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  • 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

  • Body Bags (1993) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review



    Body Bags (1993)
    Director(s): John Carpenter & Tobe Hooper
    Starring: Robert Carradine, David Naughton Stacy Keach, David Warner & Mark Hamill
    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    After an already illustrious career directing gems like Halloween, The Fog, The Thing and Big Trouble in Little China, Director John Carpenter turned to the small screen for a taste of anthology madness. Following up Carpenter’s disappointing 1992 effort of Memoirs of an Invisible Man, Showtime came a knockin’ with a proposal that enabled Carpenter with wife and Producer, Sandy King, to gather a wide selection of their friends and genre vets to make a fun and horrific anthology flick. The result was Body Bags. In addition to Carpenter directing the first two segments and appearing as the ghoulish-like coroner who hosts the wrap-around segments, Director Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Lifeforce) joins the festivities for the final segment of the film. With creative talent like this behind and in front of the camera, is this anthology of horrors worth remembering or best left for dead? Zip yourself in tight and let’s find out…

    Body Bags is a nifty anthology of three horror tales that are all hosted by a ghoulish-looking coroner (John Carpenter) who has a taste for the macabre and formaldehyde. The Gas Station, helmed by John Carpenter, centers on a woman (Alex Datcher) working the late shift at a gas station while an insane killer is on the loose.  Hair, again directed by Carpenter, stars Stacy Keach (Road Games, American History X) as a man that will do anything to stop the loss of his hair. Finally, Tobe Hooper directs Eye, a story about a baseball player (Mark Hamill of Star Wars fame) that agrees to a transplant after losing his eye in a brutal car accident. Don’t blink or else you’ll miss appearances from icons like Deborah Harry, Sheena Easton, David Naughton, David Warner as well as cameos by Wes Craven, Sam Raimi, Tobe Hooper, Tom Arnold and the infamous Roger Corman.

    MOVIE:
    When the topic of horror anthologies arises, I find it a real shame that Body Bags isn’t discussed nearly as much as it deserves to be. The strategy of releasing horror anthologies has never proven to be widely successful or financially profitable for the studios which makes Body Bags an even more unique case. The heyday of the 1980s slasher craze was all but dead when 1993 rolled around and a cable channel named Showtime chose to take a chance. The benefit to horror fans was that we were treated to a wonderfully entertaining TV movie that brought together so many genre vets on one production. Sure, the incredible Creepshow brought George A. Romero and Stephen King together with a cast that included Adrienne Barbeau, Ed Harris, Ted Danson and Leslie Nielsen. But, I think Body Bags is the only other anthology film that rivals it with a cast and crew that is just as noteworthy and talks the talk when it comes to their segments. John Carpenter’s efforts for The Gas Station and Hair are so polar opposite from one another but also so identifiably Carpenter.  The Gas Station rewards viewers with the suspense and terror we’ve come to know from Carpenter while Hair allows him to explore aliens once more with a dark comedic tone attached.  Stacy Keach is absolutely looney in his performance and the long hair he yearns for gives us a nostalgic reminder for what year this was made.  In addition, Robert Carradine’s mad portrayal of the killer in The Gas Station was not only refreshing but genuinely creepy. Tobe Hooper’s finale in Eye is what will really send shivers down your spine. The nightmarish imagery and descent into madness that Mark Hamill portrays is quite frightening and caught me off guard with a few jump-scares. John Carpenter’s acting chops in the wrap-around segments is what keeps the film fun and light similar to HBO’s Tales from the Crypt. While it is a shame that this TV movie didn’t morph into a fully fledged series as Showtime was hoping, we are still left with a remarkably fun anthology of tales that is painfully underrated as it is one of the best.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    VIDEO:
    Scream Factory presents Body Bags in a 1080p High-Definition Widescreen transfer in 1:78:1.  The film looks nice and clean with barely any scratches to be seen.  Black levels look great which is a major plus for how many night scenes there are.  Grain is nicely intact and colors pop well specifically in Carpenter’s wrap-around segments.  Scream Factory does it again!
    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Body Bags comes with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track that hits all the right notes.  Dialogue is clear as crystal while moments of terror are loud and booming.  No hisses or pops were heard on this track.  In addition, a 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track is also provided.  What else could be asked for?
    RATING: 4.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    Scream Factory treats this Collector’s Edition accordingly with a nice assortment of special features.

    - Unzipping Body Bags: A 20 minute featurette with interviews from John Carpenter, Producer Sandy King and Actors Robert Carradine and Stacy Keach.

    - Audio Commentary with Director John Carpenter & Actor Robert Carradine on The Gas Station

    - Audio Commentary with Director John Carpenter & Actor Stacy Keach on Hair

    - Audio Commentary with Producer Sandy King & Justin Beahm on Eye

    - Original Trailer

    - DVD Copy

    RATING: 4.5/5

    OVERALL:
    Body Bags came at a time when horror was on life support and Showtime was willing to take a risky chance.  Thankfully, the finished product is a rewarding piece of anthology horror that brought together so many beloved genre vets on one project.  The film is light on its toes and has fun with itself while also packing the scares and terror when necessary.  Body Bags is an overlooked chapter in horror anthology history that not only produced some of Carpenter and Hooper’s best efforts of the 1990s but for the entire sub-genre.  Scream Factory’s uncut presentation of the film is a real marvel to the eyes and ears as it looks and sounds just terrific. The special features provided are wonderful and offer great candid anecdotes on the making of the film from the players involved although it would have been nifty to hear Hooper’s thoughts on his segment.  Scream Factory also provides gorgeous new cover art for the film provided by Justin Osbourne.  While, the option of having reversible covers that utilize the original 1-sheet artwork is normally provided on these Collector’s Editions, the rights holders for Body Bags always despised it and insisted on just using the new artwork.  Not a huge deal but certainly worth noting for fans of this popular collection.  Regardless, Body Bags is a hell of a fun time and thanks to Scream Factory’s superior treatment this release should be in every horror fan’s collection.
    RATING: 4.5/5