Pumpkinhead

Lots of love for this creature feature directed by the late, great Stan Winston, and starring Lance Henricksen. It's a morality tale about the nature of vengeance, and (spoiler alert) we basically had nothing but good things to say about it. If you haven't seen it yourself, check it out before you listen to our chat. And no, there's no creature with a pumpkin for a head in it. That would be stupid.

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Pumpkinhead (1988)

Episode 229, 2 Guys and a Chainsaw

Craig: Hello and welcome. So did you guys win the chainsaw? I’m Craig and I’m Todd and we’ve been doing it this podcast for a long time now. And so a lot of the movies that have been pretty impactful to us in our lives from our childhoods or early adulthoods, especially. We’ve covered. And so at this point, we’re kind of having to, uh, look a little harder and think a little bit harder about what we’re going to do each week.

Todd said I could pick this week. So I just went onto the streaming services to see what was available. And I ended up on Tubi, uh, where one of the featured films that showed up right at the top of the screen was 1988 Pumpkinhead. As soon as I saw that, I thought. Oh man. That’s what we should do. And then frankly, I couldn’t believe that we hadn’t done it already.

I don’t know how we miss this one. This is kind of the big one from the eighties is I remember seeing this when I was young. I don’t remember how old I am. I’m pretty sure I watched it with my dad and all I really remembered about it. Was that I kinda liked it, but I thought that it was, you know, well known enough and had enough of a cult following.

It would definitely be worth revisiting. So that’s what we did this week and that’s kind of my history with it. What about,

Todd: Oh, I’m so glad you picked this movie because I have a bit of a storied history with it myself. When I was in high school, I had a English teacher, his name was Mr. Bell, and he was a very big influence on me.

And I’m pretty notorious among my friends. He was, um, probably still is a, a yes, the guy who would challenge you, you know, he would love to start off the class by saying, I’m going to lie to you. And I’m going to tell you things that aren’t true and it’s your job to challenge me and catch me on it and that sort of stuff.

And so. His notion was that in his class, he would always keep us on our toes and he would give us puzzles. And he did a really, really good job of just setting yes. Up for every unit. And every theme that we did, he also loved to, um, give us old poems and no Hawthorne, you know, really deep petty kind of stuff, and ask us to interpret it and things.

And so he was really very into. Theming his units and his ideas and kind of grouping literature and stuff around it. And I’m pretty sure, sure. It was during one of these units where we were diving in deep into something that had to do with revenge that he said, we’re going to watch Pumpkinhead and.

None of us. I think in the class had seen it before and we may have even needed to get our parents’ permission to watch it, because I think it’s right at our right. And I remember two sessions and mr. Bell’s class sitting down and watching Pumpkinhead, and then we discussed it afterwards. And, uh, we went in pretty deep on the movie because the movie it’s a good one to show to high school students.

Really, if you’re going to try to get some thematic, you know, get them to analyze it because it’s, it doesn’t hide its themes. It’s it’s pretty laid bare. You might even say it’s almost a little too heavy handed, but it was really cool for us as kids to probably have, I think for me, maybe the very first experience I ever had critically analyzing the thematic material of a movie.

So that, that, that class is just one of the very few from high school that really sticks in my mind. So. I was really anxious to revisit this movie, which I haven’t seen since then to see if it held up, uh, the way that I remembered it being so cool. You know, the way it was presented to me.

Craig: Yeah. That’s interesting.

I mean, it is kind of a morality play an allegory about a revenge and the dangers of revenge and that’s, you know, I think totally worthy of discussion. I’m impressed by your English teacher, thinking of that. It’s a, the movie came out in 1988 and it was, was inspired by a poem. And then Stan Winston wrote the screenplay with another guy.

Um, Mark Patrick Carducci I think, or, or Noakes, maybe that guy wrote the story and Stan Winston just directed Stan Winston was approached to do this movie to do the effects to the, do the creature effects. Cause that’s really what he’s known for. Um, I mean, Stan Winston is one of the biggest names in Hollywood, special effects.

Am I right?

Todd: Yup. Yep. Unfortunately died in 2008, but he was for sir for sure.

Craig: And he worked on a drastic park and the Terminator franchise and tons of other big stuff.

Todd: Yeah. Leviathan.

Craig: Yeah. I mean, huge. Huge huge, great, uh, effects movies. And they approached him with this and he, he read it and he said, all right, I’ll do it.

But I want to direct this movie. And this was his first feature length directorial project. And actually, as it turns out, he mostly just ended up doing supervisory stuff. As far as the effects were concerned, the folks who actually did work on the effects. Said that Stan Winston was great to work with because he knew what he was doing.

Um, they said that, uh, so often when they work with filmmakers, filmmakers have these ideas, they don’t really have the knowledge or skill to how to realize those ideas. And so it’s a lot of hit and miss with Stan Winston, you know, they could show him something and he could just say, yeah, that’s good or no, not quite yet.

And, uh, they had a lot of freedom, um, and. Apparently virtually everybody who worked on this movie said that, uh, Stan Winston was just an absolute joy to work with. It was a really fun production laid back. They shot it on a small budget, $3 million. And for that, I think that it looks amazing. And for somebody, yeah.

Directorial debut. I gotta be honest with you. I, you know, I hadn’t seen in probably 20 years, um, maybe more, uh, and I remembered liking it, but I kind of anticipated that, looking back at it now I would find it kind of cheesy and hokey and would probably find a lot of flaws in the effects and that type of stuff.

