Ultra-Indie Spotlight Sunday: Pumpkin Eater
No family wants to see a child taken from them. But when a nuclear family’s son is hit by a car, the mother’s grief is so powerful that she cannot accept his death. Replacing his head with that of a carved pumpkin, the family is forced to uphold her obscene delusion. How many days can they keep up the facade when their dead child is decaying before their eyes? Find out just how far the family goes in Pumpkin Eater.
There is nothing in the entire genre of horror that compares with the absolute terror of real life. Give me a zombie or goblin any day, because having to confront something like grief is magnitudes scarier than a monster. I found that, as a general rule, the more accurately a horror game can capture real life, the more terrifying and disturbing it can be. And as Pumpkin Eater shows, it gets incredibly disturbing.
I’m not being hyperbolic when I say that Pumpkin Eater is one of the most unsettling games I’ve ever played. Mostly, because it stays as far away from the paranormal as possible. The entirety of the story is about the extreme psychosis of a mother in denial, and how her unwillingness to accept her son’s grisly death is that it drags the entire family down a dark path of derangement.
Non-Wanky Game Recap:
Pumpkin Eater is a visual novel. Though really, it’s got no interactive elements other than clicking a progress-the-story button. There are no dialogue options or choices to be made. It’s a purely straightforward story.
I actually really liked that Pumpkin Eater didn’t have any choices. It kept the medium of a video game to a minimum, instead creating the truest kind of visual novel. And boy are the visuals great. Hand-drawn and water-colored pictures bring the harrowing story to an incredibly deep level of immersion.
Not just the visuals of Pumpkin Eater are immersive. The writing and content of the story are expertly done. The characters are sympathetic and compelling. The extremely graphic descriptions are beyond disturbing.
Some may say that the lack of intractability is a negative. I can certainly see how some would prefer that Pumpkin Eater have branching dialogue or choices to be made. I suppose they could add in a good and bad ending. Personally, I think Pumpkin Eater is fine as is. Truthfully, other than the lack of choices, there are literally no other issues with the game.
How To Fix It:
There’s not much more I can go into. The game is pristine. Pumpkin Eater is a masterpiece of visual and narrative art. I don’t think they could make it better if they tried. It’s a perfectly succinct and full horror tale unlike any other.
Grief is one of the most terrible and complex emotions. For Pumpkin Eater to capture the unparalleled horror of a mother’s grief in the face of losing a child in such depth is something to be applauded. Developer Thugzilla has taken something as cliche as a Jack-o-lantern head and brought it to another level.
You can download Pumpkin Eater for free on itch.io by clicking here.