Saturday, August 16, 2014

PUMPKINHEAD (1988) Collector's Edition Blu-ray


Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 86 Minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Stan Winston
Cast: Lance Henriksen, John D'Aquino, Kerry Remsen, Jeff East, Cynthia Baine, Joel Hoffman, Brian Bremer

Ed Harley (Lance Henriksen, Millennium) is the shop keeper of a small country store, nothing much happens in this neck of the woods but that all changes when six city kids arrive on the scene for camping and dirt biking. They're not a a bad bunch of kids but things turn deadly when one of them accidentally kills Ed's young son Billy. Joel (John D'Aquino) is one who kills the kid and in the heat of the moment makes a poor choice based on fear but soon enough he and his friends will regret that decision. 

When Ed finds his son's lifeless body laying on the ground he's none to pleased. Carrying his son's corpse deep into the swamps he finds the witch Haggis (Florence Schauffe) who casts a curse the kids - summoning the demon Pumpkinhead - a spirit of vengeance - on behalf of the grieving father. As the old saying goes - when you set off on a path on vengeance dig two graves... one for you and about a half a dozen for the others who die at the hands of Pumpkinhead! 

You can see every penny of this low-budget horror onscreen in the set design and special effects. The Pumpkinhead creature a thing of beauty and to my eyes has more than a bit of the elongated H.R. Geiger Alien design to it but with a more demonic twist - the fact that it is rendered practically with a man-in-a-suit makes a world of difference - you can feel it in each seen and it's scary. These days it would be a digital effect and would not work as well - this is from a golden age of practical effects. 

The set design adds a lot to the film creating a certain eerie Southern atmosphere - the witches house in the swamp is super creepy - there's a lot of fog-drenched night scenery to enjoy - has an old horror feel to it. Haggis the witch is one of the creepier swamp witches of cinema in my opinion. The film also benefits from very nice cinematography and lighting as it's bathed midnight blue and amber hues. Once of my favorite set pieces is when Ed is sent to a macabre cemetery to unearth the Pumpkinhead fetus - a very effective scene steeped in fog with a creepy burial mound in the middle of a pumpkin patch. 

Henriksen is wonderful as always as the grieving father and it was fun spotting Buck Flowers (They Live) as - what else - a country bumpkin. Jeff East who played the younger version of Clark Kent in Richard Donner's Superman (1978) appears as one of the decent teens and Cynthia Baine as the heroine is damn decent though I must say that not all the teens turned in great performances - but just having Henriksen in the film makes up for it. . 

The film didn't get a lot of love upon it's very limited theatrical release but did garner quite a following on home video which is where I caught up with it. Watching it again for the first time in decades I liked it quite a bit more than I remembered - this is a very tight horror film with no filler - very well directed by the late Stan Winston.  

Pumpkinhead arrives on Blu-ray for the first-time from from Scream Factory in the original widescreen aspect ratio with a very nice AVC encoded image. The source material is in great shape with very few blemishes, a bit of white speckling and dirt here and there but that's it. Skin tones are natural looking and the color reproduction is accurate looking. Black levels are decent - the darker scenes can be a bit soft and some noise does creep in but overall the presentation is impressive.

Audio options include choice of DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo or 5.1 Surround - the surround was pretty decent but not a lot of surround action - mostly Richard Stone's score with some effects - not the most active. Optional English SDH subtitles are provided. 

Onto the extras Scream have licensed the the excellent hour-long documentary from MGM's 20th Anniversary Collector's Edition DVD plus the commentary track by co-screenwriter Gary Gerani and Creature and FX Creators Tom Woodruff, Jr. and Alec Gillis moderated by Scott Spiegel - director of Intruder and a huge fan of the film. The commentary is fun and never gets dull, these guys are clearly having a blast reminiscing about the film . 

This being a Scream Factory Collector's Edition Blu-ray we get some new exclusive stuff including a 50 minute tribute to Stan Winston with actors Lance Henriksen and Brian Bremer, special effects artists Alec Gillis, Tom Woodruff Jr. and Shannon Shea plus brand new interviews with producer Richard Weinman, John D'Aquino and child star Mathew Hurley in addition to behind-the-scenes video, a gallery and a theatrical trailer. 

Special Features: 
- NEW - REMEMBERING THE MONSTER KID: A TRIBUTE TO STAN WINSTON featuring new interviews with actors Lance Henriksen and Brian Bremer, special effects artists Alec Gillis, Tom Woodruff Jr. and Shannon Shea (49 minutes)
- NEW interviews with producer Richard Weinman (6 minutes) 

- NEW Interview with John D’Aquino (14 minutes) 
- NEW Interview with Matthew Hurley (15 minutes)
- Audio Commentary by Co-screenwriter Gary Gerani and Creature and FX Creators Tom Woodruff, Jr. and Alec Gillismoderated by Scott Spiegel
- PUMPKINHEAD UNEARTHED (now in HD) featuring Evolution of a Demon, The Cursed and the Damned, The Torture Soul of Ed Harley, Constructing Vengeance, Razorback Holler (64 minutes)
- Featurette: Demonic Toys (5 minutes)
- Behind-the-Scenes Footage
- Still Gallery (14 minutes, 102 images)
- Theatrical Trailer (2 minutes) 

- Scream Factory Trailers (6 minutes) 

Pumpkinhead is a damn decent backwoods horror entry with some occult elements and an awesome creature. I love how simple the story is with it's own mythology and how deftly executed it is.  It's great to see it get the deluxe treatment on Blu-ray from Scream Factory - hopefully this dark chiller is re discovered by a new generation of horror fans. This disc comes out on September 8th with the sequel Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings coming to Blu-ray on October 21st also from Scream Factory  3.5 Outta 5