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on 1 October 2015
Special effects legend Stan Winston's directorial debut 'Pumpkinhead' arrives on Blu ray from cult American label Shout! Factory as part of their Scream! Collectors Edition range. As always from Shout! the Blu ray is region A locked meaning that you WILL require a multi-region Blu ray player to view the content on this disc. As a footnote some may find it worth mentioning that my copy ordered here from Amazon marketplace came complete with the collectable card outer slip case.

Synopsis:
Opening on a stormy night in 1957 we first meet Ed Harley as a young boy who is awoken to hear a commotion outside his parents rural home. For whatever reason his mom and pop refuse entry to the traumatised man who turns out to be a neighbour in their farming community accused of killing a child. As Ed parts the curtains in his room he witnesses something that would stay with him for the rest of his life as he observes a huge dark monstrous figure kill the far from innocent man.
This opening scene sets the narrative in place for Pumpkinhead with a little back story to the creature of rural legend that can be summond up to take vengeance on those that have done wrong but at a terrible price for those that call upon it's duties.
Fast forward 30 years to present day (well 1988) and Ed Harley(Lance Henriksen) is now a father himself to a cute bespectacled son Billy for whom he cares for single handedly after the death of his wife. The pair live a quiet, self contained idylic life running the local general store which is situated slap bang in the middle of nowhere on a less than busy road. When a group of young city folk pass through the Harley's tranquil bubble tragedy strikes when Billy is crushed by one of their motorcycles during a seemingly innocent bout of dirt biking. Full of remorse and yearning for retribution Ed discounts going to the authorities and seeks help from a nearby farmer Wallace (George 'Buck' Flower) who lives with his huge hick Waltons style family amongst the mud and swine of his secluded homestead. Wallace refuses Harley's pleas knowing full well what he wants but also knowing the deadly consequences that could befall his own kin if he were to help him. Just before the bereft and angry father leaves the farm one of Wallace's 'yung uns' offers to take Harley to where he wants to go which is to the ancient swamp witch 'Haggis' who is the only one with the knowledge to raise the titular Pumkinhead who will aid him in avenging the death of his son. Regrettably Harley comes to his senses almost immediately realising what a terrible choice he has made and attempts to rectify what he has started. However as the legend explains once called upon the Pumpkinhead will stop at nothing until the task it was asked to do is complete which of course is bad news for the city slickers who are know holed up in a remote cabin in the woods .
Pumpkinhead starts out promising if obviously very late 80s in feel with a decent foreboding back story and atmospheric backwoods locations. Unfortunately problems with the movie start to manifest themselves on the arrival of the demon itself for a number of reasons. First and foremost despite some rather lavish effects from Stan Winston the Pumpkinhead doesent for one minute look like a creature of rural legend with an out of this world almost extraterrestrial appearance that wouldn't look out of place in one of the Alien movies popular at the time. With the exception of the blissfully moody opening Winston never attempts to hide the creature in the dark and shadows once it is summond meaning there is no real mystery as to what the creature looks like for the big final reveal and although it does look convincing a fleeting glance here or there would have gone a long way to build up a more menacing monster. Another drawback to the Pumpkinhead's early entrance is that the film then decends into a by the numbers, kill off the cast until the inevitable showdown with their adversary. This does often feel remarkable cruel as this so called creature of vengeance is hunting down a party who to be fair are innocent in what was just a tragic and extremely unfortunate accident and with the exception of one arrogant member are basicly sound kids. Maybe a tad more backstory to the Harley family could have helped with Ed's impulsive summoning of the beast over dealing with the problem officially as despite a few heartfelt moments of father son tenderness towards the start of the movie there is little character development to really make the viewer feel his plight. However there is still much to enjoy from Pumpkinhead from the wonderful set design and lighting which give specific scenes an almost fairytale ambiance (which of course is perfect for the rural folklore storyline) to the overbearing southern gothic mood complete with a fog bound graveyard, dilapitated partly built church and tumble down small holdings. The witches swampy lair is also a fantastic location mixing southern gothic with an almost voodoo vibe made all the more eerie by the ghastly make-up on the old dear herself. Furthermore despite my reservations on the creature itself there is no denying it is a triumph of low budget practical effects with the gigantic skeletal beast looking surprisingly organic making you kind of glad Pumpkinhead was produced before the advent of CGI. I particularly like the ending too which outlines how Pumpkinheads come to be and as this was the first time I had seen the movie will probably give me a different perspective on my next viewing.
Over the years Pumpkinhead has aquired a fervent cult following and had a caught it back in the day instead of 27 years down the line I too would more than probably have been in that camp. As it is this is an entertaining, moody and effective creature feature with solid atmosphere, good special effects and a kind of moral meaning that vengeance is the demon in all of us. Definatly a movie I will be re-visiting in the not to distant future.

