PUMPKINHEADUnited States-1988

Lance Henriksen as Ed Harley

Matthew Hurley as Billy Harley

John D’Aquino as Joel

Directed by Stan Winston

Poem by Ed Justin

Story by Mark Patrick Carducci, Stan Winston and Richard Weinman

Screenplay Mark Patrick Carducci and Gary Gerani

The last time I saw “Pumpkinhead” was when the film was first released to video. I remember looking forward to the film as it was the directorial debut of SFX wizard Stan Winston and that it starred Lance Henriksen, an actor that I’d grown to like after his roles in “The Terminator” and as the android Bishop in “Aliens.” I also remember being disappointed as I was hoping the film would be gorier than what it turned out to be. It just so happens that I was at that stage in my evolution as a horror film fan where blood and guts won out over acting, direction and storytelling. Despite the titular creature and its penchant for violence, “Pumpkinhead” is ultimately a tale of suspense and revenge that could have been so much better had Winston had a little more experience under his belt as a filmmaker.

Lance Henriksen portrays Ed Harley, a man of the country and a loving single father to his young son Billy. Billy is mortally wounded after being hit by a motorcycle and when the rider and his friends flee the scene, Ed takes revenge the only way he knows how. He calls on an old woman, Haggis; who in turn conjures the demon known as Pumpkinhead in order to seek out and destroy the ones who killed his child. Pretty soon the demon is hot on their heels and fulfilling his part of the bargain. But Ed soon finds out that vengeance comes with a price tag much too powerful to pay.

The best thing about the film was Winston’s choice in casting Lance Henriksen in the lead role. Henriksen is an actor who has a strong command of the characters he portrays and in the humble opinion of this reviewer he is one of the most underrated actors in the business. That’s okay; horror fans have known for years how good the man is. It’s the rest of the world that needs to catch up.

So, many years later and a little bit wiser, I have come to enjoy “Pumpkinhead” for what it is; a suspense film in horror film clothing. It’s not perfect. Hell, sometimes it’s not even good. But it does what it sets out to do; it entertains while at the same time scaring the hell out of us.


This film, orphaned by the bankruptcy of De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, eventually garnered a spotty release when acquired by United Artists, which tested the film under the alternate title Vengeance – The Demon.

The one scene that made Lance Henriksen most want to take the role was where the deceased Billy sits up and asks his father what he’s done.

Film debut of Mayim Bialik.

Screenwriters Mark Patrick Carducci and Gary Gerani were inspired by the horror movies of Mario Bava.



4 thoughts on “PUMPKINHEAD

    • You might be thinking of Rawhead Rex. Pumpkinhead was allegedly based on a poem by Ed Justin. However, the film’s producers have not clarified the poem’s origin and neither the poem nor Ed Justin have been sourced in any pre-existing form according to Wikipedia.

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