Directed By: Stan Winston
Starring: Lance Henriksen, Jeff East, John D'Aquino
Tag line: "For each of man's evils a special demon exists..."
Trivia: The horror punk band The Misfits released a song entitled "Pumpkin Head," which was featured on their album Famous Monsters, released in 1999
Make-up and special effects artist Stan Winston brought his unique talents to a wide range of projects, everything from the 1977 television mini-series, Roots, to Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands. His filmography reads like a genre fan’s wet dream: The Terminator, Aliens, Predator, Terminator 2 – Judgment Day, even 2008’s Iron Man, each benefitting from his exceptional skills. In 1988, Mr. Winston set aside his make-up brush and latex molds to try his hand at directing, and the resulting film, Pumpkinhead, is as spooky as it is fun, adding another memorable monster to his already impressive resume.
A group of teens, looking for some fun, head out to a cabin in the middle of nowhere. Unfortunately, their good times lead to tragedy when Joel (John DiAquino), one of the teens, accidentally runs down a local boy named Billy Harley (Matthew Hurley) with his dirt bike. When Billy dies from his injuries, his father, Ed (Lance Henriksen), vows revenge, and seeks out a mysterious old witch (Florence Schauffler) who lives in the hills. With Ed’s help, she’s able to conjure up a demon, a bloodthirsty creature who’ll not stop killing until every one of the teens is dead. It isn’t long before Ed starts having second thoughts about the whole thing, but is he too late to stop it?
I’ve always been a fan of Lance Henriksen’s, from his early work in movies like Mansion of the Doomed and Damien: Omen II to his most notable role, that of Bishop, the synthetic life form in James Cameron’s Aliens. Usually limited to supporting roles, it was nice to see him play what’s essentially the lead in Pumpkinhead, and, as expected, he turns in an excellent performance as Ed Harley, the good-natured country bumpkin driven to revenge. The scene where he’s cradling the body of his son is truly heartbreaking, and Henriksen handles it wonderfully, conveying all the complex emotions rushing through his character’s mind. Ed may take things a bit too far later on, but at that moment, we feel his pain.
Along with Henriksen’s performance, Pumpkinhead is remembered for its creature, a tall, lanky demon with long fingers and incredible strength, able to lifts its victims up into the trees, or drag them off, kicking and screaming. A terrifying beast, Pumpkinhead is yet another feather in the cap of Stan Winston, who, having built a career out of making monsters for the movies, goes a step further with Pumpkinhead by building an entire film around one.