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Pumpkinhead movie poster
Directed by Stan Winston
Produced by Bill Blake
Written by Stan Winston
Richard C. Weinman
Gary Gerani
Mark Patrick Carducci
Starring Lance Henriksen
Jeff East
John D'Aquino
Kimberly Ross
Joel Hoffman
Cynthia Bain
Kerry Remsen
Dick Warlock
Music by Richard Stone
Cinematography Bojan Bazelli
Editing by Marcus Manton
Distributed by United Artists (USA)
De Laurentiis Entertainment Group (non-USA)
Release date(s) October 14, 1988
Running time 86 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $3,500,000 (estimated)
Followed by Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings

Pumpkinhead is a 1988 supernatural horror film. It was the directorial debut of noted special-effects artist Stan Winston. The film has built up a cult following in the years since its release.



As a young boy, Ed Harley witnesses a man being murdered by a tall, hideous creature just outside his family's farmhouse. His father had refused to let the man in, saying he "cannot get involved".

Years later, a group of teenagers camping in the area come by Harley's store, and the man's son is killed after being hit by one of their dirtbikes. One of the teens, Steve, stays with the injured boy until his father's return, while the rest flee the scene.

At the cabin, the teenagers fight over whether or not they should call the police, until Joel, the one who hit the boy, knocks out one of his friends and locks two of them in the closet to stop them from contacting the authorities.

That night, Harley's son dies in his arms. He goes to see a supposed witch, who refuses to help until Harley relates having seen the creature she controls when he was young. The witch agrees to help, but warns him that vengeance comes with a powerful price. On her orders, Harley goes to an old pumpkin patch and digs up a disfigured corpse. He brings the corpse back to the cabin, where the witch uses blood from both father and son to resurrect the creature.

Back at the cabin, one of the girls, Maggie, hears a voice whispering her name. Seemingly hypnotized, she follows the voice outside the cabin. Steve brings her out of her trance by showing her a crucifix necklace, but is then attacked by the creature and killed while Harley experiences the murder through the creature's eyes.

The campers go to look for Steve and find only bloody scraps of his clothing. As they leave the camp to start a more concerted search effort, Steve's body falls from the cabin's roof, and a clawed hand seizes Maggie, dragging her into the darkness.

Harley has a vision of the creature killing Maggie and returns to the witch, begging her to stop the monster. She laughs at him and says nothing can stop the monster, and Harley would die too if he tried.

Joel realizes that what's happening is because of him and confronts the monster with a knife, but it swats him aside and drags off another of his friends. The three remaining campers try to get help from the locals, but they refuse, saying the three are "marked". Harley arrives and shoots the creature, but when Joel checks to see if it's dead, it revives and impales him on his own rifle.

A local boy, Bunt, helps the two living campers, Tracey and Chris, reach an abandoned church and relates the legend of the monster "Pumpkinhead" to them, explaining that the creature avenges one who was wronged, but anyone who tries to stop it becomes marked as another victim. The creature attacks and throws Chris against a tree, then drags his body back to Harley's house, where they have taken shelter. Harley says the monster cannot be stopped, but swears to send it back to hell.

Bunt is caught when Pumpkinhead enters the house; while Harley experiences the murder, the other camper, Tracey, is terrified to see that his face has changed to resemble the monster's. She runs outside and finds Chris injured but not dead, struggling to crawl away as Pumpkinhead prepares to kill Bunt. Harley stumbles out of the barn but is accidentally stabbed in the arm by a pitchfork. Both Harley and Pumpkinhead cry out in pain, and the creature releases Bunt. Harley notices that Pumpkinhead's face is turning more human, then realizes that he and Pumpkinhead are one, and that the only way to kill it is to die himself.