I loved this movie. I loved it. It was so, so good. And I guess not surprisingly so, but, um, for this type of film, you know, a creature feature, low budget relatively low, anyway, there was so much opportunity for it to fall into that category of bad or so bad. It’s good. But I have very few, really, if any criticisms, uh, of the movie, I just thought it was great.

Overall, um, am I going to be alone in that boat?

Todd: No, I don’t think so. I mean, the movie’s dripping with atmosphere and that’s the one thing I’ve got to say about it. It has so much atmosphere. It’s almost oppressive. It’s just, you never get out of the darkness and the smoke and the candle light and the half lit scenes.

Basically, as soon as the action starts, you’re there all the time in some ways, because a lot of it takes, most of it takes place in the woods. It’s a little evocative of Friday the 13th. In fact, one of the cabins in the movie is the cabin that they used in Friday, Friday the 13th, the final chapter, and has been used in a lot of other movies by the way.

So it’s, it’s really heavy and thick and just dripping with atmosphere. And I think that that’s where a lot of that higher quality, higher budget. Feel comes from it because he was simply able to do so much with so little money, because even build the frame with, with great lighting and shadows, um, you know, the, the witch’s cabin that we get to at some point, you know, has candles and just spiders and snakes and crap all over the place.

It would seem cheesy and hokey. If it weren’t played so straight and so dark, it’s really dark. And I’m not just talking about the visual, like the it’s a very dark movie, apparently at Stan Winston’s request that the movie be written a little darker than the original script he was given. And so they made some changes to make it more serious.

So it’s a S I mean, you could say, say it’s a slasher movie in a sense, a creature type slasher movie, but it doesn’t have those winks and those nods and that humor. In it at all. Right. Right. So it’s a different kind of movie. It’s, it’s starkly different than a lot of stuff that we normally watch. I think even though on its face, when you just talk about it, it doesn’t seem like it should be.

It just kind of came together that way, which is interesting. Like you said, everything I read too said that this guy was a blast every day at the set, he was joking around. He was laughing at you so easy going, like he had no care in the world and just completely full of self confidence. Uh, as a first time director that, uh, everybody has great things to say about him and the experience of making this movie.

It’s, it’s almost a wonder he didn’t direct more. He really didn’t direct much more than this.

Craig: No, he didn’t the guy who wrote the screenplay cited Mario Bava as one of his influences, which I thought was interesting. Didn’t we do a Bava film recently.

Todd: We did one by his son. Uh, demons was, uh,

Craig: his right, right.

Gotcha.

Todd: We’re going to do more Baba. If I say about it, but

Craig: this screen storytelling is good. I mean, it feels very much like, um, a legend. I mean, like I said, it was inspired by an original poem, but it feels very much, I don’t want to say urban legend cause it’s more of a rural, uh, atmosphere, but, um, it feels like a kind of traditional.

Legend. And interestingly enough, you know, you say that, uh, once you get into that atmosphere, you know, you’re just kind of stuck in that dark, scary atmosphere for the rest of the movie. And that’s true. True, but really we don’t even get it right there until halfway through the movie. There’s quite a bit of set up through the set that up is just as intriguing.

As to when the monster finally appears and starts killing people. Um, in fact, maybe even I think the first half of the movie is really, really strong and really provides a nice foundation then for. You know, the scary monster part it opens up in. Um, well, first of all, I want to say the scoring of the movie is great.

A guy named Roger Stone did it. And from the very beginning, the opening credits, which are pretty long, the score is fantastic. And I was just into it right away. It opens up in 1957 and we are with the. Childhood family of what will be our main character. His name is ed Harley. Um, and this is during his childhood and he lives in a very rural area.

Apparently with his parents. We come, I went to them at night and the mother is putting ed to bed and. There’s a lot of tension in the house and the dads kind of wandering around with his gun, securing the animals. And eventually they locked themselves in the house and we see somebody being chased by what we don’t know right away.

Um, but this year the guy is being chased by something and he shows up at the door he’s seeking sanctuary. Um, but they won’t let him in. They say, we can’t, we can’t let you in. We have to stay out of this. You have to get out of here and eventually something grabs him and drags him away. And little ed looks out the window and we get a full frame shot.

Of our monster for the movie Pumpkinhead.

Todd: Yeah. It’s kind of amazing, isn’t it? Yeah, yeah.

Craig: Yeah. I mean, they don’t shroud the creature in secrecy at all. And so his first viewing of it as a child is our first one as well. But then we jump to the present where he is now grown at his grown living, apparently in the same area, maybe even the same house that he

Todd: grew up in.

I think it’s the same house. Yeah,

Craig: probably is. Um, and it’s just him and his super, super cute son. This, this tiny little bit blonde boy with these thick glasses and they just have this wonderfully sweet. A relationship and you just kind of see them going about their daily thing. Eventually the dad says it’s about time and to go to the store cause they apparently run a little general store, but before they go, so his son gives him a gift and it’s just, you know, a necklace made out of twine and maybe like a little stick man figure made out of.

Clay or something very rough, very much something like a child would make, but he gives it to his dad and so cute. Oh, well now this is something goes around the neck. This is something special. I really like it. I love it. Don’t have to wear it every day and nothing just from the stretcher. Give me a hug. I never taken it off this bond between the father and son is so integral to the plot.

