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31 Days of Halloween

Pumpkinhead (1988) Review: An eerie tale that keeps you up at night

Welcome to today’s installment of 31 Days of Halloween! This is our chance to set the mood for the spookiest and scariest month of the year as we focus our attention on horror and Halloween fun. For the month of October we’ll be talking to creators working in horror and share and recommend various pieces of underappreciated scary media-books, comics, movies, and television-to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.

I love classic spooky films. One of the great things about October and Halloween time is that these types of films are on TV all the time. I remember seeing Pumpkinhead on the TV guide when I was younger and wanting to watch it so badly but of course was too young. Now that I’ve finally gotten to see this Halloween classic, I feel it needs to be talked about. What better time of year to talk about it than 31 Days of Halloween?

For me, there’s nothing like an eerie/spooky tale around Halloween time. I’m talking about films that aren’t necessarily meant to keep you from sleeping, but just a well made, atmospheric spooky tale. Truly frightening films like Hereditary or Insidious do have their place and I love them, but sometimes during Halloween you just need a classic spooky tale. One of the best things about this film is the use of atmosphere. They create a near perfect formula with their use of lighting, the elaborately decorated sets, the fog… yes it’s cliché but it fits right in. I also really love the plot details, the way in which the demonic creature is conjured, the eerie cabin in which the devil worshiping old woman resides. I like that this isn’t just some creature feature where we aren’t given context.

While there are plenty of deliciously spooky details in Pumpkinhead, there are some unfortunate downsides. The script has some pretty laughable lines, most of them are said by the very stereotypical teenage characters. The band of teenage friends are not well developed characters at all, while a couple of them become likable over time, they’re all cardboard cutouts. The “bad one” or “punk” out of the group has some especially cringe worthy lines of dialogue. While I understand that the characters and acting isn’t the main attraction with this type of film, it would be nice to have some decent roles for these young actors. It’s very hard to make the best out of these types of lines. I look at it this way: when you have a film with great qualities and a formula set up for success, why not try to go for it all. Don’t only focus on making these details great, try your best to make every aspect great.

The runtime is only an hour and twenty five minutes, shorter than the average duration of a mainstream film. I would’ve liked for the runtime to be longer so the filmmakers could’ve worked on developing these characters a bit more. Pumpkinhead really does hit the ground running… there’s hardly any time at all to get to know who this father and son is or who this group of college aged kids are. I’m not how other horror genre fans feel but I think this film would’ve been even stronger if more time would have been devoted to developing these roles. I think that’s a pretty standard rule of any film, no matter the genre.

Pumpkinhead is a solid choice if you’re looking for a eerie Halloween tale with great atmospheric visuals and spooky plot devices. While there are very well done aspects, the film would have been a whole lot stronger if the characters were better developed and if the we had some more time to get to know them.

Is it good?
Pumpkinhead (1988) is a solid choice if you're looking for a spooky Halloween tale.
Great atomospheric visuals
Spooky plot devices
Poor character development and weak dialogue
Buy Now

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