Picture:
Stan Winston's Pumpkinhead is summoned on to Blu ray in an AVC encoded MPEG 4 1080p transfer framed at the correct aspect ratio of 1.85:1. I had never seen this movie before so I can't possibly comment on how this has appeared on past formats but this looks more than reasonable here from Shout! Factory. Detail for the most part is fine especially for the bright daytime scenes from the ramshackle farms, wooden buldings, rusty pick-ups, dusty roads and various nick nacks in Ed Harley's store. Depth is also apparent in a number of instances and the whole thing looks remarkably solid and dimensional. There is some softness that may be wholly intentional but again this never looks out of place especially in an 80s movie. As the vast majority of Pumpkinhead takes place at night black levels needed to be good and are mostly pleasing here too. There is some crush in the darkest areas and the occasional bout of softness can disrupt shadow detail but I found I could almost always see what was going on even in the most punishing of dark segments. Throughout the movie alot of the darker moments are accompanied by a colour tint, namely red or blue and again these never disappoint. The red tinted opening in Harley's parents homestead looks clear, accurate and robust never once causing issues whilst retaining all the detail from facial complexities through to textures on bed linen and clothing. Again a similar scene in the witches swampside home could have been an encoding nightmare but thankfully the image remains tight bringing out every wrinkle and strand of hair in old Haggis' remarkable make-up. The cool blue punctuated by shafts of eerie light that accompanie a good percentage of the outdoor nighttime scenes look faithfully reproduced drawing the viewer into this surreal and otherworldly location and seeing all of these in HD does kind of make me wonder how impenetrable this movie must of looked on VHS in the late 80s early 90s upon it's original release. Another big plus to this transfer is how clean it is with only fleeting amounts of print damage and the fine 35mm grain structure remains intact and nicely organic. Add to that a decent encode and high bitrate and I'm sure Pumpkinhead's legion of devoted fans will not be disappointed by Shout! Factory's presentation.

Audio:
Originally released in Ultra Stereo a direct competitor to Dolby this stereo mix has been presented here in both a two channel rendering and a newly purposed 5.1 upmix both delivered in lossless 24bit DTS HD Master. I opted for the 5.1 which delivered a fairly dynamic experience with crisp clear dialogue, weighty foley effects and good channel separations across the front three speakers. The rear channels are well utilised to add atmospherics with some surprisingly strong and well placed panning effects as well as opening up the score. The LFE does make its presence known on a number of occasions adding depth to some of the more active scenes and moments in the score benefit from the added weight the .1 channel of this uncompressed track brings. The two channel stereo mix obviously is far less powerful and lacks the attack of the rear speaker array but again features clear dialogue reproduction and plenty of left to right cues across the front of the soundstage. In both options the music score reproduction sounds surprisingly rich and textured and neither have any age related issues.

Extras:
Again Shout! don't disappoint with another extras heavy release truly earning it's place in their Collectors Edition range.
First up is a lively and entertaining audio commentary featuring input from co-screenwriter Gary Gerani and creature FX creators Tom Woodruff and Alec Gillis. As to be expected there is plenty of production and concept anecdotes with never a dull moment.
Next up is 'Remembering the Monster Kid', which is a brand new 49 minute shot in HD tribute to the late great Stan Winston with the people who helped to make Pumpkinhead possible including star Lance Henriksen.
'Redemption of Joel' is a 14 minute HD interview with star John D'Aquino who played Joel in Pumpkinhead.
'Night of the Demon' is a 16minute shot in HD interview with producer Richard Weinman who reminisces about his time working on the project.
'The Boy with the Glasses' is another 15 minute HD interview this time with child star all grown up Mathew Hurley who starred as Ed Harley's son in Pumpkinhead.
'Pumpkinhead Unearthed' is a 65 minute, six part featurette which goes into great depth on the production and technical aspects of the movie and features input from the cast and crew.
'Demonic Toys' is a short 5 min chat with sculpter Jean St.Jean who made the scale model of Pumpkinhead.
To round things off is a 7 minute behind the scenes feature showing the special effects team at work, a stills gallery in 1080p and the original theatrical trailer presented here in 1080i. Again as with alot of Scream! Factory collector's titles the Blu ray sleeve is reversible with a choice of classic or contemporary art work and as already mentioned my copy came complete with the card outer slip cover.

