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Dustin Putman

Dustin's Blu-ray Review
Pumpkinhead  (1988)
Reviewed by Dustin Putman

The Film
3 Stars
(Release Date: September 9, 2014) – The tagline splashed upon the original theatrical one-sheet for "Pumpkinhead" describes the film as a "grim fairy tale." This is an absolutely perfect description of late effects artist extraordinaire Stan Winston's whimsically bleak 1988 directorial debut. A children's storybook turned horrific, the film stars a touching Lance Henriksen as Ed Harley, a widowed shopkeeper who is devastated when his young son, Billy (Matthew Hurley), is run over and killed in a motorbike accident. The guilty teenage driver, Joel (John D'Aquino), flees the scene with his fellow city friends, intimidating them to not turn him in. As they hole up in a nearby cabin planning their next move, a vengeance-seeking Ed has already sought the help of a backwoods witch (Florence Schauffler) to call upon the services of a deadly local legend called Pumpkinhead.

Adapted from an original poem by Ed Justin, "Pumpkinhead" is a celebration of Cynthia Charette's macabre production design, Tom Woodruff Jr. and Alec Gillis' expert make-up and creature effects, and Stan Winston's unique overall vision. Taking his modest $3.5-million budget as far as it will go, Winston ensures top-notch production values to match a forlorn tale about loss, revenge and ultimate regret. The witch's lair, with the forest's branches and limbs threatening to overtake the ramshackle structure, is an atmospheric sight to behold, while the pumpkin patch graveyard where Pumpkinhead is buried, called Razorback Holler, is like a rapturous gothic painting come to life.

Once the proceedings turn into a more conventional monster movie, the film continues to impress with its style and visual conception, turn something potentially old fresh once more. The young victims are the usual assortment—in addition to the controlling Joel, there's his supportive girlfriend, Kim (Kimberly Ross), the incessantly upset and crying Maggie (Kerry Remsen), and the nice, even-keeled couple with a conscience, Tracy (Cynthia Bain) and Chris (Jeff East)-but what lingers in the memory is Lance Henriksen's nuanced dramatic turn as the grieving Ed Harley and an unforgettable Florence Schauffler as the gravel-voice, stringy-haired witch. And then there's the title beast himself, a hulking, dangly-limbed demon who, once seen, is not easily forgotten. "Pumpkinhead" is horror, fantasy, supernatural thriller and tragedy all wrapped up in an enthralling, phatasmagorically realized whole.

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

"Pumpkinhead" makes its high-definition entrance with an exceptional 1080p transfer that highlights the film's spooky aesthetic beauty. Colors are gorgeous, from moonlight blues and deep blacks to golden yellows. The nighttime scenes are every bit as impressive as the daytime ones, if not more so, with the fog-shrouded Razorback Holler pumpkin patch a vivid sight to behold. As befits a lot of '80s photography, there is a softness to the film stock used—and, indeed, the occasional age-related speck of dirt pops up (especially during the opening credits)—but this disc's strong presentation gives the image a clarity and texture that hasn't been glimpsed since its theatrical release. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is exceedingly effective, giving particular attention and fidelity to Richard Stone's darkly handsome, eerily whimsical music score within the crisp and clear aural mix. A newer film might have been able to take even greater advantage with the surround field, but this is still a very good track. For purists, an ace 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track is also included.

Blu-ray Features
  • Audio Commentary with co-screenwriter Gary Gerani and creature & FX creators Tom Woodruff Jr. and Alec Gillis, moderated by filmmaker Scott Spiegel
  • "Pumpkinhead Unearthed" (1:03:59, HD) - an exceptional in-depth documentary featuring interviews with Gary Gerani (co-screenwriter), Billy Blake (producer), Alec Gillis (creature effects designer), Tom Woodruff Jr. (creature effects designer), Shannon Shea (creature effects and art department), Cynthia Charette (production designer), Lance Henriksen (actor), Cynthia Bain (actor), Kerry Remsen (actor), Brian Bremer (actor), and Florence Schauffler (actor)
  • "Remembering the Monster Kid: A Tribute to Stan Winston" (49:11, HD)
  • "Night of the Demon" (16:29, HD) - an interview with producer Richard Weinman
  • "The Redemption of Joel" (14:02, HD) - an interview with actor John D'Aquino
  • "The Boy with the Glasses" (14:30, HD) - an interview with actor Matthew Hurley
  • "Demonic Toys" Featurette (4:50, HD)
  • Behind-the-Scenes Featurette (7:11, HD)
  • Still Gallery (13:39, HD)
  • Theatrical Trailer (1:32, HD)
Bottom Line
Scream Factory knows how to put together an exhaustive package destined to delight fans of whichever title they are working on, and their Collector's Edition Blu-ray of "Pumpkinhead" goes above and beyond. With over 4.5 hours of bonus content on top of the film proper's sterling A/V showcase, this is a standout 2014 genre release and one that comes highly recommended.

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© 2014 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman