The dog actor, Mushroom, who played Ed Harley's dog, Gypsy, also played Barney in Gremlins (1984).
Lance Henriksen gathered all of the silver dollars himself by visiting several pawn shops. He said that most of them fell through the floorboards of Haggis' shack, where they may still lie.
Lance Henriksen had a set of dentures made to give him a more rural look. He also gathered all of his own props and wardrobe, including a WWII pump-action shotgun, his cap worn throughout the film and the silver dollars which he gives to Haggis.
The one scene that made Lance Henriksen most want to take the role was where the deceased Billy sits up and asks his father what he's done.
'Fun' was, in fact, the prevalent mood on the Pumpkinhead set. Despite many additional burdens and responsibilities, Winston brought the same sense of humor and lighthearted spirit to directing Pumpkinhead as he had to his creature effects assignments. "Stan was a blast as a director," recalled Alec Gillis. "He was fun and completely relaxed on the set, as if he didn't have a care in the world. I remember one day when we were in this cramped cabin set, and I was very tense and tired because Shane and I had just spent three hours applying makeup to the actress playing the witch. But then I looked over and saw Stan standing across the room, staring at me, with his glasses cocked at a weird angle on his head -- just to make me laugh. There was my director, making an idiot of himself for nobody's benefit but mine. That isn't something most directors would do!"
Pumpkinhead doesn't really resemble a pumpkin. It gets its name from the fact that summoning it involves digging up a corpse that's been buried in a pumpkin patch.
Because of Stan Winston's request, the screenwriters made both Pumpkinhead and Haggis (the old woman), much darker than in the original script.
The dog actor, Mushroom, did his own stunts for this film (he also did his own stunts for Gremlins four years previously).
Pumpkinhead has since been a cult classic ever since its release with a legion of fans - among them, novelist Anne Rice, and many of the Stan Winston Studio crewmembers that worked on the show. "When I revisit Pumpkinhead after all these years," said Shane Mahan, "and I realize that it was done in 1987, all in-camera, and for only three million dollars, I'm amazed at how much movie is there. I think it is a really impressive example of a first-time director's work, and it is still used as a model for low-budget films. People reference Pumpkinhead all the time when they are looking at how to make an effective low-budget movie."
This film, orphaned by the bankruptcy of De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, eventually garnered a spotty release when acquired by United Artists, which tested the film under the alternate title Vengeance - The Demon.
From the sculpture, studio artists and mechanics created a suit and head, which was worn on the set by Pumpkinhead performer, Tom Woodruff Jr., To avoid wear and tear on the suit, Woodruff was glued into it at the start of the shoot day, and remained in the foam rubber construct for up to eight hours at a time.
An early scene introducing the young adults from the city at a diner was filmed, but cut from the final version of the movie.
Screenwriters Mark Patrick Carducci and Gary Gerani were inspired by the horror movies of Mario Bava.
While Winston refined the narrative, artists at his studio -- led by Alec Gillis, Shane Mahan, John Rosengrant & Tom Woodruff Jr. -- designed Pumpkinhead as a humanoid demon with a very large, angular head, withered facial features, and long, clawed fingers. "Since Stan was directing the movie," said Gillis, "he turned the creature work over to us. Stan said: 'I'm the director on this. I'm the client -- you guys are the effects guys.' It was great to have Stan's encouragement to just go with it, on our own. We sat down and started drawing, and then we presented those drawings to Stan, and he made suggestions. That's how the character of Pumpkinhead developed. Then I sculpted the head, and Tom and John sculpted the body."
Although the FX team created the titular monster, Stan Winston was so busy with directorial duties that he was unable to directly supervise their work.
Originally, producers from the DeLaurentiis Entertainment Group (DEG), the film's production company, had sent Winston the script hoping to engage Stan Winston Studio to create the 'Pumpkinhead' demon, but Winston quickly recognized that, in Pumpkinhead, he had found an ideal property for his film-directing debut. "It was a small picture, something I thought I could handle as a director, and I felt there was a lot that I could bring to the story. So I told the producers, 'Yeah, I'll do the creature, but only if I can direct the movie.'"
"There was a shorthand with Stan that made it so easy," John Rosengrant elaborated. "We could go to him with something, and ask: 'Is this enough? Will this do it?' And he could look at it, and immediately say, 'Yeah, that will be fine,' or, 'No, we need more.' That's very different than the normal situation where we have to overbuild, just in case the director changes his mind and wants something more once he is on the set. Stan knew exactly what the tools were, what he needed and what he didn't need. We didn't have to go through the process of educating him, as we do with many directors. That made the whole job easier, and a lot more fun."
