Blu-ray Review: Pumpkinhead (Collector’s Edition)

Ray Harryhausen was a rarity. His special effects dominated a movie so that people didn’t care about the director. Who directed Jason and the Argonauts, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and Clash of the Titans? Who cares. All that mattered was that Ray Harryhausen’s Dynamation magic filled the screen. Starting the ’70s, the directors of special effects driven movies made sure people knew their name and only the hardcore geeks could identify the wizards that made the true magic happen. Stan Winston was the genius behind the monsters lurking in The Terminator, Aliens and Predator, but he had no chance of obscuring James Cameron and John McTiernan. Luckily for Stan Winston, he was given a chance to direct his own horror film with Pumpkinhead. He created a creature that reflected what he wanted and not what another director desired. Pumpkinhead: Collector’s Edition upgrades the film to Blu-ray while elevating Stan Winston’s legacy as a filmmaker.

The movie opens in the ’50s at a lonesome farm. A dad locks up the house while his wife and son look a bit scared. There’s something out there that they don’t want inside. Through the fields comes racing a family friend who is being chased by an off screen threat. Even with all the pleading from the friend, he dad isn’t willing to open the door. The son gets a glimpse of the creature outside. It ain’t pretty. The movie shifts to the present time which was the mid-’80s. The son has grown up to be Ed Harley (Aliens‘ Lance Henriksen). He runs a general store that isn’t his priority in life. That’ belongs to his son (Matthew Hurley). A bunch of slick city kids arrive looking for gas and kicks. They break out their dirtbikes and start doing tricks. This leads to an accident involving the son that causes the jerks to flee. Ed’s a mess thanks to the stunt gone bad. Instead of going to a doctor, he visits the local witch (Problem Child‘s Florence Schauffler) for a cure. What he ultimately gets is a creature of pure revenge that will track down the rich brats. But what price was the spell?

Pumpkinhead is a tight little supernatural revenge flick. Winston doesn’t go too far with the effects. The Pumpkinhead monster is effectively freakish and fearsome. Although it is so hard to create something that looks more disturbing than Henriksen in full freakout mode. He does a fine job going from lovable to completely haunted by making a severally bad life choice. This isn’t an overwhelming movie, but its certain to please for the Spooky Season viewing delights. Stan Winston did his best within the boundaries of a low budget scare film. The movie had a botched release so it didn’t do well inn theaters. MGM/UA decided to give it a major release in January. The film did get enough of a following from cable and home video to inspire three sequels. Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings gets released from Scream Factory on October 21. While Stan didn’t quite have a major career as a director, he remained a major wizard in special effects. He’d win more Oscars for Terminator 2 and Jurassic Park. He probably had a major soft spot for Pumpkinhead since that was his baby. No director was stealing his glory here.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The high resolution transfer brings out the beauty of Lance’s eyes. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and 5.1. The 5.1 mix spreads out the sound so you hear more creaking. The movie is subtitled.

Audio Commentary includes effects creators Tom Woodruff Jr. and Alec Gillis along with co-screenwriter Gary Gerani. The guys admit that some of Pumpkinhead’s creature effects were unused in Predator.

Behind the Scenes (7:11) is video taken of the creature and on location.

Demonic Toys (4:50) shows how the creature was made into a limited edition model for fans.

Remembering the Monster Kid: A Tribute to Stan Winston (49:11) allows his old employees to tell tales of why Stan mattered to them. He really knew how to spot talent and they repay him the devotion he gave to them. Stan passed away in 2008.

Night of the Demon (16:29) permits producer Richard Weinman to reveal issues with the script during preproduction.

The Redemption of Joel (14:02) allows actor John D’Aquino to show he wasn’t the jerk he played in the movie.

The Boy with the Glasses (14:30) proves actor Matthew Hurley has grown up without being scarred by Pumpkinhead.

Gallery includes production photos and promotional material.

Theatrical trailer (1:32) sets the mood.

Pumpkinhead: Collector’s Edition brings the fear of what lurks in the pumpkin patch besides the Great Pumpkin. Lance Henriksen proves once more to be as spooky as any creature devised by Stan Winston and his crew. The bonus features play proper respect to Winston and his conspirators in latex and servos.

Scream Factory presents Pumpkinhead: Collector’s Edition. Directed by: Stan Winston. Starring: Lance Henriksen, Jeff East and John D’Aquino. Rated: R. Boxset Contents: 1 Blu-ray. Released: September 9, 2014.

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