Conclusion:
Something of a cult classic amongst the horror crowd, Pumpkinhead head is indeed a thoroughly entertaining and well made creature feature that is truly atmospheric and stylishly gothic. There were a few aspects that didn't quite work but Stan Winston's debut feature immerses the viewer in a wonderful campfire tale of folklore and demons all held together with some fantastic special effects to create something that is sincerely memorable.
This new Collector's Edition from shout! Factory presents Pumpkinhead in colourful and organic looking transfer with a pair of decent lossless soundtracks and the extensive set extras will make any fan of the movie salivate.
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on 9 May 2017
"Pumpkinhead", sounds weird for a horror movie. However it's basically a movie about actions and consequences and good old fashioned revenge. The plot is simple but beautifully executed, with some excellent acting and a monster that is believable despite the fact that this movie has no CGI. It is one of my favourites next to "Dog Soldiers", "Descent 1 & 2" and "American Werewolf in London".
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on 15 July 2017
One of my favourite movies from the 80s, I'm a fan of all the classic films and Lance Henriksen is good in this, his son in the movie is just the cutest.
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on 14 June 2017
EXCELLENT
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on 13 February 2010
Pumpkinhead was directed by special fx whiz Stan Winston who also did the creature fx which were quite impressive I mean the look on the monsters face was creepy it looks like he has an evil grin and I also liked the backwoods hag or was she a witch I'm not sure but she looked creepy, anyway Pumpkinhead is one of those classic 80's horror films that I think is not going to appeal to alot of people if your looking for a mindless gore flick then forget it, the death scenes in this were bloody but there wasn't any gore. Lance Henriksen was great as Ed Harly I consider him to be one of my favorite actors and this was definitely his best role you feel kind of sorry for his character after he loses his son in an accident. In one aspect he is the grieving father who has lost everything and on the other hand he is the vengeance obsessed man who will do anything in order to get revenge on those who have wronged him so he himself becomes evil thats what I thought was interesting about this film and the storyline was quite good. The locals of a small town believe that a demon exists for each of man's evil, when a young boy is killed by a group of teens in a motor bike accident a revenge attack is called upon by the boys father when he unleashes the demonic creature to kill the teens only his punishment is to witness each attack in person. Most of this film takes place in the woods and the teens are attacked from a wooden cabin even though Stan Winston's directing could have been better I still thought it was a cool monster film and I didn't really care about the sequels. I highly recommend this 80's horror film to horror fans and two thumbs up!.
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on 27 February 2006
It's funny, I used to love horror flicks of the '80s as mindless, rollercoaster ride popcorn-guzzlers. But revisiting such gems as 'Fright Night', 'A Nightmare On Elm Street', 'Elvira, Mistress Of The Dark' and the excellent, not-yet-on-DVD 'From Beyond', I'm charmed by the thoughtfulness and subtlety of their execution (pun not intended). 'Pumpkinhead', the directorial debut of special effects legend Stan Winston just about deserves a place in that canon of great '80s trash-which-is-not-trash.
The background to Pumpkinhead's production is enough to warrant a footnote in the movie history of that decade: Stan Winston turned down the chance to direct 'A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors' for the sake of bringing this movie to fruition. Thankfully Elm Street 3, ultimately directed by Chuck Russell, is a fine movie which so convincingly recast Fred Krueger as a wisecracking antihero that Wes Craven in his 'New Nightmare' had to posit its razor-fingered protagonist as the fictional murderer he is, mysteriously coming alive to invade the lives of the real Elm Street cast in order to recapture his original air of the sinister. Pumpkinhead was shot in a mere 36 days on a budget of 3.5 million dollars (the cost of a TV commercial by modern standards), sitting on a shelf for nearly a year while the DeLaurentis Group sold the movie rights to United Artists. It's by some way Winston's best work as a director, and possibly, alongside the classy vampire road movie 'Near Dark' the finest picture in which the always memorable Lance Henrikssen had a starring role.
History lesson aside, what of the plot? According to the folklore of the movie, a demon exists for every one of man's manifold sins. The 'Pumpkinhead' of the title is a living embodiment of utter vengeance which rises in the name of any man severely wronged by another. As a young boy Ed Harley, resident of a splendidly atmospheric American backwoods witnesses what may be the slaying of a man accused of child murder by that very creature. Thirty years later and a father of one, Ed finds his young son severely injured by the motorbike antics of a group of snotty young city folk. Intent on revenge after his son dies in his arms with a dramatic last breath of "Daddy", Ed, in the vagueness of his childhood experience only half aware of the Pumpkinhead myth makes his way to the genuinely frightening Haggis, an ancient hag played with aplomb by Florence Schauffler in order to awaken the beast which he hopes will lay his anger to rest. As you can likely imagine, it lays plenty to rest, and the creature doesn't quite serve Ed as predictably as he first thinks.
As far as revealing what happens over the course of its short 86 minutes, I'll leave it right there. The final twist in the tale comes as a real surprise, even a philosophical one if you want to see it that way. Like so many movies of the era, its limited number of sets and suspenseful camera angles lend it a sense of claustrophobia which is almost cozy. But the amiably low budget feel does no favours for its scenes of carnage, which come across as choppy, pandemonious and vague as to what is actually happening. Plus, the ponderous beginning and 'Deliverance'-like murkiness of its locations make it rather boring on repeated viewings, albeit headily atmospheric in parts. The blurrily rapid death scenes sit oddly next to the eerie calmness of the rest of the movie.
But maybe I'm nitpicking; 'Pumpkinhead' is a watchable and sometimes compelling movie, and one which will be particularly enjoyed by '80s horror fans like me. And at this price, it's hardly too much to ask for a little slice of horror flick history.
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on 12 September 2014
You could see that Lance would be a star but in all other respects, except the creature design, this film was very average.

