Blu-Ray Review- The People Under the Stairs
Distributor: Scream Factory
Street Date: August 11th 2015
Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Runtime: 103 Minutes
“In every neighborhood, there is a house that adults whisper about, and children cross the street to avoid.” –Theatrical tagline for The People Under the Stairs
The People Under the Stairs is not only one of Wes Craven’s very best films; I consider it a modern day Horror classic. Craven’s 1991 feature is a masterfully crafted urban horror story that is also exceptionally well written for the genre. The film offers up plenty of terrifying sequences, sadistically dark comedic moments, and a perfectly cast ensemble that delights in their over-the-top characters. It’s an endlessly re-watchable Horror treat, and fans will be overjoyed with this latest Collector’s Edition release from Scream Factory.
Poindexter “Fool” Williams (Brandon Adams) and his family are the last remaining residents of their rundown apartment complex in Los Angeles. His mother is sick and requires hospital treatment that they’re unable to afford. It certainly doesn’t help their predicament when they receive an eviction notice from their mysterious landlords, the Robesons. When his sister’s boyfriend Leroy (Ving Rhames) tells Fool about the rumored hoard of gold that the Robeson’s have stashed away somewhere in their old creepy house, they concoct a plan to steal it from the greedy old couple. After all, with that amount of gold at his disposal, Fool could certainly afford to pay for his mother’s medical care and save their apartment.
Suffice to say, Fool and Leroy’s attempted robbery goes horribly wrong, trapping Fool in the disturbing house of the utterly psychotic Robeson’s. With no possibility of escape, the deranged “Daddy” and “Momma” Robeson on his trail, and cannibalistic offspring living inside the walls of the house, Fool’s only hope of survival is Alice, the Robeson’s sheltered daughter.
The People Under the Stairs delights at every twisted turn with fantastic makeup and special effects work from KNB EFX, a moody score from Don Peake, and an impressive production design. Twin Peaks’ Everett McGill and Wendy Robie turn in wickedly terrifying performances as the Robesons, and young Brandon Adams is one of the most likeable child actors in Horror movie history. I truly enjoyed revisiting the film on this brand new Collector’s Edition from Scream Factory.
Scream Factory delivers The People Under the Stairs onto Blu-Ray with the same fantastic transfer that accompanied the previous Universal release. The urban (and suburban) setting exhibits plenty of depth and clarity, with a beautiful color scheme that is respectful to the original theatrical presentation. The level of detail in facial features, clothing, and the terrifying house itself is spectacular. Black levels are solid, and there are no artifacts or damage to the print to report. Fans will be delighted with this clean, crisp, transfer of a modern-day Horror classic.
The 5.1 DTS-HD audio track is another standout addition to this Blu-Ray release. Everything from the unsettling score to dialogue and sound effects comes through very clean and clearly in HD surround. There are plenty of scary moments that definitely gave me a “jump” on this mix, and the audio is perfectly captured in tremendous detail across all channels.
Scream Factory has provided fans of The People Under the Stairs with an incredible selection of bonus features for this Blu-Ray release. This is truly a Collector’s Edition folks! Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:
- Audio Commentaries (2): There are two commentaries to choose from on this Blu-Ray edition including one featuring the Director himself, Wes Craven, and the other featuring Brandon Adams, A.J. Langer, Sean Whalen, and Yan Burg.
- House Mother with Wendy Robie– This incredible interview from Red Shirt Pictures lasts nearly 20 minutes and features actress Wendy Robie (“Woman”/Mrs. Robeson) discussing how she became involved with The People Under the Stairs, her background in Shakespeare and television roles, how the character of Hannibal Lecter inspired her audition, and the psychological profile she assumed to play the role of “woman.” Wendy discusses working with Wes Craven as well here, and further emphasizes the Director’s noteworthy likeability. My favorite sections of the interview have Wendy sharing stories from the late-night shooting schedule and the cast and crew deliriously cracking up after takes. Once again, this is a wonderful addition from Red Shirt Pictures to this Blu-Ray release.
- What Lies Beneath: The Effects of The People Under the Stairs– This 15 minute featurette from Red Shirt Pictures has KNB EFX pioneers Howard Berger, Robert Kurtzman, and Greg Nicotero (of The Walking Dead fame) discussing their involvement on The People Under the Stairs special effects work. I always find featurettes on makeup effects fascinating, and this one is no exception! The behind-the-scenes footage combined with the recollections of the KNB folks makes for some truly captivating material. I loved hearing about the development of these fantastic effects; from Ving Rhames’ life cast to Sean Whalen’s unique makeup, there is plenty to salivate over here for Horror fans!