And I just thought. By the way adult ed is played by Lance Henrickson, who looks young and handsome and fit. And I just think he does an amazing job with this role. And I believe 100% in this relationship between him and his son. And I think that if that happens, worked, then the movie wouldn’t have worked at all.

Todd: That’s right. Yeah. It’s key. And, and Lance Hendrickson, I believe had just come off of near dark for this and an interesting bit of trivia I discovered and also saw some online interviews with him on YouTube that, uh, he apparently, when he’s getting ready for his rolls, likes to collect. Props to use a movie.

So he together some of his own costume, he found a ball cap that he wears in the movie that he thought would fit his character. He had a world war II era shotgun that he bought when they were down filming near dark. Probably appeared in that movie that he asked Stan, Stan Winston. He said, please can I use this in the film?

And he agreed. And then later he has a bag full of silver dollars that he actually went around to some antique stores and gathered up so that he could have it, this film. So this guide, I mean, he’s a great actor. He clearly gets into his role and has unique ways of doing it. Everything he’s been in I’ve.

Usually really enjoyed his performance and never had a bad thing to say about it. He was Bishop in aliens. Um, like I said, near dark, we’ve done at least one or two other films that he was been in. Was he in Leviathan as well? I

Craig: don’t know why. I remember

Todd: fantastic guy and you’re right. Their chemistry is integral to the part a because if that hadn’t of worked, uh, the rest of his actions really wouldn’t have, um, Really wouldn’t have come off for us.

It would have, it would have started to feel cheesy. Yeah.

Craig: Yes, absolutely. Like I said, they work or the dad I guess, owns and runs a general store, so they go there and then we are introduced to our typical cast of jerky, 20 something on a road trip. You know, coming to this area to rent a cabin, to do some dirt bike riding.

There’s a whole bunch of them, kind of the important ones. There’s Joel, who’s like the jerky leather jacket wearing one drinking beer while he’s driving, et cetera. And then he’s got a brother Steve. A younger brother, Steve, um, Steve’s girlfriend is Maggie. She has long blonde hair. Um, and then Joel has a girlfriend too.

I didn’t catch her name until much later in the movie. I don’t remember what it is. She doesn’t

Todd: have much to do.

Craig: Kim. And then one other couple, Chris, who’s kind of a preppy guy and his girlfriend, Tracy. Who’s like the center. Yeah. But anyway, these kids all show up and of course they’re fish out of water in this rural area and they’re kind of fascinated by the small country store and.

This other local family, the Wallace family pulls up in their pickup truck and it’s so stereotypical, but hilarious. Yeah, I say hilarious, but yeah, not in a laugh out loud kind of way. Just in. The portrayal of kind of this backwards family, like we’re talking about, you know, a bunch of kind of Slack, jawed kids dirty, where I’d like

Todd: oversized, hand me down clothes,

Craig: like burlap sacks, basically

Todd: fair they’re unkempt and, and who comes out of the.

Who comes out of the truck, but our good old buddy buck flowers,

Craig: buck flowers plays a little bit against type here cause he usually plays a drunk or a bum. And then here, I kind of get the feeling that he’s kind of an upstanding guy in this very rural community. Like he’s got this huge family that all lives on.

His farm and this is just a sampling of them.

Todd: That’s true.

Craig: He goes inside to get what he needs and the kids stay out. I would never have noticed. I just happened to look at the full cast list and saw an interesting name. One of these little kids who piles out of the back of this truck is my MBE Alec. In her first film role.

I think she maybe has one or two words of dialogue, but interesting. My first,

Todd: she,

Craig: she went on to do a lot bigger and better things.

Todd: I never would have recognized her if you had noticed. Right. I mean, if you hadn’t.

Craig: No, but I did go back like after I, cause I didn’t notice at first and then afterwards I was looking through, I, I.

Went back to that scene. And if you look, you can tell it’s definitely her.

Todd: Yeah. Yeah.

Craig: The oldest boy, his name is starts with a B what’s his name? Punt.

Todd: Yeah, hopefully his nickname.

Craig: Yeah. And, uh, he is played by a guy named Brian Bremer, who we have seen before. Did you remember him? He was Pino in silent night, deadly night, five to remember

Todd: the halls.

Oh, my gosh, I knew he was familiar, but I didn’t know where he was from.

Craig: Good old peanut. He was also in society, which is another one.

Todd: Oh, society’s the one I recognized him from, I think. Yeah.

Craig: And, uh, these, these, uh, kind of, I don’t know, I don’t want to call them all jerks cause they’re not. But, you know, these 20 something kids are interacting with the locals.

And one of the local kids starts getting taunted by his brothers and sisters. And they do this chant. This poem, Jimmy, Joe, you done bad. Y’all know what settles on battens. Don’t you. Punkin head Tonkin head, yo stop. No head. What about all of mr. Foley? He moved away pumpkin cheered off his head and drank all the blood to shut up, keep away from

So we know there’s this. The problem comes when mr. Wallace, uh, asks for his grain or his feet or something. And ed says, Oh, shoot, I left it up at the house and get it real quick. And mr. Wallace says, no, I have to go. And it says, okay, well I’ll just drop it by the house later. And he says, that’s fine. So the Wallace is leave.

