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John's Horror Banana-nanza Episode Thirty-Five: Pumpkinhead

Updated on August 20, 2012
That spider and cockroach diet really does wonders for your face.
That spider and cockroach diet really does wonders for your face.


The truth is not in the title here. This is a movie that simply can't be judged by its cover.

Of course, anyone who is skeptical of horror movies would see the title "Pumpkinhead" and think, oh boy, a cheesy rotten piece of 80's garbage, in the same realm as "Mother's Day" or "April Fools Day".

But they would be sorely mistaken.

This is the story of Ed Harley, played to grim perfection by Lance Henriksen, and his son, who is run over by bikers from the city. With revenge on his mind, he seeks an old women living in the hills of Kentucky/Tennessee/West Virginia. She tells him she can't bring his son to life, but can create a monster who will kill those responsible. However, this comes with a steep price, and soon Ed Harley has to stop the monster for his own sanity.

Now, with all of that in mind, there is a lot of problems with this movie.

For one, if this takes place in the present, why does everyone act like it's the 1800's? I understand we're in the backwoods, but this is pretty extreme. There's a tiny village on a back dirt road, and there must be about 30 families walking around in the mud. The trucks barely work, and at the beginning of the movie, which takes place in 1957, the truck appears to be in antique shape despite maybe being one or two years old.

Also, if you're going on vacation with your friends, why would you wait to buy the food until you're ten minutes from your destination? Especially when you're in the backwoods and the grocery store looks like someone's log shanty? And if you're going to stop for groceries, which should take all of ten to fifteen minutes, why go to the trouble to get your dirt bikes off the rack and ride them around? You're almost to your destination, for crying out loud!

Watching the teenage girl try to stop Harley's son from running in front of the dirt bikes is embarrassing. She runs quarter speed, like she's hammered drunk, and yells out (well, speaks out, she doesn’t really yell) "little boy!", as if that will somehow stop him.

Ok. So, problems aside, Stan Winston's creature effects are breathtaking. The actual Pumpkinhead is terrifyingly convincing. Even the contact lenses in Henriksen's eyes make him look legitimately possessed.

The fog, the atmosphere, and the pacing are all perfect in this movie. It hums along, and hits subtle terrors right on the nose. This is an underrated film with three ugly, not worth mentioning sequels. Overall though, I recommend it, as it is certainly in my top ten horror films.



The completely unnecessary 4th installment...

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