Today, Pumpkinhead. Beginning his career in TV during the 1970’s, special effects creator Stan Winston made the leap to film with Sidney Lumet’s adaptation of The Wiz (1978). However, it was during the 1980’s when Winston would fully attract notice with his work in The Terminator (1984), Aliens (1986) and Predator (1987); he also collaborated with Rob Bottin on John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), contributed visual effects work on The Entity and Friday the 13th Part III and even created the Mr. Roboto mask for the music video of the eponymous song by the band Styx. That success allowed him by the end of the decade to assume the director’s chair for his first film, Pumpkinhead. Scream Factory has given the movie its UHD Blu-ray debut here, after previously releasing the film on Blu-ray.
The Production: 4/5
For Ed Harley (Lance Henriksen), life out in the country is decent living, along with running a country store and raising his young son Billy since his wife’s death. However, tragedy strikes when Billy is fatally injured in a dirt bike accident involving a group of teenage campers. Consumed with both grief and rage, Ed seeks out the help of the backwoods witch Haggis (Florence Schauffler), who tells him that she cannot bring Billy back to life; instead – using a corpse from a mountain graveyard and the blood of both father and son – Haggis summons the towering demon Pumpkinhead to seek vengeance on the young campers for Ed. But this also puts the life of Ed at risk, as he realizes the horrible truth about the effects of his blinded vengeance that may also condemn him to a fate much worse than death itself!
A throwback to the monster movies of the 1950’s, Pumpkinhead has become one of the most memorable monster pics of the 1980’s. Under the direction of makeup artist Stan Winston (making his directorial debut here), the story here – penned by Gary Gerani and Mark Patrick Carducci, with contributions to the story by Winston and producer Richard C. Weinman and inspired by the Ed Justin poem – becomes something along the lines of a monster movie take on W.W. Jacobs’ famed short story The Monkey’s Paw; instead of Billy returning from the dead – as Ed initially hoped for from Haggis – what happens with Ed’s anger becomes more monstrous and destructive for everyone involved that’s unfortunate to cross paths with the titular demon. The work of main creature creators Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr. should absolutely be commended here for creating one of the most imposing monsters created for a movie and Bojan Bazelli’s shadowy and moody cinematography perfectly complements the dark nature of the story. However, the film’s heart and soul rests with Lance Henriksen, who gives one of the best performances of his career here as the ultimately tragic Ed Harley and is backed up with solid performances from Jeff East, Matthew Hurley, John D’Aquino, Florence Schauffler, Kerry Remsen, Joel Hoffman, Kimberly Ross, Cynthia Bain, George “Buck” Flower and Dick Warlock, with Woodruff Jr. playing Pumpkinhead and Mayim Bialik making her film debut here as one of the Wallace children. All told, Pumpkinhead is a remarkably modern take on the monster movie with a dark morality tale behind it – combined with the solid talents behind the camera – that has helped the movie become a cult favorite that has spawned three sequels (and a comic book series) to date.
3D Rating: NA
The film is presented in its original 1:85: aspect ratio, taken from a brand new HDR transfer created from a brand new 4K scan of the original camera negative; on the UHD Blu-ray disc, the film is presented in HDR while the Blu-ray accompanying this release – also utilizing the brand new transfer – presents the film in SDR. Film grain, fine details and color palette are all presented and represented faithfully with minor cases of scratches, tears and dirt present; this release has the original De Laurentiis Entertainment Group logo – the company originally tasked with the theatrical release before the company’s bankruptcy changed things and shifted the movie to be theatrically released by United Artists – opening the movie for the first time in the DVD/Blu-ray era.
There are two audio options on this release: a 2.0 and a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track on both UHD Blu-ray and Blu-ray disc. Both tracks show great strength and clarity in dialogue, sound mix and Richard Stone’s music score with minor cases of distortion like crackling, popping and hissing present. Overall, this release is likely the best the movie will ever sound on home video and surpasses the previous Scream Factory Blu-ray.
Special Features: 5/5
On both UHD Blu-ray and Blu-ray discs
Commentary by co-screenwriter Gary Gerani and creature and effects creators Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr., moderated by Scott Spiegel – Originally recorded for the 2008 MGM Special Edition DVD, Gerani, Gillis and Woodruff Jr. reflect on the movie and their memories making the film.
On Blu-ray disc only
Pumpkinhead Unearthed (1:03:59) – The feature length version of the 5 retrospective featurettes originally made for the MGM Special Edition chronicles the making of the movie from pre-production to its troubled theatrical release.
Night of the Demon (16:29) – Producer Richard C. Weinman looks back at his involvement with making the movie in this interview carried over from the previous Scream Factory Blu-ray.
The Redemption of Joel (14:02) – Actor John D’Aquino reflects on playing Joel – whose careless action sets the tragedy in motion – in this interview brought over from the previous Scream Factory Blu-ray.
The Boy with the Glasses (14:30) – Matthew Hurley talks about playing Ed Harley’s ill-fated son in this interview from the 2014 Scream Factory Blu-ray.
Remembering the Monster Kid (49:11) – This tribute to the late Stan Winston focuses on his achievements as a makeup artist and creature creator through the memories of the cast and crew on this film in this archival featurette.
Demonic Toys (4:50) – A look at the making of the Pumpkinhead action figure by Jean St. Jean in this archival featurette.
Behind-the-Scenes Footage (7:11)
Still Gallery (103) (13:37)
Alternate Vengeance: The Demon title sequence (2:32)
Theatrical Trailer (1:39)
Despite a limited theatrical release hampering its potential for box office success, Pumpkinhead has survived as a cult favorite due to the presence of Lance Henriksen and Stan Winston. Scream Factory has bested their previous Blu-ray edition of the movie with a terrific HDR transfer and carrying over all the previous special features from the previous Blu-ray and DVD releases of the movie. Very highly recommended.
Mychal has been on the Home Theater Forum’s reviewing staff since 2018, with reviews numbering close to 300. During this time, he has also been working as an assistant manager at The Cotton Patch – his family’s fabric and quilting supplies business in Keizer, Oregon. When not working at reviewing movies or working at the family business, he enjoys exploring the Oregon Coast, playing video games and watching baseball in addition to his expansive collection of movies on DVD, Blu-ray and UHD, totalling over 3,000 movies.
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