Pumpkinhead while well known amongst many Horror aficionados including myself celebrate the film as part of its cult fanbase, it’s sadly underappreciated amongst the titles of many 80’s Horror films. And while time has been kind to it given its Blu-Ray release by Shout Factory, the monster never had any particular luck outside of the first film, which was directed by the late great Stan Winston in one of his only films he directed.
Pumpkinhead as a franchise is kind of bizarre with its direction. The character has had three sequels and an upcoming reboot which hasn’t had any actual new news since 2015 (if memory serves me right though). To give you an idea, the second film basically started out as a script for an unrelated film that had nothing to do with Pumpkinhead but was inserted in at the last minute for whatever current rights holder (specifically the Motion Picture Corporation of America who apparently still has the rights because they want to do the aforementioned reboot) didn’t want to lose the rights. So yeah, think of that sequel as the 1994 Fantastic Four of its time, except, you know, this one actually had a release. A direct to video release but still.
Director Jeff Burr was brought on for the last minute after somebody else left and wasn’t given time to have the script actually fit in with the first film’s mythos. And you can guess how well that film turned out. And then came two television films made for the Sci-Fi Channel (or Syfy Channel). Blood Feud is the only one I’ve seen of the two and it was just okay last I checked.
So imagine my excitement that Pumpkinhead is not only getting a new comic book but by writer Cullen Bunn, who has been doing well with his Marvel books like X-Men: Blue and even his Godzilla works. And the man certainly loves Horror and its monsters. Incidentally though, this was not the first time Pumpkinhead has ventured into comic books. Dark Horse Comics had the rights for a while and published a four issue miniseries entitled: Pumpkinhead: The Rites of Exorcism but only two were published. I don’t know the circumstances but somehow Dark Horse lost the rights and the comic was left on a cliffhanger-especially with the promise of a winged Pumpkinhead.
Obviously, this book is brand new and doesn’t follow any continuity from the other films or the comic book miniseries from years ago and really, that’s just for the best. Because lord knows I want to be reminded of the second film.
But in all seriousness, this is not a bad start to the book so far. In fact, Bunn may be following the tone of the first film well. One of the major things about the first film was the theme of revenge and how much it can consume one as well as regret afterwards. And undoubtedly given one of the major scenes of the book, nobody seems to have learned their lesson from the Ed Harley incident or any of the other times Pumpkinhead had been summoned quite frankly.
To give you an idea of how Pumpkinhead is supposed to work as a monster, here’s the gist of things:
Pumpkinhead can be summoned when going to the old witch Haggis who would inform you where to find the pumpkin patch and dig up the previous summoner’s body and bring it to her. She does a spell and instantly, the corpse turns into the demon known as Pumpkinhead and the demon and the summoner get tied together with a psychic connection. So if the summoner feels pain, so does Pumpkinhead. That aside, it essentially kills the specific targets the summoner wants dead. That’s very much all you need to know about how the demon works (and go see the first movie, seriously).
And as such, yeah, you can see what happens in this book but there’s plenty more going besides that. For starters, the book starts out with what will seem to be a running thing throughout the book, flashbacks to the childhood of the old witch Haggis, which seems to suggest an even deeper connection to the Pumpkinhead demon than one assumed when watching the first film.
Then we have the Kinkade family who had two children of theirs dead thanks to a hit and run and like I said, you can see where this is going and it won’t end well for everyone. And it doesn’t help the perp who ran them over is not the most sympathetic person much like the leather jacket dude from the first film. Though in his case, he didn’t want to get caught by the cops. This guy however, Clayton, he screams oozing tough guy given the tattoos and cigarette but he’s clearly scared out of his mind-clearly aware of the legends.
Sheriff Andi and Daryl and likeable heroic leads especially with Andi being the type wanting to bring justice which would make for an interesting contrast with the monster himself. But it’s not Pumpkinhead that would make for an interesting contrast, with the hillbilly characters in the story, it’s clear there’s already a major contrast between the law and vigilantism.
However if you’re expecting Pumpkinhead to appear throughout the first issue, sorry, he only shows up on the last page but in fairness, the book has to build up the monster first and it’s a great cliffhanger in fairness since there’s a good splash page of Pumpkinhead ready to attack more of his victims.
The art by Blacky Shepherd and Kyle Strahm is decent for the most part. I could go with a bit more gothic style like something similar to the cinematography of the first film but in plenty of pages, it works like the young Haggis pages which give the book a decent spooky atmosphere. But Pumpkinhead is nicely drawn at least, looks as he should and such. But I’d say the writing is the strongest area especially since Bunn nails the rural gothic aspect very well.
There is a bonus short story which reminds me of Creepy because the tone and art style suggests it’s darkly comic. It was out of nowhere and was blindsided at first but I got used to it the more it settled it with me that it’s enjoyable really and offers something cool.
All in all, pretty good start to a promising horror book. If you love the first Pumpkinhead, then this book makes for a solid companion to it.
Dynamite Entertainment provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review