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MGM Studios DVD presents
Pumpkinhead (1988)

Ed: "God damn you woman!"
Swamp Witch: "He already did, son. He already did."

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: August 07, 2000

Stars: Lance Henriksen
Other Stars: Cynthia Bain, Jeff East, Joel Hoffman.
Director: Stan Winston

MPAA Rating: R for (graphic violence, language)
Run Time: 01h:26m:00s
Release Date: August 02, 2000
UPC: 027616851512
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B+C-B+ D+

DVD Review

Pumpkinhead is something of an important event in the realm of horror films. The movie marked the directorial debut of special effects artist Stan Winston, whose career has spanned movies like Aliens, Edward Scissorhands, the Terminator movies, and too many more to mention. Despite the low budget nature of the film, the end result is a very well done horror movie, with an excellent creature. Though it was followed by weak sequels and copycats, Pumpkinhead marks a stylish high-point for the 80's horror boon.

Lance Henriksen stars as Ed Harley, a simple country store owner with a little boy, Billy. One day, a group of careless youths from the city tear into the small town. When they recklessly race around on dirtbikes, they accidentally kill little Billy Harley. Filled with outrage, Ed recalls memories of his childhood when a strange demon known as "Pumpkinhead" was said to be called forth to avenge people who had been wronged. So, he seeks the help of a mysterious swamp witch and manages to conjure up the demon Pumpkinhead to kill the kids. Once the evil creature starts cracking skulls, Ed Harley starts to see that his decision was rash, so he tries to stop Pumpkinhead. He realizes, though, that there is no way to undo the evil he has unleashed and must pay the extreme price for his vengeful ways as the demon ravages the countryside.

Lance Henriksen has always been one of my favorite actors, and I think Pumpkinhead is probably one of his best starring roles. In the mid-to-late 80's he was in quite a few low-budget horror and sci-fi movies, but many of them were weak to say the least. It wasn't until he landed the role in the TV series Millennium that a wider audience appreciated his versatility as a central character. The curious aspect about the character of Ed Harley is that he is both the villian and the sympathetic hero. We can understand his rage, but at the same time we deplore the way he seeks vengeance. Not all the acting is top-notch, though. The city kids are basically your average cast of any low-budget slasher pic.

Of course, Henriksen is often upstaged by the wonderful creature, Pumpkinhead. Designed by Stan Winston and brought to life by his crew, the giant spooker is one of the best film monsters in recent years. You don't see too many great screen creatures anymore, and this one might just end up giving you nightmares. Despite the film's name, the creature is NOT a goofy, giant pumpkin, but a rather a tall, lanky, zombie-esque creature with super-long fingers and nails.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: Would a review of "Ugh" suffice for this disc? Maybe I've just lost my tolerance for bad prints of movies from big companies. Pumpkinhead is watchable, but it's scarcely above VHS quality. The print is extremely muddy and even blurry at times. The black level seems almost too low, and many scenes are overly dark. The print is washed out, grainy, and results in a few compression artifacts here and there. If you like the movie already, it won't bother you, but I wouldn't recommend this disc as a demonstration of your new DVD player.

There's has been a little bit of talk over the improper aspect ratio. If I recall correctly, Pumpkinhead was originally matted theatrically. This full-frame image has removed the matting and, from all reports, looks fine even on widescreen television sets. Unfortunately, many video companies seem to not acknowledge the difference between a film SHOT in full-frame and a film FORMATTED into full- frame. As a result, Pumpkinhead is labelled that it "has been modified to fit your screen", the classic, confusing sentence that has left many viewers scratching their heads, no doubt. In reality, I think the matting was simply removed.

Image Transfer Grade: C-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The audio track (Stereo Surround) is surprisingly good, and I certainly don't remember the original versions sounding like this. The front channels are extremely well-balanced with a lot of directionality and imaging. Center channel handles dialogue very sharply; most sound effects and ambience is handled by the other fronts. The surrounds aren't really used at all, but it doesn't particularly deaden the soundtrack. The LFE channel isn't used for anything special either. The film sounds much better than it looks.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The sole extra here is the theatrical trailer. Otherwise, the presentation is a little funky, for lack of a better sounding term. The menus use a strange, extremely cheesy looking pixelized font, and there is no kind of interesting booklet. The keepcase insert merely provides chapter stops. I think something more could have been done for this film. Stan Winston is infamous for being fairly eager to do added things to films he has worked on. I think he would have gladly done an interview or commentary track if asked.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

Pumpkinhead is a solid, well-directed film. It might not be as flashy as higher budget monster films, but it certainly has a great heart to it. Though it does have violence, it's not ridiculously gory or bloody and could easily be watched by the average moviegoer. Recommended.


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