It’s getting to be that time of year again. Fall is coming on, we’re gearing up for Halloween in a couple months and Scream Factory is here just in time with an absolute horror classic. Pumpkinhead is more than a beloved cult creature feature from the golden days of VHS; it is one of only two directorial efforts by Stan Winston (and the only horror movie). I find it impossible to believe any PCB reader doesn’t know Stan Winston but just in case; he was one of the greatest creature effects people ever to live. Predator, Terminator, Jurassic Park, the Queen Alien, he was responsible for all of them (though his team is credited with Pumpkinhead himself). Scream Factory releases a wide range of films from the horror genre and it’s always a real treat when they put out one of these gems from the video 80’s, so let’s take a look.
Ed Harley (Lance Henrikson, wonder how he met the director) is a peaceful, quiet grocer living happily with his only son when a group of teenagers accidently kill the boy. Ed is grief stricken and takes his dead son to a witch. Said witch helps him conjure “Pumpkinhead”, an eight foot tall demon to reap revenge on the teenagers. Even in his grief, Ed soon realizes the gravity of what he’s allowed to transpire and seeks to find a way to stop the monster.
Pumpkinhead is rich in scares, but is also more than a little campy. It’s okay if you find yourself laughing at parts you’re not really meant to; it’s part of what makes Pumpkinhead fun. Some of the elements appear to have been chosen at random without real consideration if they fit. Early on in the film at Ed’s grocery, there’s an awkward meeting between a group of 80’s teens with dirt bikes and what appears to be a group of backwoods children that are right out of depression-era dustbowl. The result is jarring clash of disparate parts that looks like several films have been cobbled together.
On the other hand, Stan Winston and his studio do a fantastic job of whipping up a wholly terrifying movie monster. Pumpkinhead and the otherworldly dilapidated church setting of the film are really top notch. Lance Hendrikson gives a spirited, sincere performance while the teenagers are your standard assortment of monster fodder, but they carry out their purpose well enough.
The film has never looked better. Scream Factory has taken care that the rich color and pretty spectacular lighting has been preserved in the transfer. Lots of rich grain helps keep the details sharp; with no excessive DNR bleeding away the image. If you loved the VHS as a child and want to introduce this film to your own kids, this is edition to get.
Scream Factory has also loaded it with great features. Numerous featurettes and interviews pull back the curtain on a movie that’s honestly not had a lot written on it for as well-known as it is. Sadly, Mr. Winston is no longer with us so he could not provide a commentary but there is a ton of other good things in there.
The case features a wonderful original illustration by Justin Osbourn, featuring Pumpkinhead, Lance, and the pumpkin patch. The reversible cover is the uninspired original poster art for Pumpkinhead.
Audio Commentary by co-screenwriter Gary Gerani and creature & FX creators Tom Woodruff jr and Alec Gillis.
Behind the scenes footage
New tribute to Stan Winston
1080p Hi-Def widescreen 1.85:1
DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo
Original Release: 1988
Runtime: 86 minutes
Story: B- / a little bare bones but it’s a nice little Grimm fairy-tale all the same.
Presentation quality: A / superb.
Scare factor: A+ / Pumpkinhead is a nightmare monster, the very best from the very best.
Gore Factor: B / height of Reagan era punch pulling.
Repeat view-ability: B / I’d say once a year is about what you’ll manage.
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Adam Ruhl is a writer and life long Cinephile. He is the Executive
Cinema Editor of Pop Culture Beast’s Austin branch; covering festivals,
conventions, and new releases. When not filing reports, Adam can be
found stalking Alamo Drafthouse Programmers for leads on upcoming
DrafthouseFilms titles. Adam once blocked Harry Knowles entrance to a
theater until he was given extra tickets to a Roman Polanski movie.