Pumpkinhead isn't the most mobile monster but luckily the victims stand around wringing their hands and displaying terrible acting skills until the creature gets around to them. The action was stilted and comically inept when it happened.

Only major stand out from other films is that the hillbilly, back-woods folk are more intelligent and moral than anybody else in the film...bucks the trend somewhat.

Also the price Henriksens character has to pay was a good idea, just poorly executed.
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on 6 April 2012
I love monster movies. This is a good one.
Lance Henriksen conjures up a backwoods demon when his son is killed by some youngster in an off-road biking accident.

Pumkinhead is classic and now very evocative example of the way late 80s teen horror became influenced by MTV. It's very flashy in its use lens filters and sharp cuts between monochrome and full colour. Stan Winston's creature design is a prime example of why practical effects beats CGI. Not only does Pumpkinhead look like an actual physical entity instead of a bunch of pixels, but you get that child-like thrill of imagining how cool it would be to have made such and impressive monster. The story is also a really nice example of the way horror films can create their own folk mythology. It feels like a fully functioning legend like Candyman and The Wolfman.
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on 19 October 2015
Don't get me wrong there are plenty of 70's and 80's movies I like. Friday 13th, Halloween, A nightmare on Elm street. But this one was just AWFUL! Really awful. Very dated. Very lame and not at all scary or even creepy. Wish I hadn't bothered buying it. I didn't even finish watching it when it went straight in the bin.
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on 6 May 2012
This is one of the most awesome films from the 80's, its an iconic horror that stands apart from all other films from the time and even now!! Directed by the brilliant Stan Winston (R.I.P) The creator of many wonderful Hollywood monsters such as (Alien, predator, Jurassic park and many more) The story is about a man who calls upon a demon to avenge the death of his son. The effects are fantastic for the time and dont look dated at all, its a fantastic film with so much style, this is an all time classic and must be seen!!!
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