I remember coming out of Gateway Twin Cinemas back in 1988 after seeing Stan Winston's directorial debut wishing I'd been more stoked than I actually was, and feeling half gypped by the whole affair. Of course, I was an even more elitist genre snob thirty years ago than I am today, if you can believe that, and few films escaped my critical eye without a half hour of cigarette-fueled constructive smartassery afterwards, inevitably limiting my cinematic experience to be usually only shared by fellow film fanatics or chicks who thought I was cute. No complaints here, believe me. Anyway, I was probably too hard on ol' Pumpkin-piece back then, so I took it as my Libran duty to re-evaluate the film for your reading enjoyment here at the Wop. Goes somethin' like 'is...
"Ah'll be requarin' me some Mountain Dew and some chewin' type tobaccy. Fetch it, woman! "
It's a good thing that country general store proprietor Ed Harley (Lance Henriksen) remembers seeing the legendary Pumpkinhead terrorizing some poor sumbitch as a child, seeing how an entourage of obnoxious city folks with dirt bikes in tow interrupts a lazy day at work he was enjoying with his own young son and family mutt, Gypsy. When a shabby pick up truck full of Wallace's (George Flower) dirty urchins pulls up, Harley is forced to drive back to his place to get supplies for him, leaving his small goggled boy and dog to mind the store, momentarily. What's the worst that can happen, right? He returns to find one weepy city slicker watching over the motionless body of his son, who was treated like a speed bump by a would be Travolta named Joel ( John D'Aquino) on a dirt bike. After some very brief mourning, Harley sets out to find a secluded witch's shack with the help of one of Wallace's cubs named Bunt (Brian Bremer). The rubbery faced hag sends him to an even more secluded and atmospheric graveyard set, where he finds the pumpkin-laden burial mound of you-know-who.
"Owwwwww! Go back to that little Korean lady who did your nails and get a goddamned refund!"
He takes the withered corpse that he's dug up back to the hag, who pours a mix of Harley's blood and his dead son's into it's dead mouth, and Voila! It's the hayseed demon of vengeance, Pumpkinhead. Once ol' Gourd-dome springs into action, sneering and roughhousing Joel and his pals, who he's graciously brained with a fireplace log and locked in the cabin basement to keep them from reporting the accident he drunkenly caused and abruptly fled the scene of, Harley has a change of heart, and decides to try to stop the demon from exacting any further revenge, having experienced it first hand via psychic link, through Pumpkinhead's own eyes, and not enjoyed it nearly as much as he thought he was gonna (kinda like me and this movie). This proves more difficult than he'd initially imagined, of course, as he's ultimately destined to replace the demon once his hellish bullying is finally completed, as we discover in the final reel, complete with nifty parting shot before the end credits roll.
"Don't take it that way, it'd never work between us."
Sure, the whole thing is pretty uneven, with it's visible blood tubing, latex-faced witches, and dusty impoverished kinfolk with perfect teeth, but the movie still possesses a certain fairy tale-esque charm about it, and Pumpkinhead himself remains one of the coolest looking movie monsters to ever grace the silver screen, imho, even if it doesn't seem all that demonic or vengeful of him to roughly toss folks around like human salad, or use them as a welcome mat to clean his foot-bottoms off on, when you really think about it. With a stronger script, some gorier death, and a pinch of nudity/sex, it could have well earned three big ones on the scale, instead of the two it ended up with, not to mention it's three sequels, one direct to video, and two, made for television, of all fucking places. Worth a look.
"Whatcha doin' in here, kid? Besides not taking a regular bath, I mean..."