Digi-Schlock: PUMPKINHEAD II: BLOOD WINGS (Scream Factory Blu-Ray)

Never let it be said that Scream Factory ignores the lesser lights of commercial horror. Titles you might not even expect to get a blu-ray often get the special edition treatment from this company. A recent example of this is Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings. This direct-to-video quickie has not only been lifted to high-def prominence by the company, it has also gotten a round of surprisingly involved special features.

Pumpkh2-bluFans of Pumpkinhead II had to settle for full-frame versions of this title in its VHS and DVD incarnations but this new Scream Factory blu-ray version gives it the anamorphic treatment. Even better, it’s a pretty nice-looking transfer: the level of detail is sharp, colors are vivid and the black levels during the night sequences are nice and rich. The audio for this transfer is a lossless presentation of the original 2.0 Stereo mix. The results are solid, with a well-balanced mix that never allows the dialogue to get overpowered by other elements.

There are also plentiful special features. The first is a newly-recorded solo commentary track by director Jeff Burr. He’s frank about the many difficulties he faced down on this job – a poorly developed script, a rushed production, stepping in to replace another director late in pre-production – but also expresses a refreshingly pragmatic attitude about making low-budget films. He offers his take on all the different cast members and how they joined the project, reveals how he would have rewritten the script if he’d had the chance and offers practical advice to aspiring genre filmmakers. All in all, a nice track for low-budget genre flick enthusiasts.

Pumpkh2-4Burr also gets a 62-minute interview. It covers a lot of the same ground as his commentary and probably could have been edited down a bit but Burr is a cheerful, forthcoming interview subject nonetheless. Patient viewers will be rewarded with some details that you don’t hear in the commentary: examples include how Burr brought original Pumpkinhead screenwriters Mark Patrick Carducci and Gary Gerani to do some quick tweaks on the script and how one young cast member when on to become the screenwriter who penned Flight. Anyone interested in Burr’s career is likely to enjoy hearing more of his thoughts on what it’s like to work in the blue-collar trenches of genre filmmaking.

Pumpkh2-5Elsewhere, there is a 33-minute featurette entitled “Recreating The Monster” that focuses on the film’s FX team and incorporates input from artists Greg Nicotero and Gino Crognale as well as monster-suit actor Mike McCracken. Nicotero and Crognale start the piece by talking about trying to respect the design of the original suit while reworking it slightly to prepare for the more action-oriented sequel. However, all participants soon get into talking about the fun they had on set, including practical jokes played on McCracken while in the suit and how one giggle fit got them kicked off the set. Crognale gives it a nice close by sharing a fond remembrance of the openness and sense of community that the different departments enjoyed on the set.

Pumpkh2-6The final inclusion is about 17 and a half minutes’ worth of behind the screen footage. It is FX-centric, including a lot of McCracken on the set in his monster suit, responding to direction shouted over noise-making fans, as well as a glimpse into the “old witch” makeup being applied. There’s also a few fun bits, like McCracken repeatedly bumping his head on a ceiling fixture while trying to shoot one monster attack scene and McCracken clowning for still cameras in the monster suit while wearing sunglasses.

In short, Scream Factory really went the extra mile on a title that most horror fans wouldn’t imagine getting that sort of treatment. Thus, any fans of straight-to-video horror from the early ’90s will want to snap up this disc of Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings for the improved A/V quality and the insights into what it was like making this kind of production.

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