Horror Film and Philosophy: Revenge and Forgiveness in Pumpkinhead

Thursday, May 25 – 9

The topic of revenge and forgiveness is somewhat commonplace in horror films. Carrie (1976), I Spit On Your Grave (1978), Let the Right One In (2008), The Witch (2015), and Midsommar (2019) are just a few examples of films that explore these themes in various ways. Amidst these revenge and forgiveness-themed films, there is one that shines through: Stan Winston’s Pumpkinhead (1988).

In this presentation, I will argue that Pumpkinhead grapples with the moral complexities of revenge and whether forgiveness is a viable alternative in a unique way, exploring how the movie raises questions about the morality of revenge and whether it can truly bring closure or satisfaction.

This horror film tells the story of Ed Harley, a grieving father who seeks revenge against a group of teenagers responsible for his son’s death. From a philosophical perspective, the film raises important questions about the ethics of revenge and forgiveness, and how they relate to our human experiences of grief and loss.

Drawing on Krisanna M. Scheiter’s article “Aristotle on the Purpose of Revenge,” I will examine how the film’s monster, Pumpkinhead, embodies the idea of “restorative justice” on one hand; on the other hand, drawing on Paul M. Hughes’ article “Two Cheers for Forgiveness (and Even Fewer for Revenge),” I will argue that the film ultimately advocates for the transformative power of forgiveness and redemption, even in the face of great tragedy.

PT 🇵🇹 • PhD candidate at the University of Minho academia || Full bio

Diana Neiva is a high school teacher and a PhD candidate at the University of Minho, researching film as philosophy and thought experiments. She holds an MA in Philosophy, with a dissertation supervised by Sofia Miguens and Thomas Wartenberg on the same topic.

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