- House of Horrors: With Director of Photography Sandi Sissel- This is yet another great interview from Red Shirt Pictures, coming in at over 16 minutes and featuring DP Sandi Sissel discussing her work on the film. Sandi’s career, starting out in documentaries and eventually making her way to big budget productions, offers up plenty of great stories.
- Settling the Score (with Don Peake)– This 10 minute interview with composer Don Peake offers up some insightful stories regarding the score for The People Under the Stairs. Don’s career is discussed in depth, beginning with his musical experience in High School and joining The Everly Brothers in the 1960’s to working in Hollywood. A very interesting guy with plenty of fascinating tales to tell.
- Behind the Scenes Footage– Nearly 7 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage from Greg Nicotero include the oft-discussed disemboweling scene and makeup preparation for the actors involved.
- Theatrical Trailer- The original theatrical trailer for the film runs just over a minute and is just as enticing for potential viewers as it was back in 1991. The tagline for the film spoken over the terrifying imagery perfectly captures the tone. It’s a short one, but sometimes less is more.
- TV Spots- Just over a minute of select TV spots from the film’s theatrical campaign.
- Vintage Making of Featurette- This is actually just under 4 minutes of promotional material for the film partnered with select scenes. I especially enjoyed the black and white “vintage” footage of the actors discussing their roles.
- Original Storyboards- Just about 7 minutes worth of storyboards for various sequences from the film. You have to appreciate the amount of effort that goes into planning these unique and elaborate shots!
- Still Gallery- Roughly 4 minutes of behind-the-scenes photos and production stills from the making of The People Under the Stairs.
As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory features what is quite possibly my favorite Scream Factory artwork yet! Justin Osbourne was commissioned to create this piece, which truly captures the atmosphere of the film. The purple color scheme is gorgeous, and the likeness of the actors is absolutely spot-on! On the reverse of the packaging you’ll find a plot synopsis, a list of special features, technical specifications, and select production stills from the film. On the interior of the slipcover is the standard Blu-Ray case, which has reversible artwork featuring the original theatrical poster for the film. The interior of the case features the Blu-Ray disc, also featuring artwork from the theatrical poster. This is absolutely one of my personal favorite packaging jobs from Scream Factory! Bravo.
The People Under the Stairs is a modern day Horror classic. The film offers up plenty of terrifying sequences, sadistically dark comedic moments, and a perfectly cast ensemble that delights in their over-the-top characters. It’s an endlessly re-watchable Horror treat, and fans will be overjoyed with this latest Collector’s Edition release from Scream Factory. This Blu-Ray edition features outstanding video and audio quality, and arrives loaded with fascinating special features for Horror fans. Justin Osbourne’s amazing cover art is yet another added bonus to what may be one of Scream Factory’s finest releases to date. Highly recommended!
Blu-Ray Review- Ghost Town
Distributor: Scream Factory
Street Date: July 28th 2015
Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio, DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
Runtime: 85 Minutes
Empire Pictures and Charles Band’s 1988 production of Ghost Town contains too many laugh-out-loud “what the fuck am I watching?” moments to count. When bride-to-be Kate Barrett goes missing in a desert town (honestly…who keeps their wedding dress in the backseat of a top-down convertible in the desert?), the local Sheriff’s Deputy (Franc Luz) Langley is assigned to track her down. A rough sandstorm is the apparent cause, but we (the viewers) know that a ghastly western outlaw apparition on horseback has carried her off.
As Langley begins his search, the same outlaw apparition quickly decimates his vehicle, leaving him stranded and desperate in the scorching desert heat. Our hero stumbles across the barren landscape into an abandoned Old West town in his search to solve the mystery of Kate’s disappearance, but soon finds out, nothing is what it seems. The entire town’s inhabitants are dead, stuck in a limbo of sorts, waiting for the day when a legendary lawman will come to town and rid them of the ghostly outlaw that is keeping their souls hostage. Langley, by chance, just might be the lawman they’re looking for.
