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  • Clown (2014) Blu-ray Review

    Clown (2014)

    Director: Jon Watts

    Starring: Laura Allen, Andy Powers & Peter Stormare

    Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    After the entertainment for his young son’s birthday fails to arrive, Clown finds loving father Kent (Andy Powers, In Her Shoes) donning a clown suit and makeup to perform.  Unfortunately, over time the vintage costume and wig refuses to come off, simultaneously altering Kent’s personality into something demonic.  With little hope for a cure, the once wholesome father finds himself in a circus of nightmares that places his family in dire straits.  Laura Allen (The 4400) and Peter Stormare (22 Jump Street) co-star.

    Conceived from a clever mock trailer deceivingly billing eventual Producer Eli Roth (Cabin Fever, The Green Inferno) as its helmer, Clown spotlights the fear-inducing carny figure under unique circumstances as a cobweb infested vintage costume serves as the carrier of evil for an unsuspecting father.  Uniquely crafted, Jon Watts’ (Cop Car, Marvel Studios’ upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming) feature-length directorial debut wastes little time establishing the idyllic family life Kent and wife Meg (Allen) live as they celebrate the birthday of their son Jack (Christian Distefano, PAW Patrol) before peculiar events strike.  Experiencing extreme difficulty in removing the clown nose and full body costume discovered in a mysterious traveling trunk, Kent grows frantic when even power tools fail to sever a single stitch.  Developing a voracious hunger, the real estate agent in clown’s clothing finds answers in the costume’s previous owner Herbert Karlsson (Stormare) who reveals the sinister past of the clown through history and its insatiable appetite for children.  Failing to fatally eliminate the demon’s carrier, Kent, progressively becoming more clown-like, evades death to feed while, Karlsson and Meg join forces to stop a big top reign of blood.

    Shot quickly and cheaply, several years of domestic delays and increased buildup escalated the occasionally creepy feature to heights impossible to live up to.  Presenting one of the better clown designs in recent memory with a grim pursuit of children through Chuck E. Cheese ball pits and unapologetically leaving gallons of prepubescent blood in the demon jester’s wake, Clown also adds a possessed dog in need of decapitation and rainbow spewing body liquid as Kent attempts to unsuccessfully take his life several times.  Greatly suffering from severe pacing issues that jeopardizes the film’s initial suspense, Clown possesses genuine moments of eeriness yet, not nearly enough to leave a lasting impression.

    Anchor Bay Entertainment presents Clown with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Maintaining a softer approach that keeps detail and otherwise more impactful colors mildly restrained, the digitally shot feature is decently presented and appears true to its intended palette.  Although, black levels lack a deeper inkiness common in other modern features resulting in murkier presentations that are mediocre at best.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is greatly prioritized while, the film’s inclusions of heavy bass notes during intense moments of screams and other frights make the track a nice compliment to its onscreen theatrics.  Containing only one supplement, Making Clown (6:24) is a fairly standard EPK with talking heads Eli Roth, Star Laura Allen, Cinematographer Matthew Santo and others discussing the film and their various contributions to it.  In addition, a Digital HD Code has also been included.

    Anticipated for far too long, Clown’s delayed release may have generated welcome buzz yet, its finished product, littered with pacing misfires and an otherwise interesting plot gone dull, diminishes the promise it once had.  While jolts of creativity are contained within, Director Jon Watts has graduated to far better projects that display his talents to much greater effect.  Given its long road to home video, special features are regrettably nominal while, Anchor Bay Entertainment’s presentation is pleasing enough.  

    RATING: 2.5/5

    Available August 23rd from Anchor Bay Entertainment, Clown can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Pumpkinhead (1988) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    Pumpkinhead (1988)

    Director: Stan Winston

    Starring: Lance Henriksen, Jeff East, Kimberly Ross, John D’Aquino & Joel Hoffman

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Marking the directorial debut of FX maestro, Stan Winston (Aliens, Terminator 2: Judgment Day), this grim fairy tale speaks to the demon in us all.  Atmospheric and haunting, Scream Factory, the horror offshoot of Shout! Factory, proudly presents Pumpkinhead in a well-deserved collector’s edition, on Blu-ray for the first time ever.  Bursting with special features and newly rendered artwork from Justin Osbourne, allow Pumpkinhead to consume your soul!

    Pumpkinhead centers on local grocery store owner and single father, Ed Harley (Lance Henriksen).  After a group of dirt bike riding teens accidentally kill his only son, Harley seeks a backwoods witch to revive his child.  Instead, a demonic creature known as Pumpkinhead is summoned to extract bloody revenge on those responsible.  As the desolate area runs red, Harley must confront a dark connection that links him to the brutal beast.  Jeff East (Huckleberry Finn), Kimberly Ross (Death Street USA), John D’Aquino (Slipping Into Darkness), Joel Hoffman (Slumber Party Massacre II), Brian Bremer (Society) and George ‘Buck‘ Flower (Back to the Future) co-star.

    MOVIE:

    Lit with warm reds, cool blues and drenched in fog, Pumpkinhead casts an identifiable, Southern Gothic atmosphere.  Genre icon, Lance Henriksen (Alien, The Horror Show), stars as a loving father, confronted with grief after the tragic death of his son.  After searching in the deep backwoods for a mysterious witch, Harley’s heart is consumed by revenge prompting the woman to summon the demon creature known as Pumpkinhead, to carry out justice.  Henriksen sells the role of a distressed parent effortlessly, with his yearning for vengeance, justified in the eyes of the audience.  As the guilty teens evade the scene in panic, safety is far from reach as the monster hunts them under the shroud of darkness.  With a larger than life stature, elongated claws and white, lifeless eyes, Pumpkinhead is easily one of the finest monster creations to emerge from the 1980s.  Emphasized by strobe lighting, Pumpkinhead dishes out brute force with ease and substitutes a shotgun as a pitchfork.  Summoned from a rotting pumpkin patch and the know-how of an ancient witch, Pumpkinhead delivers a stylish, modern day fairy tale for horror audiences.  As the remaining teens fight for survival, Harley is conflicted with his choices.  In time, the grieving father becomes aware that his hateful ways fuel the bloodthirsty beast.  Far from forgiving, Harley must make a pivotal choice to right his wrongs before he is forever consumed by the creatures dark nature.  

