Inspired by a poem by Ed Justin, Pumpkinhead is a cult classic horror film about Ed Harley’s inner demon manifest as one of the most Underrated Horror Killers of all time (Tyler Doupe, 2013).
The supernatural Scarecrow Folk is introduced in the movie’s opening scene, and returns about 30 years later when Harley swears revenge on a group of teenagers who mortally wound his son
while operating a motorcycle under the influence of alcohol. Upon consulting a witch in a cabin in the woods, Harley goes to Razorback Hollow to exhume the eponymous legend, revenge
THE PSYCHIATRY OF PUMPKINHEAD
Pumpkinhead shares the same archetypal warning (trope) with January 23’s film, A Nightmare on Elm Street; there’s a steep price to pay for exacting revenge. The film revisits the internal conflict between what “we would like to do” versus society’s prohibitions about what we should do, and applies this to a case of child murderers. With superego (frontal lobe) dysfunction, people like Harley lose the protective cortical effect and succumb to the impulsivity of the id which is driven by the pleasure principle.
When bent on revenge, one can lose oneself, as evidenced by Harley experiencing the deaths of the teenage campers through the eyes of Pumpkinhead, then ultimately taking on the image of Pumpkinhead, itself. The film, then, is analogous to the infamous Stanford prison experiment that investigated how readily people would conform to the roles of guard and prisoner in a role- playing exercise that simulated prison life (Zimbardo, 1973). A depiction of the experiment that’s less metaphorical than this week’s movie is Paul T. Scheuring’s The Experiment (2010). Similar to Zimbardo’s findings, Harley isn’t hardwired to be sadistic, but instead is influenced by environmental stress to do what he does; an action for which he pays the ultimate price.
Last week’s movie: Mama (2013)
Next week’s movie: The New Daughter (2009)