Pumpkinhead Secondary Poster
Film information
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
Music by Richard Stone
Cinematography Bojan Bazelli
Editing by Marcus Manton
Distributed by United Artists
Release date(s) October 14, 1988 (Limited)
January 13, 1989
Running time 86 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Preceded by
Followed by Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings

Pumpkinhead is a 1988 American supernatural horror film directed by Stan Winston and starring Lance Henriksen. It was the directorial debut of Stan Winston. While Pumpkinhead received mixed reviews, the film has built up a cult following in the years since its release.


In the prologue set in 1957, Tom Harley waits inside his farm cabin with his wife and young son, Ed. A doomed man runs through the night and seeks sanctuary at Tom's cabin. Tom refuses and threatens to shoot him if he does not leave. Watching through a window, Ed witnesses the man caught and killed by a grotesque creature.

In the present, Ed Harley owns a small store in the country. He briefly leaves his young son alone while he runs an errand. A group of teenage campers stop by Harley's. While riding their dirt bikes, they mortally injure Harley's son. One teen, Steve, stays with the boy until his father's return; the rest flee the scene.

At their cabin, the campers fight about whether or not to call the police. Joel, who is responsible for the boy's injury and is on probation for a similar incident, knocks one of his friends unconscious and locks two others in the closet to stop them from contacting the authorities.

Harley, with his pet dog Gypsy, goes to see a supposed witch, who says she cannot bring his son back. Instead Harley says that he wants revenge and as a boy, he saw the witch controlling a mysterious creature, the witch agrees to help Harley seek revenge, but she warns him that vengeance comes with a terrible price. On her orders, Harley goes to an old graveyard in the mountains, digs up a disfigured corpse, and brings it back to the witch's home. The witch uses blood from father and son to resurrect the corpse, which rises as a giant, spindly demonic creature.

Back at the cabin, Joel begins to experience remorse for his actions, and determines to turn himself in to the police. The monster, however, has already arrived. 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, but he is then attacked by the creature and killed. Harley experiences the murder through the creature's eyes.

While the campers search for Steve, a clawed hand seizes Maggie, dragging her away. Harley has a vision of the creature killing Maggie and he returns to the witch, begging her to stop the monster. The witch laughs mockingly and says that the monster cannot be stopped until its mission of vengeance is complete. She warns that Harley will die too if he interferes.

Joel confronts the monster with a knife, but the monster swats him aside and drags off another of the teens. The three remaining campers beg the locals for help, but the locals refuse, saying the three campers are "marked." Harley arrives and shoots the creature, but when Joel checks to see if it's dead, the creature impales Joel on his own rifle.

A local boy, Bunt, helps the two remaining campers, Tracey and Chris, reach an abandoned church. Bunt relates the legend of the monster Pumpkinhead, explaining that the creature avenges one who was wronged. If anyone tries to stop Pumpkinhead, that person becomes marked as another victim. The creature attacks and throws Chris against a tree, then drags his body back to Harley's house, where Tracey, Bunt, and Harley have taken shelter.

Bunt is caught when Pumpkinhead enters the house. While Harley experiences the murder, Tracey is terrified to see that his face has changed to resemble the monster's. She runs outside and finds Chris 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: the only way to kill the creature is to die himself.

The creature grabs Tracey by the neck, but before it can kill her, Harley shoots it in the head. Pumpkinhead momentarily collapses to the ground. Pumpkinhead grabs Bunt again. Tracey grabs the gun, and Harley begs 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 buries Harley's now-disfigured corpse in Pumpkinhead's grave. The film ends showing his corpse still wearing the necklace his son Billy made him.



The film was given a limited release theatrically in the United States by United Artists in October 1988 and again in January 1989. In total, it grossed $4,385,516 total at the domestic box office.

The film was released on VHS in the U.S. by MGM/UA Home Entertainment in May 1989. MGM released the film on DVD twice; once in 2000 as a standard edition and again in 2008 in a 20th anniversary edition featuring an audio commentary and over an hour of featurettes. In 2014, Scream Factory released a Blu-ray disc of the film, marking the first time it received a Blu-ray release. The Blu-ray release also included some of the same special features from the 2008 DVD release.