Digi-Schlock: PUMPKINHEAD (Scream Factory Blu-Ray)

A big part of Scream Factory’s appeal to horror fans is that they will do special editions for films that never got that kind of treatment in the U.S. market (for example, consider their editions of Halloween III or They Live).  However, they’re not afraid to tackle films that might have gotten a good treatment on DVD but have not yet gotten the high-def bump.

Pumpkh-bluA recent example of this is Pumpkinhead, which got a nice special edition DVD back in 2008 complete with an extensive retrospective documentary.  Scream Factory has revisited this title and not only have they given it the blu-ray treatment, they’ve also added additional extras that further will further enhance a fan’s appreciation of this film.

Things start well with a nice-looking transfer.  Colors and detail are appropriately vivid, including the dramatically-lit night scenes, and it achieves a nice celluloid look with natural grain.  Both 5.1 and 2.0 stereo tracks are available for the listener, both presented in a lossless format.  The 5.1 was listened to for this review and it’s a spacious mix that offers some nice sound-effect activity in the rear channels and spreads around the musical score to atmospheric effect.

Fans will be happy to know this set carries over both the commentary track and the extensive featurette done for the 2008 special edition DVD.  The commentary features screenwriter Gary Gerani and FX artists Tom Woodruff Jr and Alec Gillis plus filmmaker Scott Spiegel as a moderator.  Gerani and Spiegel drive this track, with Gerani supplying plenty of information about the development of the script and how the switchover from DEG to MGM Pumpkh-05hurt the film’s box office chances while Spiegel acts as a sort of cheerleader for the film.

Gillis and Woodruff add some interesting material about the elaborate creature FX: Woodruff amusingly notes that Ray Harryhausen’s creatures influenced his style of movement in the suit while Gillis throws in some wry asides and an interesting theory about the 1980-1990 being the last golden era of practical creature FX in genre fare.  All in all,  it’s a fast-moving and informative track powered by the enthusiasm of all involved.

“Pumpkinhead Unearthed” is a 64-minute retrospective featurette helmed by Michael Felsher that offers an exhaustive overview of the film’s history.  Gerani starts the piece with a thumbnail-sketch overview of the film’s development and a nice tribute to his deceased writing partner, Mark Patrick Carducci.  The actors are highlighted next, with Brian Bremer offering a fun tale of how cast and crew got the giggle while filming one monster scene and Lance Henriksen revealing how he builds a characterization by “gathering” props and wardrobe to develop his vision of the character.

Pumpkh-pos2Of course, the special effects also get plenty of discussion in “Pumpkinhead Unearthed,” with Woodruff Jr. and Gillis returning alongside fellow artists Shannon Shea and Dave Nelson, with all revealing how special it was to be trusted by Stan Winston to design effects for directing debut and how they worked hard to justify that trust.  The documentary also devotes a section to the work of production designer Cynthia Charette, who goes into detail on the film’s many sets were designed and built.  The featurette closes on a warm note, with all the participants sharing fond memories of Winston (the FX guys have the most unique insights, of course).

That featurette might seem to cover it all but Scream Factory finds plenty of ways to flesh it out with a series of new special features for the set.  These bits begins with a 7-minute montage of behind-the-scenes video footage that chronicles the development of Pumpkinhead from a simple padded suit to a fully sculpted creature suit in all its glory on the set.

Next up are a series of new interviews.  A 16 minute chat with producer Richard Weinman allows him to reveal his take on the film’s  development and production processes, including the poem that inspired them to make the film, how future Hollywood cinematographer Bojan Bazelli was discovered via a video reel and the frustration of getting caught up in DEG’s sale to MGM.  Actor John D’Aquino reflects fondly on the film for 14 minutes, including a great tale about hPumpkh-06ow his initial dislike for co-star Jeff East led to a heated audition that won them both roles and led to a long friendship.  Like most of the cast, he speaks kindly of Henriksen and how he acted as a mentor to the younger castmates.

Also interviewed is Matthew Hurley, who tells tales of his life as a child actor and what a special, oddly wholesome experience it was to work on Pumpkinhead.  He praises both Winston and Henriksen for their kindness and gentle style of working with him.  The most unusual interview is the one with Jean St. Jean, a sculptor who designed a collector’s toy version of Pumpkinhead and lays out the challenges of his work in 5 minutes.

The final interview piece is a 50-minute tribute to Stan Winston that includes comments from Woodruff Jr., Gillis and Shea as well as actors Henriksen and Bremer.  The FX guys are the stars here, painting a portrait of Winston as a busy professional who Pumpkh-VHSnonetheless took time to find and nurture new talent in his field.  Gillis in particular reveals how Winston was also an influence on their lifestyles, encouraging them to avoid overworking themselves and to develop a family life outside of work.  Elsewhere, Henriksen tells some fun tales about how funny Winston was and Bremer closes the piece with a great anecdote about how his work on Pumpkinhead allowed him to build a better relationship with his stepfather.  Winston left this world too soon and it’s nice for him to have such a warm tribute from his close associates.

The final extras are devoted to promotional materials.  A 100-image gallery section offers a variety of stills, publicity photos and behind-the-scenes pics (including some great ones of Henriksen palling around with Woodruff Jr. in the Pumpkinhead suit) as well as a variety of posters, a few toys and several production design photos and sketches.  The theatrical trailer is also included and it’s a great, atmospheric spot that lays out the film’s plot and morality play element in artful fashion.  The last inclusion is an “also available” set of trailers that amusingly highlight a trio of rural horror films: Motel Hell, Squirm and Without Warning.

In short, Pumpkinhead offers both a nice HD upgrade for fans and an array of extras that pay tribute to the skills and influence of Stan Winston.  In short, it’s a must for ’80s horror buffs, especially those who admire Winston’s work.

To read Schlockmania’s film review of Pumpkinhead, click here.


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