Written by S.T. King
“And I’ll tell you something else,” my Uncle had said, “I’ll take Pumpkinhead over that goddamn Babadoo, Ali Baba, what’s his name?”
Yeah, him. The Babadook. That ain’t gangsta, what he did? Been carrying on like that all movie, and then he gets turned into a goddamn gerbil.
“You want an exercise wheel, Mr. Babadoodingdong?” Then he gets up from his chair – albeit faster than what I’m sure he thought he could, and he almost topples over like a domino, laughing the whole time. Then he picks up Caretta’s Healthy Home and Garden and rockets it off across the sitting room.
“Heel! Fetch!” he says.
“That’s not fair Unc,” I say, “you talking bout two completely different movies monsters, now – apples and oranges.”
“Don’t give me that shit, boy. Them tapes the same to me. I aint no dummy. I know what they trying to do. They ain’t just monster movies.”
“What are they then?” I laughed
“Shut up and I’ll tell you.” Then he’s quiet for a while. “Go get me a cream soda, can you do that?”
I get up.
And by the time I’d gotten back, Healthy Home and Garden had returned to its rightfully place – not where it was exactly, by the Reader’s Digest – and a couple old National Geographics he’d rolled up and taken with him when we took Aunt Caretta to the Chiropractor that morning. The ones with the naked women. She makes him promise to stop doing that but he never does. He does it more instead. That’s the charm of old age, I guess – (brewing years, he calls it) It always makes for a laugh when we’re all riding around together.
He’s sitting himself back on his massage-chair also recliner that he’d bought off the internet for what he calls a small fortune. I give him the soda and he takes it and gestures over to the loveseat. It’s where I normally sit anyway. “I’m ready,” I say.
“The thing that you see, Pumpkinhead – it’s not about him at all. Just like the Babadook – but I think Pumpkinhead does it better. It’s more of an emotional experience than anything. You just gotta get past the skin, if you can. Makes more sense when you’re my age. You understand?”
I nod my head. “Yes.”
“I like Pumpkinhead more,” he says. “It’s more simple, for one, and surely not as where in the hell is Carmen San Diego. It gives it to you straight. And I like that. I see where the Babadook had wanted to go but it did a lot of hiding – behind the stuff that’s supposed to bring it out.
“Don’t get me wrong, either – I don’t mind a puzzle every now and again. But if you can give it to me pure it gives me more time to experience what I’m seeing. I’ve been done with school for a long time and I didn’t pay five dollars and sixty-five cents for my ticket to do more homework. Especially for the sake of doing homework.
“Lucky for you then, Unc, you know they’re doing a remake of Pumpkinhead? Supposed to come out in a year or so, I think.
Then he looks at me.
“Oh God no,” he says. He leans forward on his chair like he’s trying to catch his breath after he’d been running. I know my Uncle Clyde. And he didn’t look too happy.
“Who’s doing it, you know – who’s got the rights or whatever?”
“Didn’t look that far into it. But I think it’s those guys that did Saw. You remember that movie, right?”
“Peter Block, then,” he says. Matter of factly. He knows a lot more than he lets on sometimes. He hadn’t said anything else after that. He puts down his soda and rest his arms aside him like he’s had an enormous meal and he needs a minute to recover his sanities. But it wasn’t satisfaction that I saw. The way he turns his head this way and that, considering possibilities.
That was worry. It wasn’t the first time I’d seen that face.
“Unc?” I said
“I’m going to write a letter.” He gestures to the computer.
“Huh means you heard me, boy. I say I’m going to write a letter to em. So they know how to get it right.”
Then he got up again.
“What do you mean? What are you going to say?” I suppose I sounded mildly panicked
“Write it for me? On the computer? Not like the whole thing. But I gotta organize my thoughts.”
So I amble over to the computer and touch the desk lamp. The computer had only been sleeping so I shake the mouse and open a new document. “Alright.”
“These are the things they gotta get right,” he says. “You following me?
“First off is the monster. Pumpkinhead isn’t about Pumpkinhead, it’s about the sorry, son-of-a-bitch that calls him up. You got that?
The monster itself is only secondary. That’s the only way it’s going to be good — is if they understand that first and foremost. Underline that, please.”
He pauses. “Did you do it?”
I nod my head yes. Then I say it. He can’t see me well probably from where he sits.
“What I believe as far as monsters, is that a monster can’t exist alone if its to be scary. We’re not scared of monsters in real-life just because — not grownfolks, anyway. Since we know monsters aren’t real. But they come from real things – the mind of people. You can’t forget that, either. It’s important.
“Want me to underline it?”
“I’ll tell you good and goddamn well what I want you to underline. Don’t say nothing else. I’m trying to think.”
So I don’t say nothing else.
“A monster is only as useful as it’s connection to humanity.”
And in my mind, I have to be honest, I wasn’t sure what to think. It’d been on a Sunday afternoon that Unc had asked me to write this letter in the first place. But it must’ve been a big deal. Because he wasn’t fooling with me anymore. He was dead serious. Film can be that way for some people, I suppose.
“Now I know you do this for profits – because otherwise you could come up with your own revenge monster, right? Call em Melonhead or whatever — Bratwurst Burger…
I stayed quiet, though I might of smiled just a little.
“But you didn’t, because you’be been here and you saw potential in the pumpkin patch. And most of them folks who liked Pumpkinhead were sort of wierdos anyway, myself included. No shame in admitting that.
“But it is a good movie. The first one and that one only. And there’s a few reasons for that, aside what I said already.”
And here are his reasons, since it did take us a while to get em on paper and moved around so they’d fit together nicely with a single paperclip.
The first is in the mood. You get that in the beginning and all the way through. There’s little levity. Because how much of that can you find in fresh tragedy, anyway. Maybe it seems obvious. But you’d be surprised how many films (especially remakes) muck this up, because they’re trying to appeal to a younger, somewhat more dimwitted audience.
Pumpkinhead worked because you got it thick and sloppy in the beginning. The fear is the monster, then the monster. Flash forward. Then the life of a single father whose son is all he’s got in the world. You need a guy like Lance Henriksen on your team. Back then, you can tell he knew what he was doing.
Now perhaps the small town theme is about as overdone as last night’s meatloaf. Nonetheless, it’s conducive to the mood. Always has been and always will. You can bring it to the city if you want – but only if you got the discipline to keep your viewer focused. The teenagers (which I know you’ll have) are only fodder. Secondary to the top guy or gal that suffers the loss. This is who dominates the story.
That brings us to the loss itself. And if the full feature is the body of a cyborg (sorry Uncle) than the loss is the heart that pumps the blood through all the system (maybe transmission fluid?). Don’t lose focus on the loss. Because unless your plan is to change completely how Pumpkinhead works, you need it. And you need it bad, Usher.
Uncle Clyde would be willing to argue – that you certainly can, indeed, remove Pumpkinhead himself altogether and completely from the movie: that you can replace him with drunkeness and trips to the courthouse – confrontations with the kids who killed his son. Lashings out with his customers and friends – and at the end of all that the quality of what you get will be comparable. It’s the true nature of mourning and it’s cyclical progression. It’s why he (Uncle) says that Pumpkinhead is a largely emotional experience. And forgiveness is part of it, too. Or lack thereof, as far as horror.
Pumpkinhead is about life and consequence. And his ugliness.
“Good God,” Unc says, “that thing is ugly.”
“I’ve seen uglier things,” I said. That thing on Donald Trump’s head, for instance.
“Alright,” Unc says, “I think we’re done.”