whispered throughout this small, quiet town and he even has a poem children chant. Sure, he kills a slew of people and kills them well, but the death sequences simply aren’t that exciting. For a film releasing during the campy horror decade, I expected sequences with a bit more flair. Also, what’s better in horror than a good old fashioned revenge story? Nothing. Except, in this film Mr. Harley starts to feel bad for what he’s caused and makes an effort to stop it. His sympathy for the teens is admirable, but not very fitting for a fun horror film.
In the end, I wanted more from Pumpkinhead. No stranger to silly, campy horror I wished for a bit more oomph with this movie. A little more craziness and passion and I’m certain Pumpkinhead could be a formidable foe. As of right now though, I don’t think the other creatures on the island have much to worry about.
If you liked Pumpkinhead, you might also like Carrie, Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street.