The legendary "That Guy" Buck Flower once said that working on this film with Stan Winston was a "pleasant experience." Buck plays Mr. Wallace, which seems to go against his usual typecast as a drunkard or a bum.
Pumpkinhead is able to enter a church (though the sight of a cross pisses him off and he destroys it). Although the church was only half-built before it was abandoned, so it's possible this wasn't true holy ground.
The comic Pumpkinhead: The Rites of Exorcism, which was supposed to be four issues, was cancelled after two.
Stan Winston Studio provided additional Pumpkinhead suits, for stunt sequences, as well as dead bodies and makeups. Winston's savvy regarding creature work, enabled him to make the most of his very small creature effects budget, which was just a fraction of the film's overall budget of three million dollars. "It's funny, but we never had a sense of being constrained by the budget on that show," Shane Mahan commented. "And that was because Stan knew what to spend the money on and how to get the most out of everything we built."
In 1991, GEOmetric Design, Inc. produced and marketed the first licensed Pumpkinhead model kit. It 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. The kit was discontinued when GEOmetric Design released its Pumpkinhead: The Metamorphosis kit in 1994. Sculpted by Japanese artist Takayuki Takeya, the second kit was based on the Pumpkinhead sequel story written by Carducci and Gerani and published in the Dark Horse Comics series. The kit included a glossy, full-color booklet that concluded the cancelled comic.
The two dirt bikes driven by Joel and Steve are an orange 1983 Honda CR250 and a green 1985 Kawasaki KX 250.
The horror punk band The Misfits released a song entitled "Pumpkin Head", which was featured on their album Famous Monsters, in 1999.
Stan Winston and the filmmakers strongly clarified that they did not indeed want a creature with a literal pumpkin on its head.
The nature of this Pumpkinhead is unknown, and some fans speculate that it might be the incarnation of a demon. The Pumpkinhead of this film does things such as speak, while the Pumpkinheads of later films don't.
Pumpkinhead's mere presence seems able to bring very powerful storms and winds. It is unknown if this is intentional or just an unconditional side power.
The Pumpkinhead summoned by Ed Harley could possibly the one from the beginning of the film which he saw as a young boy.
Pumpkinhead has pale skin and has a large head with multiple lumps and pale white eyes with reptilian-like pupils and no irises in the 1988 film. The large head and the fact that he is buried in a pumpkin patch give the creature its name. Rather than having a nose, the creature has nostrils which follow the wrinkled design skin design above its mouth. The creature is completely hairless and has a large mouth with varying pointed and human-like teeth. There are two small pointed teeth on either side of the creature's lower jaw. The creature has a wrinkled neck with clearly visible blood veins and large bulbous objects that sprout from its shoulders. There are also bulbous objects that sprout from the creature's elbows and extra joints on its legs. Pumpkinhead has long arms with four fingered clawed hands, which are its primary weapons. Pumpkinhead has a torso with a rib cage-like design and two muscles underneath its chest which replace its abs. There are two extremely small bulbous objects that sprout from the creature's hips above its digitigrade legs. The creature's legs are large and muscular with extra joints. Pumpkinhead has three-toed feet with thick dinosaur-like claws. The creature's extra joints are larger than the other joints in its legs and sprout another pair of bulbous objects that actually resemble that of small pumpkins. Pumpkinhead has a long tail with a fin-like spike at the end. In the 1994 sequel, the creature's eyes are changed to completely pale bloodshot eyes with no pupils and all of its teeth are sharp. In the last two sequels, Pumpkinhead's design is changed because there is a different costume used for the films. The creature's head is smaller and its teeth are yellow. The creature apprears more muscular and has a more human-like posture. The creature's upper body is notably more muscular and the creature is larger, although seems to shrink as its conjurers are killed. The creature's skin is a rotten green color and its bulbous objects that sprout from its shoulders, elbows, hips, and extra joints are replaced with sharp spikes. The creature's hands are smaller with black claws and the fin-like spike on the creature's tail is changed to resemble its spikes, making it more resemble a devil or demon. This could be related to it having more summoners (though this is unconfirmed).
Given Stan Winston was then busy refining the story, he gave free reins regarding design to artists Alec Gillis, Shane Mahan, John Rosengrant and Tom Woodruff, Jr., the last of whom also wore the Pumpkinhead suit. Winston's experience regarding creature work enabled the effects not to use too much of the limited $3 million budget.