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Movie Review: Pumpkinhead (1988)

Directed by Stan Winston. This good horror stars Lance Henriksen of ‘Aliens’, ‘Millennium’ and ‘Damien: Omen II’ as Ed, a country hick and loving father who is pushed to breaking point by the actions of the selfish vile city ‘teenager’ Joel (John D’Aquino of ‘Seaquest DSV’).

Inspired by a poem by Ed Justin, this cult classic has a bevy of irredentist sequels. This opens in 1957 with a prologue featuring young Ed learning the dark secret of his scuzzy hillbilly town, the sort that never existed and never will. He hears the Pumpkinhead demon being sent after a man. In the ‘present’, Ed is all grown up and has his own son Billy and dog Gypsy. His wife is dead and his glaze eyed son is an adorable moppet. Naturally six annoying city folk ‘teenagers’ who look about 30 and wear Rambo headbands, hoop earrings and way too much denim while driving too fast show up.

Their leader, Joel, has no moral code as he rides around on a dirt bike looking and acting like a bottom tier pimp. He has an inability to even contemplate anyone else’s feelings or arguments. In a demonstration of his utter irresponsibility Joel runs over Billy albeit inadvertently. This causes Joel no self-revelation instead he runs off, remorse free, bullying his friends into coming with him to hide out at a cabin in the woods. He’s a repeat offender with accidents so he rips the phone chord out of the wall and smacks around his friends and their perms. Why do they hang out with this jerk?

The incensed, stressed and profoundly upset Ed doesn’t take the dying Billy to a hospital. Instead he yells at another hillbilly who has a bevy of barefoot grandchildren one of whom of played by Mayim Balik of ‘Blossom’ and ‘The Big Bang Theory’. Ed wants to know where to find the backwoods witch so he can unleash the Pumpkinhead demon for vengeance. Ed gets directions to the witch who offers scant consolation but says he must pay a powerful price for his revenge.

Ed demands his arcane revenge and looks forward to the undifferentiated duplicitous city jerks paying for their inappropriate acts, silly provocations and indiscretions. Ed ignores all the warning signs and the demon (a rubber monster) is called and starts killing the now guilt ridden ‘teens’. Joel finally comes to realisations about his indefensive dissipation but it is too late. Ed is not mollified or comforted by the ravages he thought a necessity but it is too late. This is an evocative and sublimely creepy movie set 90% during Hollywood night.

As the ‘teens’ die, Ed learns he can’t just change his mind and yells inconsolably. Joel gets desperate. Ed stews on the price of vengeance but has recanted too late. Vengeance is not what he envisaged and the weak Ed tries to save the surviving ‘teens’. The survivors are standing around not doing anything constructive but there is another twist to come. There are no beneficiaries from calling up Pumpkinhead and the full price for doing so is very, very high and is a further cruel twist. Soon enough someone will call it up again and the whole cycle will begin all over again.

Best Lines:
“What about old Mr Foley?”
“He moved away.”
“Uh uh, Pumpkinhead got him.”

“Should I be afraid?”

“Please open the door.”

“Why doesn’t daddy let the man in?”

“Get away from my door.”

“I don’t know nothing about that and I don’t want to!”

“I got my shotgun here.”

“These people can get pretty weird.”

“There ain’t no Pumpkinhead.”

“He’s just a jerk jerk.”

“It wasn’t the devil.”
“It was!”

“An old graveyard way back deep in them woods. My own folk used to bury kin in there. Kin theys ashamed of. Bring a shovel. The thing you’re looking for is in there.”

“God damn you! God damn you!”
“He already has!”

“It’s a thing!”
“What thing?”

“Get off my land!”

“It only kills what is was called upon to kill.”

“You must’ve done something bad.”

“Get away from me and my kin.”

“Nothing can call it off.”
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