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.
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.
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!
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.
- 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
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.