And then. Ed calls his son inside. Yeah. Says, stay here with the dog inside. And I just have to run up to the house real quick and I’ll be right back. Meanwhile, Joel, the jerky one pulls down his dirt bike and his brother, uh, does as well. And they’re dirt biking around gypsy, the son’s dog, Billy’s dog, here’s the bikes and runs out of the store.

And Billy goes running after him. And. Tragically fully accidentally, but tragically, these bikes come up over, um, a big Hill. And the one that Joel is writing strikes, Billy, and he goes down on the ground and, um, basically everybody we know what to do, but Joel immediately. Gets out of there. We find out later that it’s because he had been drinking and he had also been involved in an accident in which a little girl had been injured previously and he’s on probation.

And so he gets out of there and they just leave behind one, the rest of them go to the cabin because they want to, they need to get a phone. They want to call for help, but they leave the brother. Joel’s brother there and they all leave. And eventually ed comes back and notices that Billy’s not there goes outside, sees him kind of runs over to him.

Very gently, puts his glasses back on and picks them up and begins carrying him back towards his truck. The brother, Steve says, you know, it was an accident. What can I do? And ed just looks over his shoulder and gives him a glare. To end all glare. If looks could kill seriously, that guy would’ve dropped dead.

Todd: Well, it’s a pretty hopeless situation because we don’t know, like we don’t know if the kid is dead or not. And in the, in the. Shots that you see of him. You can see his eyes are flickering. And I don’t know if that was just a mess of the filming or if that was intentional or it doesn’t really matter because we’re not really sure if he’s dead that really gets to you after a while somebody needs to help this kid.

But there’s so far out in the middle of nowhere. There’s no phone. Everybody’s gone. You remember this time before cell phones, when we just, we were pretty helpless at this point and dad comes back and he carries him inside. And his first thing is to get. Oh, God, this is just terrible. He goes to get a washcloth full of water and sits down and has him cradled in his arms and starts talking to him and wipes his face down and all the boy says his daddy.

And then clearly just he’s gone. I cried.

Craig: Okay. Like I was,

Todd: uh, me to

Craig: cry. Yeah. Not even just a single, like movie here, like crying. It was so sad.

Todd: It is. I mean, and this is parent’s worst nightmare. And this, that, like you said, they had such a fantastic relationship. You don’t know where the mom is. There’s no mention of where mom went or whatever,

Craig: but just know.

Wait find out she’s dead because, uh, eventually he berries the sun next to next to next to Billy’s mother. He says something like, yeah, they took our boy. Um, but I’ll get ’em or something like that. Yeah. I mean, that’s, I spent so much time on that early part. Cause I swear that’s the part that sucked me in and I was just.

Devastated. I knew the kid was going to die. Cause I’ve seen the movie before, but even having seen the movie before, it was just tragic and more so tragic because they had such a wonderful relationship and it was just the two of them. And to, I can’t imagine, um, that kind of, of loss, especially no parent should ever lose a child as far as I’m concerned in that.

Uh, it’s just, it’s horrible, but that’s why I spent so much time on that. After that it pretty much just kind of becomes, um, a revenge slash monster movie. Cause ed goes to mr. Wallace, um, and shows him his son’s body and stuff. I supposedly there’s this old woman up in the woods. Can you tell me where she is?

And he says, no, I don’t know anything about that. I’m sorry about your boy.

Todd: You got

Craig: she’s the only one that can help him. Like I said, I’m sorry. You got to tell me, God damn it. She gained. LPM all she can do is take you straight to L you go on home, you go home and you bury your boy. But Bundt over here is this and intercepts ed as he’s leaving and says, I know who you’re talking about.

I can tell you where she is. He just wants a little money. And so ed gives them some money, but takes him halfway. He won’t go all the way. Cause he says that lady freaks him out, but he takes them halfway and points him towards the witchiest swamp cabin. You’ve ever seen in your life.

Todd: It could not be any wittier than this swab cabin.

I mean, any movie you’ve ever seen with a witch in it, multiply it times 10. This is it. This is the back. This is the quintessential Backwood, which as soon as he opens the door to this cabinet and walks inside, there are candles everywhere that apparently she lights due to flee every evening. It’s crawling with their like bones and there’s cobwebs and spiders.

And

Craig: it’s

Todd: like how it’s ween in, in this woman’s apart. And she looks like, I mean, if her skin were green, it would be the only thing separating her from your quintessential Halloween, which you don’t get a good head on shot of her face for a while. She’s sitting in front of the fire and she’s not even looking at Tim, uh, as he talks to her.

Uh, but yeah, you can see her skin is just completely wrinkly and weathered her hair is. Threadbare and white and just everything’s lit from the back with a glow by the fire. Her eyes seem like they’re cataract over and the way she talks box is just this raspy voice. It sounds like it hurts just. Just speaking.

And he asked her to help him and she says, I can’t raise the dead. Uh, and uh, he said, I know, but, uh, I hear talk of, uh, you know, something else you can do for me. And she said, are you sure that you want this? Because it comes at a great price. And he pulls out his bag. This is where he has a little satchel and Lance Hendrickson, you know, the way he described this was this, this would probably be like basically all the money savings that this guy has in his life is, you know, enough to just hold around one hand in a satchel.

And he dumps all of these coins and a few pieces of jewelry into a cup on her table. And her instructions are to go up to the old cemetery where people used to bury their unwanted kin. In a pumpkin patch area of the cemetery and dig up this one body. And he says, well, how will I know which one it is?

