Who Says We Can’t Have Halloween In The Summertime? Thanks, Pumpkinhead…
Witchcraft and spooky stories in the dark… nothing screams Halloween more. Pumpkinhead, originally released in 1988, mixes good ol’ fashioned witchcraft with a horror film that was influenced by folk stories around the Appalachian region. This can be seen in the lifestyle of the characters, and their strong morals, as well as the strange story itself. The filmmakers specifically use spooky settings to create the perfect environment for a Halloween film. Everything about this film emphasizes the tones of a creepy Halloween story, warning young ones not to mess with things we shouldn’t. So buckle up and put on your witch hats, because it’s time for the summer Halloween movie review.
Pumpkinhead begins on a dark and stormy evening, in a small rural village in the Appalachian region of the United States. There is something evil about; terrorizing one man in the village that was thought to have murdered a girl. Ed Harly, played by Lance Henriksen, witnesses this all in the candlelit one room home, as he lies in bed listening to the screams of the man.
The film continues the story with Ed, as an adult, who owns a grocery store and who has a young boy with charming glasses. The pair lives a happy life with their loyal dog in the small Appalachian village, until one day are not. Instead, one day the father and son head to the grocery store where they meet city folk in town for a weekend filled with dirt biking. Sadly, the day turns for the worst soon after Ed leaves to pick up food he forgot back at his shack, during which time his son was hit and fatally injured by one of the dirt bikers in town for the weekend. While all the other people leave, one stays behind to inform the father of what happened and try to help him with his injured boy. Unfortunately, Ed’s son died from the injuries he sustained during the accident, sending Ed on a rampage of revenge, and taking him on an adventure through the Appalachian forest. He goes to find an old witch that he’s heard can help him resurrect his dead son. Unknown to Ed, the old witch Haggis has other plans. She tells him he must go back out into the forest and dig up the body of a revenge demon. Driven by his unshakeable grief, he does what she told him to and immediately regrets the terror he has released on his small village.
The scenes in this part of Pumpkinhead emphasize the Halloween vibes through the typical haunted forest, creepy old witch, and a monster straight from hell itself. The story is also told similarly to the way a campfire story would be, starting off with an intense weather condition occurring and something terrible happening during or after. The scenes also mostly occur at night, giving the creeps to the audience watching the film.
The monster that has been released on the small town in Pumpkinhead starts acting like a typical 80s horror slasher, by snatching up the city folk one by one and brutally killing them in front of each other. By seeing his mistakes literally killing people one by one, Ed does anything to stop the demon. This part of this film is extremely suspenseful, sad, and strange all at the same time, encouraging the Halloween aesthetic maintained through the entirety of the film. With the spooky blue-lit skies, coupled with the orange glowing candles and fires, it is hard to not put this film on your Halloween marathon list and anytime you would rather be in autumn. The scenes have a modern gothic vibe, as well as ‘Pumpkinhead’ itself. A large overwhelming monster terrifying the lives of innocent folks is a common trope throughout the gothic horror genre, and it can also be seen throughout this film.
The love between Ed and his son reminds the audience of Pumpkinhead of a fairy-tale, with a sad but realistic ending that teaches us about the rights and wrongs in life. This can be seen in the shots where we see them together, as the filmmakers highlight this relationship through lighting by a warm, inviting glow that makes the horror and dark, gloomy scenes all the more frightening and potent to the audience. However, the most prominent aspect of this film is the horror aspect by far. Haggis’ hutch deep in the swamp, filled with strange, uncomfortable items unrecognizable to the audience, along with the demon and its overwhelming size fill the viewers with fear. This film should absolutely be on everyone’s classic 80s horror list and is available for viewing on Amazon Prime Video.
Check out the 1988 trailer for “Pumpkinhead!”