A creature feature with a moral. Not a bad way to think through ethical dilemmas. You see, we don’t have a lot of extra money lying around, so when I need a pick-me-up I try to find something free to watch. Well, free because I subscripted to Amazon Prime years and years ago for the free shipping and now it involves “free to me” streaming on select titles. Often I learn about movies from browsing and that’s how I came across Pumpkinhead. I’ve learned my lesson about just clicking through without checking it out ahead of time. It turns out the Pumpkinhead, apart from having major studio backing, was pretty favorably reviewed back in 1989. My wife and I were in Edinburgh at the time, newly wed and trying to concentrate on doctorates. I hadn’t been bumped back into horror yet.
In any case, what is this moral? What is this movie? Set in the unnamed rural south, the movie involves the accidental death of a good, honest man’s son. Some city slickers, hot rodding on dirt bikes, accidentally run the boy down. This good man visits the local witch, against the advice of the locals, and she raises a demon for him—the eponymous Pumpkinhead—to get revenge on the meddling kids. The moral comes in where the witch warns him that such revenge comes at a terrible price, and it does. The man and the avenging demon begin to merge and his desire for revenge leads to his own demise.
Religion plays a role in this film as well. One of the locals, wanting to help the final girl and her boyfriend—the only ones left alive out of the six city folk—takes them to a ruined church, figuring that a demon won’t enter hallowed ground. He’s not exactly right about that, but an extended shot of the religious imagery makes you think about the nature of revenge and what it means in a Christian context. Besides being the first film role for Mayim Bialik (only 13 at the time), it also spun off two sequels. Being a good student at the time, I was completely unaware of all of this. I learned about the film while trying to stay awake one winter afternoon and trying not to spend any money to do so. Not a great movie, it nevertheless does feature repentance and it explores the consequences of being driven by a desire to get back at others. And the monster isn’t bad either.