And she says, Oh, you’ll know. And he goes to this pumpkin patch again, the creepiest Halloweeny is pumpkin patch in the middle of the woods. You could imagine. And, uh, there is a sort of a raised pedestal of earth, just like a mini. I hate to call it a Hill. It’s like a tiny little plateau. That’s jutted up.

It looks like a table. And he climbs to the top of it and digs into the soil. Interestingly enough, the soil is pretty loose up there, but like this thing’s been dug up a lot and he pulls out this withered body. It looks charred. It’s enough. Fetal position and fairly small. And he brings it back to her and takes it into her cabinet and sets it down.

And she looks down at it and says your looking at vendors  and that’s our theme. And she goes through her incantations and pour some stuff on him, brings the father’s hand over and cuts his hand so that some blood. Uh, drips down into the bowl, which she then pours onto the corpse and then takes it over to the boy’s body and cut some blood from the boy as well, and mixes that in and uses it to resurrect this creature in front of us.

And so it, we see it, we see it move and you know, it kind of grows and, and gets up. And immediately as this creature is getting life and getting power and starting to stand up and grow. Ed is getting woozy. He pretty much doesn’t even see this go on because his eyes are closed. He eventually falls to the floor and passes out and we see the creature on the other hand, stand up strong full-on shot.

I mean, you know, from legs to, to top

Craig: and it looks fantastic. It looks so good. I mean, mostly, I guess this is, is an example of a guy in a rubber suit, but the suit looks so good and I don’t know what else they did with it. It’s this tall demon looking monster with, um, it’s a humanoid kind of, so it’s got, you know, two legs, uh, that it stands up right on these long arms with really long fingers with.

Claws big protruding shoulder blades and hip bones, a long tail with kind of a. Blade or something on the end of that. And then a big monstrous head that doesn’t really look like a pumpkin. It’s not named Pumpkinhead because it looks like it literally has a pumpkin head, but because it comes from the pumpkin patch.

Todd: Yeah. Cause that would be silly. Cause that would be super,

Craig: no, they take. They deliberately said they did not want it to be too reminiscent of a pumpkin, even though it is bulbous, it’s bigger than a human head. It’s got kind of a Xenomorph feel to it.

Todd: Yeah. It really is hard to deny that, um, the Zena morph look, I mean, it’s very boney.

Right. And its skin is really pulled tight over its body. It, it has the image of a D kind of a decomposed corpse. You know, its skin is kind of whitish and pale, but it’s pulled across these bones, but there’s something odd about it. It does, you know, it’s human, but not in the right ways. Right. Like you said, it’s got these shoulder blades that just juts right up, like its arms were just shoved past its shoulders.

And, and they said that they did this as kind of a way to evoke that image of a demon Lehman horns without literally putting the horns of a demon on the creature, which would look silly. And yeah. And it’s got this, like you said, sort of a humanoid face with a nose that’s more implied than really, they’re just wrinkled up a little bit in, in its wrinkles.

And then its eyes are kind of glassy and white and it’s hard to see it. Yes, it does have some pupils that are a little reptilian. You hardly ever see those. And I guess this movie has sequels. The monster is a little different in the following sequels. And it’s not even necessarily the same monster, really in the subsequent movies though, the eyes are completely white.

And then it’s standing up on these legs that are kind of, they bend backwards like a Seder, which apparently was a new thing. This is the first time that they were able to achieve this. They tried to do this with predator. I don’t know if you’ve seen the history because Stan Winston’s team worked on predator as well.

And it went through quite a few. A creature design changes before he was brought on board. And the problem with this kind of rig with a movie like predator is that anyway fast. And it was really hard for the actor, even in this big, heavy suit to be up on the kind of a stilted type thing that’s required for that to, to get this effect of the knee, that kind of bends backwards.

So for most of the movie, actually they do have some wide shots, but though that’s done with a suit that’s not quite as bulky. And the closer shots of him are usually from the legs up. So you can’t see that part down below because he just couldn’t have that on all the time, doing all of the full on monster movements and things.

But yeah, it’s, it’s other worldly it’s demonic and big and it does look like something that was reanimated from a severely messed up, not right corpse. Right.

Craig: And it’s all practical. You see it mostly in the dark, whenever Pumpkinhead is around suddenly, you know, there’s like flashing lightening and stuff for atmospheric purposes.

Now that if that’s part of its powers or whatever, is that, you know, not really clear, but there, you know, there’s, there’s flashing light, like kind of lightning and stuff that you can see it in, but you mostly see it in the dark, but it looks as far as practical effects go. I think this is some of the best creature work I’ve ever seen.

Todd: Yeah. And he, and he doesn’t, again, this is a master who exactly who the director happens to be an expert in this field. So he knows what he can do and what he can’t do and how he can get away with stuff. And it’s really important to note that unlike a lot of other low budget movies, where they use a lot of tricks to hide the deficiencies of their creature, there’s a lot of shadow.

You only get to see quick glimpses of it or fast shots. Even though it’s very atmospheric and there is a lot of shadow and flashing light and stuff. You never get that feeling that they’re deliberately hiding the creature from you in any way, shape or form. In fact, you see an awful lot of this creature in all of its glory for a lot of the movie.

And it’s really impressive that way. It’s so satisfying. Yeah.