    Moralistic and frightening, Pumpkinhead beautifully crafts a loving relationship between father and son before tragedy strikes.  Fueled by revenge, Henriksen’s strong performance allows the audience to sympathize and relate to his pain.  Similarly conflicted as Harley, the viewer once again shows compassion for the guilty teens as Pumpkinhead rages his deadly authority.  A roller coaster ride of thrills, emotions and terror ensues, marking Pumpkinhead one of the great monster movies to emerge from such a heavy horror decade.  Based on a poem by Ed Justin, first time director Stan Winston delivers a distinctly moody, gothic offering that has deservedly lived on past its creative makers lifetime.

    RATING: 5/5

    VIDEO:

    Pumpkinhead arrives with a 1080p widescreen transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Appearing with natural grain intact and minimal flakes, Pumpkinhead shines on high definition.  While, not a wildly colorful film, Pumpkinhead’s warm reds during sunny sequences shine off the screen, drying viewers mouths out.  Black levels are handled well with no crushing to speak of while, detail in facial features are not quite as sharp under the dim lighting.  Otherwise, skin tones read naturally under clearer conditions with much to admire.  Elevated to new standards, Pumpkinhead has never looked better!

    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, Pumpkinhead registers nicely with clear dialogue and zero distortion.  The Southern locale allows chirping crickets and other swamp critters to serve as nice ambience.  More climatic moments centering on Pumpkinhead’s wrath are delivered with swift intensity while, breaking glass and gunshots offer particular shrieks to the mix.  A DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included for your listening pleasure.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    • Audio Commentary with Co-Screenwriter Gary Gerani and Creature/FX Creators Tom Woodruff Jr. & Alec Gillis: Moderated by Scott Spiegel, the creative trio discuss the potential titles that were originally considered from the film including Vengeance the Demon.  The group also commend the moody lighting and the film’s depth that many other horror films at the time lacked.  Overall, the collaborators keep the track entertaining and inject plenty of informative anecdotes along the way.

    • Pumpkinhead Unearthed (1:03:59): Ported over from the previous MGM DVD release, this impressive documentary provided by Red Shirt Pictures spans six chapters and covers every stage of the film’s development.  Co-Screenwriter Gary Gerani, Producer Billy Blake along with cast members Lance Henriksen, Cynthia Bain, Kerry Remsen, Brian Bremer and many others provide insightful interviews.

    • Pumpkinhead Behind-the-Scenes (7:11): Vintage footage of Tom Woodruff Jr. perfecting the movements and mannerisms of the demonic creature are captured along with, Creature FX Designers, Shane Mahan and Alec Gillis, sculpting Pumpkinhead.

    • Night of the Demon with Richard Weinman (16:29): Co-Producer Weinman recounts the principal players and history behind Pumpkinhead’s origins.  Weinman expresses his firmness in seeing a moral underpinning for the fate of the teenagers which was utilized in the final film.

    • The Redemption of Joel with John D’Aquino (14:02): D’Aquino expresses his early love for television inspiring his desire to become an actor.  In addition, the thespian shares his audition experience on the film and initial dislike for Co-Star Jeff East that ultimately, helped both actors land their roles and form a friendship.

    • The Boy with the Glasses with Matthew Hurley (14:30): Hurley fondly recalls Winston’s gentle and calm nature as well as the bond formed with his on-screen father, Henriksen.

    • Pumpkinhead: Demonic Toys (4:50): Sculptor Jean St. Jean shares his admiration for the design of Pumpkinhead when tasked to craft his own 18” collectible scale.

    • Remembering the Monster Kid: A Tribute to Stan Winston (49:11): Cast and crew recall their fondest memories and unrelenting respect for the late visionary in this lengthy, heart-tugging featurette.

    • Still Gallery (13:39): 98 in total.

    • Theatrical Trailer (1:32)

    • More from Scream Factory (6:18): Included trailers for Motel Hell, Squirm and Without Warning.

    • Reversible Cover Art

    RATING: 5/5

    OVERALL:

    Frightening and atmospheric, Stan Winston’s directorial debut has left a lasting impression on the horror genre with its deep, moralistic tale soaked in gothic fairy tale lore.  Lance Henriksen’s sympathetic portrayal of a grieving father steers the picture and ranks as one of his most memorable performances.  Beautifully photographed by Cinematographer Bojan Bazelli (The Lone Ranger), Pumpkinhead invokes a stunning, fog-drenched environment unlike many other genre films.  In addition to a fine story, Pumpkinhead birthed one of the most notable creature designs of the decade.  Sporting definitive A/V treatment, Scream Factory has treated fans with arguably, the most comprehensive spread of bonus content found in any of their collector’s editions.  Complimented with one of the best newly rendered covers, courtesy of Justin Osbourne, Pumpkinhead continues to live on in this essential release for all horror fans.

    RATING: 5/5  

    Available September 9th from Scream Factory, Pumpkinhead can be purchased via Shout! Factory or Amazon.com