Until last night, I’d never actually seen 1988’s “Pumpkinhead” — even though I occasionally joked online about its inspired, iconic titular monster. I was predictably pleased by the movie’s creature effects, but even more disappointed than I thought I’d be by the film’s overall quality. I’d rate the film a 7 out of 10, based on my own enjoyment of it — but I’m a horror fan who loves monsters and who’s typically forgiving of 80’s cheese. If you haven’t seen “Pumpkinhead,” I suspect you’ll finds its flaws a little more egregious than I did.
The film’s strengths are its fantastic monster, designed by legendary visual effects master Stan Winston, and its interesting story concept. It’s easy to see why the sneering, towering golem here inspired a cult fanbase — complete with sequels, videogames and comic books. (Yes, horror movie pedants, I realize that Pumpkinhead is technically a demon-infused and magically mutilated corpse, and not a golem. Whatever.)
This is Winston’s first turn as a director, too … and it seems to me that his genius apparently didn’t quite extend to this larger role. “Pumpkinhead” feels cobbled together, even by 80’s-movie standards, with poor writing, acting and editing throughout. The presence of Lance Henriksen improves matters somewhat, as does an adolescent Brian Bremer in the role of “Bunt.”. (Bremer looks to be about 13 or 14 years old, but he easily outshines his adult co-stars. His surprisingly relaxed performance might be the equal of Henriksen’s. The latter is usually as good as we expect, but even he actually flubs a line here and there. He’s a long way from his brilliant turn as the “Bishop” android in the classic “Aliens” two years prior.)
All things considered, I’m not sure I would actually recommend “Pumpkinhead.”