Craig: Uh, when they Lee, well, When they, uh, ed takes Billy’s body, um, and leaves because he, I guess the, which says it’s, it’s started now. You can go home and they’re driving back and there’s kind of this quick jump scare where Billy’s body shoots up in the seat and looks at his dad and says, what did you do, daddy?

It’s just his guilt bothering him. It’s not real. It didn’t happen. Um, but Lance Hendrix, you said that that is why he took this role. Uh, was that right? Just really quick scene of him feeling the guilt, but, and then after that, basically, you know, all of those kids, the 20 somethings are hunkered down in this cabin and there’s some drama with them, but it’s not important.

You know, now, uh, what’s his name? Joel, doesn’t want to tell because he’ll get in trouble. And so he locks the ones you do want to tell in the closet and blah, blah, blah. But basically at this point, as soon as Pumpkinhead is resurrected, He’s uh, hones in on them and he shows up at the cabin and he starts picking them off by one.

Yeah. Uh, and the kill scenes are not particularly, they’re exciting, but they’re not particularly unique from one another. Basically every time what happens is somehow kind of from off screen. Pumpkinhead either grabs them by the ankles and drags them away or from up in the trees. Like we’ll grab them by the heads and pull them up into the trees and, you know, kind of slice Adam with his claws.

But mostly he kind of just throws them on the ground and they die.

Todd: Yeah. You more or less just drop some and that’s, I mean, For what it’s worth. It’s not Friday the 13th. This is movie that is reveling in the Gore. Uh, it’s not a movie that’s even particularly gory. I mean, it’s gruesome and there’s some gory parts, but you know, not like, like for example, one of the kills, I can’t remember.

It’s one of the girls Pumpkinhead picks her way up in the top of this massively high tree that it’s no branches down below. I have no idea how he got her up there and then drops her on a rock. And you see her fall and then you see her, you know, back clearly broken on the rock with some blood around, but that’s it like you don’t see protruding bones or your guts flying out anywhere.

They haven’t been slashed to ribbons and their organs are spilling out. It’s just not that kind of movie. Even though it kind of is kind of movie from here on out as far as being more like a typical slasher. I mean, I have to, I have to say for me, this part of the movie got a little tedious maybe because I knew it was going to happen, but also I thought the characters were rather uninteresting kind of like your Friday, the 13th movie and the kills were themselves.

The act of the killings were. Kind of uninteresting and predictable. I mean, we kind of knew they would get picked off one by one and that’s almost exactly what happens. Yeah. It’s just the parallel action of the regret and the guilt that the father immediately starts feeling that’s going on. I think that.

Makes the movie more unique and keeps this moving. Ah, I felt it slowed down a little bit during this part to be completely honest.

Craig: Fair enough. I mean, we are talking, I think we’re in the last half hour, 25 minutes in the movie at this point and it slows down in that it’s repetitive, but it’s so moves pretty quickly.

And I have to say, you know, the more I think about it, I actually kind of like the economy. Of it, you know, this isn’t some serial killer who’s relishing in torturing people. This is a vengeance demon who has a job and his job is to kill these people. And that’s what he does. Like there’s no, there’s no messing around.

There’s no toying around with them. He just grabs him and kills him and moves onto the next one. I love though that he always returns the bodies. That is

Todd: so funny. Like

Craig: he’ll kill somebody out in the world, but then he’ll bring the body back and just like toss it in the house. Just to like show everybody else.

Todd: That is kind of interesting. Isn’t it? I haven’t particularly the one girl, the first one he kills the first girl he kills. Right? Cause Steve is the first one to go, which is interesting because Steve is like the nicest, most moral guy of the whole group. He’s the one who stays with the boy. He’s the one who’s arguing with his brother.

It’s like, he’s the good of the two brothers, right? Like there’s a good one. And there’s the bad one. Steve’s the first one to die. And his brother ends up being the last one to die. And his brother was the one responsible for the killing. You know, so it’s, uh, it’s an interesting twist. I think that at least is a little unexpected.

Craig: The thing that I found the hokiest in the whole movie is, was that they tried for like five seconds to give Joel a redemption arc. Like just out of nowhere, he has a change of heart. And like literally says, I’m going to be good from now on. And then that’s it

Todd: when you want, and he goes outside suddenly he’s willing to self sacrifice.

Craig: Well, Pumpkinhead kills all of them except for Joel and the two, like goody-goody ones. Um, Tracy and Chris and Tracy and Chris they’re running away. They end up at the Wallace farm and. Almost exactly the same scene plays out from the flashback. At the beginning of the movie where they’re pounding on the door, asking to come in the Wallace family, won’t let them in because the rule is Pumpkinhead will only kill the people that he’s been, you know, assigned or whatever, unless somebody else gets in his way.

And if you get in this way, then you’re fair game too. So they won’t let them in, but bunk here or buns, whatever his name is again, over here is all this. And he wants to see Pumpkinhead. So he goes out to help them and he leads them to this old church that I think that it’s implied that they started building it, never finished it, but it looks more like it’s kind of burnt out.

And again, it’s a very, you know, Halloween. Type, uh, area, but it looks really cool and they go there and chat for a few minutes until finally, uh, Pumpkinhead does show up and it’s just, they’ve run away. And Pumpkinhead slowly walks through this, burned out church with the lightning flashing and he walks up to a cross and gives it a dirty look and picks it up and smashes it.