The creature grabs Tracey by the neck, but before it can kill her, Harley shoots himself in the head. Both he and Pumpkinhead collapse to the ground. Harley, however, suddenly awakens, which causes Pumpkinhead to also reawaken, and grab Bunt again. Tracey grabs the gun, with Harley begging her to kill him. Harley, now fully changed, tries to attack Tracey. She shoots him several times until both he and Pumpkinhead fall to the ground, dead. Tracey, Bunt and Chris then watch as Pumpkinhead bursts into flames. Later that night, back in the pumpkin patch, the witch is burying Harley's now disfigured corpse in Pumpkinhead's grave.

Original poem

Pumpkinhead was inspired by the following poem by Ed Justin:

Keep away from Pumpkinhead,
Unless you're tired of living,
His enemies are mostly dead,
He's mean and unforgiving,
Laugh at him and you're 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.

However, the producers of the film have not clarified the poem's origin. Neither the poem nor the writer Ed Justin have, so far, been sourced in any pre-existing form.

DVD release

MGM released a 20th Anniversary Edition on September 9, 2008 featuring an Audio commentary and over an hour of featurettes.


A sequel, entitled Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings, went straight to video in 1994 directed by Jeff Burr. A third movie, called Pumpkinhead 3: The Original Sin was written by Jeffery Reddick, the writer of Final Destination, but issues of the rights prevented it from entering production. Two additional sequels, titled Pumpkinhead: Ashes to Ashes and Pumpkinhead: Blood Feud, were filmed in 2006 as made for television movies and aired on SCI FI. Pumpkinhead: Ashes to Ashes aired in October 2006, and Pumpkinhead: Blood Feud aired on February 10, 2007.


Dark Horse Comics also published a Pumpkinhead comic book series called "Pumpkinhead: The Rites of Exorcism". The comic was supposed to be a four part mini-series but only two issues were published. The second one ended in a cliffhanger leaving readers with the prospect of a winged Pumpkinhead that would have appeared in the third issue.

In 1994, GEOmetric Design, Inc., a St. Paul, Minnesota company and producer of model figure kits (see "garage kit")in the U.S., produced and marketed a vinyl Pumpkinhead model kit called "Pumpkinhead: The Metamorphosis". This version of Pumpkinhead has wings and the model kit depicts the demon perched on an aging stone staircase. The model stands about 17 inches tall, was licensed by MGM/UA, Inc. and endorsed by Stan Winston Studios, and Carducci and Gerani, the writers of the original film. Sculpted by internationally famed Japanese artist, Takeyuki Takeya, the kit was based on the Pumpkinhead sequel story written by Carducci and Gerani and published in the Dark Horse Comic's series.

While it is true that Dark Horse's comic book series was cancelled before all four installments were published, GEOmetric Design provided authors Carducci and Gerani the opportunity to publish the rest of their sequel story. With each Pumpkinhead model kit sold, the company included a glossy, full-color booklet. The booklet contained the authors' conclusion to the "Pumpkinhead: Rites of Exorcism" story, original illustrations and paintings by a number of well-known hobby artists, and instructions for building and painting the Pumpkinhead model kit. Even at a whopping $120, it was GEOmetric Design, Inc.'s best-selling monster kit of all time.

A few years earlier, GEOmetric Design, Inc. had produced and marketed the first licensed Pumpkinhead model kit. That kit was released in 1991 and featured the demon on a display base depicting a portion of a burned out church. The model kit was sculpted by American artist Randy Bowen. That collaboration not only helped launch Bowen's successful career in sculpting, but helped launch GEOmetric as a leader in the garage kit industry. The kit was discontinued when GEOmetric Design released its Pumpkinhead: The Metamorphosis kit.


The horror punk band The Misfits released a song entitled Pumpkin Head, which was featured on their album Famous Monsters, released in 1999. The lyrics are basically a re-telling of the plot of the film, with the first lines being: "Now this is a story, of a good man named Ed, left his son for a moment, returned found him dead". The song ends with the first four lines of the poem that inspired the film "Keep away from the Pumpkinhead, unless you're tired of living, his enemies are mostly dead, he's mean and unforgiving."

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