Wednesday, October 02, 2019


Pumpkinhead (1988) is a horror film. I saw some of it years ago on TV. I didn't see the beginning or ending, but I later read the plot. 

It has elements of a B slasher film. But it has a mythic quality that transcends the execution. As Lewis observed:

The pleasure of myth depends hardly at all on such usual narrative attractions as suspense or surprise…Sometimes, even from the first, there is hardly any narrative e element…The Hesperides, with their apple-tree and dragon, are already a potent myth, without bringing in Herakles to steal the apples.   
A man who first learns what is to him a great myth through a verbal account which is baldly or vulgarly or cacophonously written, discounts and ignores the bad writing and attends solely to the myth. He hardly minds about the writing. He is glad to have the myth on any terms…The value of myth is not a specifically literary value, or the appreciation of myth a specifically literary experience. He does not approach the words with the expectation or belief that they are good reading matter; they are merely information. their literary merits or faults do not count (for his main purpose) much more than those of a timetable or a cookery book. C. S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism (Canto 1992), 43-44,46.

In addition, it has a moral complexity that's rare in the genre of pop Hollywood horror flicks. 

• A supernatural avenger

It's ironic that while progressive theologians expunge hell and OT holy war from Christian theology, secular directors reintroduce hell and retribution. This reflects a common grace instinct or haunted conscience. Humans can't shake the idea of just deserts, including supernatural recompense. 

• Devil's pact

Creating a monster you can't control. In the story, the outraged father cuts a deal with the dark side to exact revenge for the wrongful death of his son. But there's collateral damage. Once evil is unleashed, it can't be contained. The avenger is unstoppable by means. That makes him an effective avenger, but indiscriminate. Good Samaritans are marked for death.

• Revenge

The avenger is a surrogate for the father. The father sees the mayhem which the avenger wreaks through the eyes of the avenger, as if they have merged at a certain level. The avenger is a projection of the father's thirst for vengeance. The avenger empowers the impotent father's rage.

• Self-sacrifice

The only way to destroy the avenger is for the father, on whose behalf the monster was resurrected, to sacrifice his own life. Only that will break the cycle.

The film also benefits from the great Lance Henriksen in the lead.  

There's a lot of coded theology in this film. It's striking that as mainline denominations become secularized and abandon "offensive" biblical theology, secular filmmakers keep returning to archetypal biblical themes. Even though they reject Christian theology, they are irresistibly drawn back to the symbolism of Christian theology. That's a bridge for Christian apologists and evangelists. 

1 comment:

  1. Breaking Bad is another great example of this. The larger arc of the series is about a man who turns down multiple chances to walk away from the consequences of his actions(IE accept grace) because of his pride(IE Would rather rule in Hell than serve in Heaven).