With Aliens already a hit and Stan Winston having achieved legendary status in the visual effects community, it was time for him to step behind the camera and finally call the shots. The unusual project he chose to spearhead was Pumpkinhead, a film never destined for commercial success but one that carves a niche all its own. Thanks to Shout Factory, Pumpkinhead will finally make its high definition home video debut in a collector’s edition package, and look better than it ever has.
Winston enlisted Aliens colleague Lance Henricksen to star in Pumpkinhead as a backwoods father consumed by hatred and anger after a group of obnoxious city thrill-seeking 20-somethings kill his son in an legitimate accident. Henricksen gets to put his dramatic skills on display as he enlists the help of a rotting old witch to conjure up a spell and unleash a monster on the kids to exact his revenge, but not without tragic repercussions.
Part revenge-thriller and part 80s slasher flick, Pumpkinhead is a throwback to a time when special effects wizards were given free reign to direct and produce their own films. The monster we see on-screen is exactly how Stan Winston imagined it without any outside interference from a studio or director. It’s form and features are downright bizarre, even by today’s standards, which lends to its charm and nostalgia.
Puffy hairdos and attire do sadly date Pumpkinhead, but so does the reliance on practical visual effects. The foggy tomb from which Pumpkinhead emerges is one of the creepiest sets you’ll ever lay eyes on and proves Winston had an eye for more than bringing bizarre characters to life.
Shout Factory continues their tradition of immaculate restorations for horror classics on Blu-ray with Pumpkinhead. I would consider this the definitive version of the film barring an unlikely 4K restoration down the line. The picture is sharp, colors swarming with red and yellow hues during the daytime, and all the detail in Pumpkinhead’s design comes out when the camera lingers on him for a few moments. There’s still some specks that pop up on the transfer here and there, as well as some mild compression if you start looking for it. Considering Pumpkinhead is set mostly at night, the blacks don’t crush and detail fades naturally with the lighting conditions.
Pumpkinhead on Blu-ray gets the Shout Factory standard 2.0 stereo and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mixes to choose from. Purists will latch onto the former, though the 5.1 mix expands the sound field a bit — though not by any measure that makes it heads and tails better than the original mix.
Several bonus features were ported over from the previous two DVD releases and a handful of new extras were produced for the collector’s edition Blu-ray. ‘Remembering the Monster Kid’ is the gem as several of Winston’s colleagues recollect working with the master not only on Pumpkinhead, but other projects and on personal terms.
- (NEW) Remembering the Monster Kid: A Tribute to Stan Winston (49:11): Featuring new interviews with actors Lance Henriksen and Brian Bremer, special effects artists Alec Gillis, Tom Woodruff Jr. and Shannon Shea
- (NEW) The Redemption of Joel – with actor John D’Aquino, proving he’s a nice guy
- (NEW) The Boy with the Glasses – with actor Matthew Hurley, proving he’s alive and quite normal
- Audio Commentary by Co-screenwriter Gary Gerani and Creature & FX Creators Tom Woodruff, Jr. and Alec Gillis
- Pumpkinhead Unearthed (now in HD) – Documentary on the making of PUMPKINHEAD featuring Evolution of a Demon, The Cursed and the Damned, The Torture Soul of Ed Harley, Constructing Vengeance, Razorback Holler
- Featurette: Demonic Toys (4:50)
- Behind-the-Scenes Footage (7:11)
- Theatrical Trailer (1:32)
- Still Gallery
My biggest complaint with the Pumpkinhead Collector’s Edition Blu-ray is the packaging. This title feels like it should have gotten a steel book case or something slightly more elaborate than a standard cheap snapper case and slipcover. I understand costs might have made this prohibitive, but considering the work that went into the new bonus features and transfer, the packaging — despite the new key art — comes up short.
Pumpkinhead Collector’s Edition makes its Blu-ray debut on Tuesday, September 9, 2014.
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