A movie that I greatly admired as a kid even though it absolutely terrified me (mostly due to the fact that I was called “pumpkin head” by my mom because of my hair color), Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release of Pumpkinhead arrives this week. It absolutely does Stan Winston’s modest and heartfelt creature feature/folk legend horror movie the justice it deserves with their stellar presentation and then some.
After his son Billy (Matthew Hurley) is accidentally killed by a group of teenage motorcycle riders, a small town shopkeeper named Ed Harley (Henriksen) has one thing on his mind in Pumpkinhead- vengeance. He asks for help with his plan for revenge from a local witch who has the ability to summon a demonic presence known as “Pumpkinhead," who can track down the guilty souls and punish them for their misdeeds. But after the gigantic and ferocious beast is unleashed, Ed begins to regret his decision, realizing nothing is going to bring back his son- not even the deaths of the teens responsible. He decides to take on the deadly mythical creature, attempting to send it back to the unholy place it was resurrected from before it’s too late for everyone.
A poignant yet visceral exploration of grief, loss and regret, Pumpkinhead was a remarkable release for 1988- amongst a sea of sequels and remakes that year, Stan Winston’s tragic and terrifying backwoods fairy tale stood out as something wholly unique and gave us some incredible character development by way of Henriksen’s character to boot. In a film where you’re watching a giant demon chase down and kill a bunch of teenagers, you’d generally think that we’d be directly tied into those characters, but that’s not the case with Pumpkinhead- Winston gives us the ol’ switcheroo by smartly putting Henriksen’s grieving father front and center, giving the film a nice dose of heart and emotion to balance out all the demonic creature’s wonderful nastiness once it is summoned.
As expected, the special effects work in Pumpkinhead is nothing short of astounding and Scream Factory’s Blu-ray finally highlights the creature in a way that revitalizes the look of the oversized beast and gives us a better look at all its intricacies that were brought to life by Winston and his amazingly talented team at Stan Winston Studios. It’s also worth noting that another reason Pumpkinhead looks so great is due to the stellar production design by Cynthia Kay Charette (Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, Austin Powers), which effectively transports viewers right into Winston’s deep woods nightmare and makes the film that much more immersive of an experience.
Scream Factory hits yet another home run with their Pumpkinhead Blu-ray with a stunning picture/sound presentation, as well as hours upon hours of special features that are all worth taking the time to watch if you consider yourself a fan of Winston’s directorial debut. There’s a behind the scenes featurette and a few talking head interviews that were all really well done, but it’s the “Monster Kid” tribute to the late Stan Winston that really takes the cake here. There’s evidently a lot of love put into this release of Pumpkinhead and those involved with the Blu-ray wear their hearts proudly on their sleeves with a presentation that’s worthy of this cult classic.
Movie Score: 4/5, Disc Rating: 5/5