There are some movies that should remain the type of backwoods horror that they originated as, and Pumpkinhead is one of them. But the story itself was great enough to spawn three sequels, even if they weren’t really that great. The story itself is great, and the monster is something that qualifies as pure nightmare fuel, but the fact that it’s so insanely slow in the movies was kind of a turnoff. But given that it still kept coming after the marked individuals, speed didn’t really appear to matter since one way or another the demon was going to have its prey. In a way, it almost feels as though the acting talents of Lance Henriksen and the plot of the story weren’t really utilized as much as they could have been. The idea of being marked for death at the claws of an unstoppable demon that could track a person simply because they were marked is enough to create a horror movie that will leave people with nightmares that occur every time they close their eyes. But add a few other elements to that and it becomes even creepier.
The fact that it was set in the backwoods is even better since this is one of the prime locations for a horror movie to take place. It’s off the beaten path, legends and myths still hold a lot of sway, and one thing that a person can count on the backwoods for is sheer terror in every other shadow. Pumpkinhead had the perfect setup along with an old, unknown, and virtually unmarked cemetery where Ed Harley had to travel to pull a demon from its grave. It kind of makes a person wonder just what went wrong and why Pumpkinhead started to fade into obscurity after a while. One could say that the movie has a cult following and they wouldn’t be entirely wrong, but compared to many other movie monsters, this denizen of the dark definitely isn’t as well known as many others.
On the terror scale, Pumpkinhead is a creature that’s absolutely horrifying since the mere fact that it’s a demon is enough to send it rocketing past several movie monsters right off the bat. It’s indestructible, up to a point. So long as the person that desired the demon to be summoned isn’t damaged then the demon is invulnerable and can take all types of damage, including a flamethrower at point-blank range. Once the summoner is damaged though, that’s pretty much it. Once the demon is destroyed the summoner becomes the next vessel of vengeance and is buried in the same cemetery, but when pitting this creature against other monsters it’s fair to say that it might be up there with the big boys in terms of overall ability, since the fact that it’s a supernatural entity puts it right up there with the likes of Freddy, Jason, and even Pinhead. What’s interesting is to judge just how powerful this creature is in terms of what it can do and how well it would fare against other monsters. It is a cunning beast since while it can bull rush people and simply blitz them out of nowhere, it knows how to climb and how to set up a sneak attack as well. In other words, this monster is at least a little diverse in its methods and was a serious threat.
But the way the movie was filmed could explain why it didn’t go as far as it could. The effects were still pretty cool, but one can guess that a remake today would increase the gore and possibly the speed of this thing since in the first movie it moved rather slowly, likely because the effects weren’t what they are now and the suit that was worn could have been a bit stifling. Given that it was likely form-fitting and could have been slightly inflexible, this is probably the reason it didn’t appear to be quite as fluid. The way Pumpkinhead is described makes it sound as though he’s nimble, quick, and absolutely deadly, but the movies didn’t always show that. But back in the day, this monster was still terrifying since the 80s effects were still being refined as the movies kept coming out, and the classic horror monsters we know today were still being fleshed out.
Pumpkinhead is bound to remain a fan favorite since there are way too many great elements to ignore and because it’s still one of the more insane monsters out there that people tend to enjoy. If there’s ever a remake the hope is that things won’t be changed so drastically that people won’t recognize the monster or the story. But until that happens it’s fun to watch the 1988 version every now and then for a good thrill.