And the sequence doesn’t really do anything at all to advance the plot. It looks. So cool to see him probably eight feet tall, just walking slowly down the aisle of this church. So it’s great.

Todd: Yeah. And it, it does advance the theme that we’re talking here about, you know, a demon from hell, uh, this isn’t, you know, just a monster or something like that.

This is something that has, uh, maybe is opposite a heaven, you know, opposite. Good opposite. Everything that, that cross stands for. Uh, so it goes in there and very purposefully smashes the cross up. I remember, I remember mr. Bell, my, uh, my English teacher really hammering this book in our interpretation of the movie.

In fact, I was reading about, um, the filmmaker’s intentions with this. Well, they also base it off of Lovecraft in lore as well. Uh, and there was some discussion as to maybe there is maybe hell is really just an alternate dimension of super nasty creatures that we don’t understand. You know, just like a hell raisers type series is kind of.

Kind of based predicated on that too, which is also Lovecraft in, you know, in a way. So that is another thing. It kind of sets this apart. Is that right? Whole mythology behind it? I feel like it’s is rich. It’s is ripe for playing with and, and fleshing out. I’m not sure how much of that they do in the site.

Subsequent movie, so that I haven’t seen any of the subsequent movies. They seemed like cheap, direct to DVD deals. To me, but anyway, yeah. So I think that scene is powerful for that. And the visual, like you say that it has like this, thing’s not going to mess around. You’re not going to be able to kill it by shooting it or cutting its head off.

You know, it’s just not going to happen. Right. This is not just a creature, it’s a supernatural demon. That’s going to kill you.

Craig: Yeah. And there’s not much they can do. They try to fight back a little bit. Meanwhile, every time Punkin head has killed someone, ed. Kind of sees it, uh, and experiences it along with him.

And we also see a couple of scenes where something will happen to ed he’ll get struck in the arm or he’ll get jabbed with a Pitchfork or something. And every time he gets hurt, Pumpkinhead gets hurt too. And ed is even, you know, having to witness these kids deaths. Ed feels guilty. And he goes back to haggis and says, you know, I want to stop it.

And she says, you can’t stop it. Um, and he says, well, I’m going to, even if it kills me and she says, well, it will. And he says, no, got you got you. He already has a.

But he knows he’s on his own. So eventually he shows up Pumpkinhead got Chris, but he’s not dead. He did kill Joel. Now they are hold up, I think in Ed’s house and they hide it. Cute little dog, gypsy hides in a box. And that was adorable. But Pumpkinhead finds. Buns and takes him outside. Um, he’s already beaten up Chris a little bit and it’s just been dragging him along, but hasn’t killed him yet.

Um, and Tracy is there. And eventually ed comes out and he’s got a shot gun. At some point, they shoot Pumpkinhead with a shotgun and he goes down, but then he just comes right back up. And ed realizes the only way, uh, to kill Pumpkinhead will be to kill himself because they are somehow. And I didn’t remember this, but, uh, in that final scene, Pumpkinhead.

And Ed’s appearance, both begin to change. Ed’s face becomes more like the demon and Pumpkinhead’s face becomes more like Lance Hendrickson. Did you notice that?

Todd: Yeah, I did. This is another thing we talked about in the class because you know, I mean, obviously the theme here, the idea is that this vengeance demon is, I mean, it’s, it’s all.

Obviously the responsibility of ed and ed is vengeance. Ed is the demon. Ed is this, this, you know, it’s a manifestation of his, a desire for this vengeance. And so you can summon this demon to kill them, but in the act of summoning, your responsible for it. Right? So. Pumpkinhead. And, uh, it’s made visually clear by the fact that his face morphs and to more and more, I think it’s supposed to be more and more close to ed until the final act is done.

But the final act doesn’t ever get done because they’re able to stop him. And the way they stop him is add crawls to the, to the, to the, his truck. He pulls out a little handgun. He has and tries to shoot himself in the head, but apparently it doesn’t quite work and it puts Pumpkinhead down, but not out Pumpkinhead reaches out and grabs one of the kids.

And it’s, what’s her name? Is it? So Tracy, she’s the one who’s left, left Pumpkinheads over there with the other girl. And, uh, she’s got the shotgun and ed reaches out to her and says, kill me, please. Uh, and so she ends up shooting ed and when ed dies, Pumpkinhead dies and bursts into flame spontaneous combustion.

Oh, so interesting, right? Yeah,

Craig: it was, it really was. And then, so you think that’s the end, but then there’s a great little, uh, in scene two where you see haggis and, and she’s on the mound in the cemetery where Pumpkinhead was buried and she’s burying him again. And what she is burying is the Pumpkinhead demon.

But. When the camera zooms in on the corpse, you see that it is wearing the name necklace that, uh, Billy had made for his dad. So yeah, in essence, the old body of Pumpkinhead had burned. And Ed’s body had become the new one, uh, which I didn’t remember. So I seemingly whoever summons, the demon eventually becomes the demon.

And then, you know, the next time somebody calls on the demon, it’s actually the last person in line. Uh, I did read, I have, I’ve seen part two. I don’t. A long time ago about, uh, I don’t remember a whole lot about it and I don’t remember if it was a theatrical release, but I think some of the same people were involved.

The third and fourth one came much later and they were cable TV, movies. They were scifi movies. I didn’t see them because I figured they probably wouldn’t be very good. They actually didn’t get terrible fan reviews. Um, but I guess in all four of the movies. You never see what happens if. Pumpkinhead completes his mission because in all of the movies, the summoner gets killed before the mission is complete.

