We love to eat them and we love to carve them, but what do we do when pumpkins strike back? Herein we pay tribute to memorable movie jack-o'-lanterns that unsettled, spooked, and scared us -- sometimes all at the same time!
Trick 'r Treat (2007)
This wonderfully evocative anthology film tells four horror stories with macabre skill and slashing wit. It's also filled with all kinds of pumpkins, but the most unsettling is the one worn by young Sam in the form of a burlap sack that covers his entire head.
A pumpkin only figures peripherally in John Carpenter's thriller, but it's a chilling sight. And the title sequence redefined the jack-o'-lantern as an object of evil and inspired much of the imagery that appears in this gallery.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (1991)
The annual Halloween feast should be a festive occasion, but in this case the floating pumpkin heads prove to be foreboding, appearing moments before the terrifying proclamation "Troll! In the dungeons!" sets off a panic among the students.
Now, to be fair, this frightening creature only faintly resembles the head of a pumpkin, but that is the name of this particular demon, who can be summoned when vengeance must be carried out. One look, and you won't care what, exactly, Pumpkinhead looks like -- you'll just be running like hell.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Jack Skellington is the king of Halloweentown (aka the Pumpkin King), but he's grown a bit bored with his lot in life and so decides to appropriate Christmas for his own ghoulish citizens. Jack's head has the appearance, though not the color, of a pumpkin, which is close enough to frighten the young kiddies who might stumble across this movie.
Return to Oz (1985)
Looks can be deceiving. This dark movie features Dorothy threatened with electric shock therapy, a talking chicken, a witch with a replaceable head, and Jack Pumpkinhead, who towers over Dorothy, yet likes to call her "Mom." If that isn't scary, we don't know what is.
Hocus Pocus (1993)
Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy play sisters (?) who are witches (!). They are brought back to life 300 years after they were hanged and their bodies cursed, determined to cause serious mischief. The movie's not as funny as it should be, but we have to hand it to the set decorator(s), who made their home appear awfully inviting with a lot of scary pumpkins.
Whereas John Carpenter made a pumpkin look creepy, George A. Romero made it look freaky. It looks like the pumpkin is laughing at us, but is somehow still malevolent. We can't really explain it, though it helps set the tone for the wild ride ahead in this anthology of outrageous horror tales.
The Pumpkin Karver (2006)
By no means should this be mistaken for an actually "good" movie, or even an entry in the "so bad it's good" sweepstakes, but we're including it because it makes imaginative use of pumpkins and the carving of humans in the form of jack-o'-lanterns. This image is the most humane one we could find -- others feature intestines and faces getting sliced up, so be warned.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1983)
A sentimental favorite, the third installment in the series has nothing to do with the first two movies other than its seasonal setting. What's scary about the pumpkins here is that they're masks, intended for children, with hidden and nefarious intent for the wearer. Also, someone's head gets squished like a pumpkin, so that counts too.