So who knows what would happen if he was able to actually finish his job, but based on what we have, we don’t know,

Todd: or does the seminar always die? And that’s the price of vengeance, you know, It’s hard to say. Right. And I read also that there was talk in fact, is as early as 2017, uh, there were talk of a TV series for Sci-Fi called Tales for pop tales of Pumpkinhead.

And they were, it was just going to be a series of shorts, you know, stories on Pumpkinhead and different situations throughout the ages. Obviously this is an age old demon that’s been around since. Man has been around even some backstory on haggis, they were planning on, they were also talking about expanding it out to other demons because you know, like a greed one and a gluttony one, and whatever to kind of round out the deadly sins and create this home algae behind it.

But apparently that ended up getting canned. And there’s been a reboot of the series. Also, they’ve been talking about for years that I think as early as November of last year of 2019, they were getting ready to announce. Some news about it. And it had been supposedly in development house since at least 2016, maybe even earlier than that.

So we may see more Pumpkinheads. It’s hard to say

Craig: we will at some point. And I do. I agree with you that the story, the lore, um, there are a lot of ways that they could go with it and in the right hands, I think it could be done very well. Of course it could be total schlock too, but, but this movie isn’t, I really.

Really liked this movie I’m I was surprised by how much I liked it. And I think that part of that surprise just comes from why didn’t I remember how good it was and I’m being serious. When I say, I think it’s a really. Good movie, the effects are good. The cinematography is good. The acting that, you know, the 20 something things are really just fodder to be picked off.

Don’t care about them. Very much. Hendrickson is great. Um, the atmosphere, the music. Yeah. Even haggis the, which was played by a character actress who has a bazillion credits, uh, to her name. And she looks fantastic. Her costume, I read weighed something like 65 pounds or something like that. Really. It’s a perfect Halloween movie.

They just don’t get much better than this. This may very well be one of my favorite, if not my favorite creature features, period. I just think it’s, I just think it’s great.

Todd: Yeah. I’d echo everything that you said. And I, I was a little concerned that maybe I just felt that way because I have a little bit of nostalgia towards it.

But, um, the only thing I would say that’s a little bit negative about the movie for me is that it. I felt there wasn’t a lot of suspense as far as, Ooh, is he there? Is he not there? Air the winter start blowing and the lights start flashing and before you know, it, somebody has been grabbed, um, which is fine.

It’s just that kind of story. Like you said, once it starts moving, it doesn’t really stop the interest. I think in the intriguing is how are they going to stop it? And is dad going to be able to redeem himself by the end? So it’s a different kind of horror movie than. It seems to be on first glance, which is why it’s so great.

I think just something unique in the genre blanket and underneath something that seems on its face to be just another creature feature. Right. So it’s clever in that way. Right. Craig, you had mentioned a, this was based on a poem by Justin. I found the poem. Do you want to hear it? Sure. Keep away from Pumpkinhead, unless you’re tired of living.

His enemies are mostly dead he’s mean and unforgiving laugh at him and your undone, but in some dreadful fashion vengeance, he considers fun and plans it with a passion time will not erase or blot a plot that he has brewing. It’s. When you think that he’s forgot, he’ll conjure your undoing. Bolted doors and windows, barred guard dogs, prowling in the yard.

Won’t protect you in your bed. Nothing will from Pumpkinhead. That’s good.

Craig: Yeah, no, it reminds me of scary stories to tell them the dark or, um, just, uh, Those back in the day, parents just to tell kids or kids would, you know, spread these stories, uh, around to scare kids into behaving the boogeyman, you know, all of these things and it works well.

You know, I, I think that, uh, the movie captures the spirit of the poem. Uh, I like it. I may have to pull that out in my. English class around Halloween time sometime. Yeah.

Todd: Yeah. It’s very folklorish right, right. It’s like you said, the film’s got that air to it, which is really another really neat aspect of it.

Craig: I would recommend this movie to any fan of horror. You know, it came out in 1988, so there were probably a lot of younger than us or fans out there who may not know anything about it. And I would definitely recommend it as of right. This recording is available to stream for free on. To be. Um, but those switch out pretty often.

So I don’t know, by the time this gets posted, if it’ll still be there, but you should be able to find it relatively easily, it’s definitely worth seeking out. Thank you for listening to this episode. If you enjoyed it, there are tons and tons of back episodes that you could listen to if you’re just now discovering it.

And if that’s the case, uh, spread the love, tell a friend we would love to, to reach even more people. You can find us anywhere. You can find your favorite. Podcasts we’re on Stitcher and iTunes and Google play. And like I said, just about anywhere you can Google two guys in a chainsaw podcast, you’ll find our website.

Uh, we have a Facebook page, so there’s all kinds of places that you can find us. We will be back sometime in the coming weeks with another movie until then I’m Craig

Todd: and I’m Todd

Craig: with two guys and a chainsaw.


2 Replies to “Pumpkinhead”

  1. Emily Hunter

    Loved this movie as a kid, and still do. I feel like it’s one of my favorite creature features too.

    Evidently the house/cabin was also used as the Jarvis house, in Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter. Then I think the house used in Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings was the same house/motel in Motel Hell. It was called Sable Ranch. It was destroyed in a fire but I thought these facts were cool.

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