Ghost Town is a fairly enjoyable B-movie cheese-fest! The story is unintentionally silly, with less-than-stellar acting ability all around, exaggerated line delivery, and questionable editing choices. If it wasn’t for its lack of repeat-watch value, Ghost Town would almost qualify for the “so bad it’s good” stamp of approval. For those that enjoy bad movies, there is no denying that the film delivers the goods. I will say that the special effects aren’t half bad, with a few select gore shots and makeup details that are impressive given the obvious budget restraints. Do I recommend it? Sure. Ghost Town isn’t a terrible way to waste away a rainy afternoon, and cheesy movie fans will delight in the film’s unintentional comedy.
Scream Factory has given Ghost Town an incredibly solid transfer onto the Blu-Ray format! It’s almost too good given the film’s B-movie laugh-fest quality (joking of course). The print is very clean, free from defects, and offers up some beautiful natural film grain without any evidence of manipulation. The dusty ghost town exhibits a depth and lifelike quality in High Definition, and facial features and clothing material are captured in stunning clarity. There are a few scattered shots with artifacts, and a handful of scenes that exhibit a “jumpy” quality (likely a stabilization issue from the source), but Ghost Town overall looks fantastic on the format!
The 2.0 DTS-HD audio track is another fine aspect to this Blu-Ray release. Dialogue always comes through clean and clear, music and sound effects are rather dynamic for a mono track, and there are no hiccups or other distortions in sound throughout the experience. The cheesy score sounds especially great here!
There are no special features included on this Blu-Ray release for Ghost Town. For many of us, having the film on the High Definition format is a special treat in and of itself. Others may be disappointed with the lack of extras.
This Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory features the original theatrical poster design for the film on its cover. I love the classic Western “pistols at dawn” pose paired with the menace of the skeleton cowboy. The artistic touches of the town’s buildings fading away and the skeleton’s shadow in the foreground are appreciated. On the reverse of the case you’ll find a plot synopsis, technical specifications, and select production stills from the film. Inside of the case is the Blu-Ray disc as well as some nice reversible artwork that fans can choose to display instead of the theatrical poster art.
Ghost Town is a fairly enjoyable B-movie cheese-fest! The story is unintentionally silly, with less-than-stellar acting ability all around, exaggerated line delivery, and questionable editing choices. If it wasn’t for its lack of repeat-watch value, Ghost Town would almost qualify for the “so bad it’s good” stamp of approval. For those that enjoy bad movies, there is no denying that the film delivers the goods. The Blu-Ray from Scream Factory boasts very impressive video and audio quality, making for an enjoyable home theater experience for Horror fans. The lack of special features may be disappointing for some, but most of us are satisfied enough to finally own a rare treat like this one on the High Definition format. Western Horror films are hard to come by, and though you have to be in the right mood to appreciate its B-movie charms, Ghost Town on Blu-Ray comes recommended.
Blu-Ray Review- Dolls
Distributor: Scream Factory
Street Date: November 11th 2014
Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Runtime: 77 Minutes
From the Child’s Play series to newer offerings such as The Conjuring and its recent spin-off Annabelle, Dolls have seemingly always been a staple of the Horror genre. It’s rather curious as to why, frankly, these children’s play-things have terrified the masses for so many years. They’re meant to be so cute, cuddly, and trust-worthy…but perhaps that’s ultimately where the fear lies. How could these harmless inanimate gifts of porcelain and rubber harm the little people most near and dear to us? Or terrorize their superstitious parents? It’s a genre plot device that seems so silly, but has proved incredibly successful over the years. Much like clowns, who were meant to be so innocent and harmless, dolls in general have a tainted, horrifying aura surrounding them because of their cinematic counterparts. In 1987 Director Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator) released Dolls, a polished and entertaining entry in the subgenre that never takes itself too seriously.
In the film, 7-year old Judy Bower (Carrie Lorraine), her father David (Ian Patrick Williams), and her nasty step-mother Rosemary (Carolyn Purdy Gordon) arrive at a seemingly deserted mansion in the English countryside after their car becomes stuck in the mud during a thunderstorm. Upon arrival, they soon learn that the mansion is owned by the elderly Gabriel and Hilary Hartwicke (Guy Rolfe and Hilary Mason). Gabriel and Hilary are welcoming to their guests, and are soon joined by three more stranded strangers; the punk-rock thieves Isabel and Enid, and the likeable sad sack Ralph (Stephen Lee). Guy explains to his stranded visitors that he used to be a toymaker before he retired, but he still lovingly crafts the children’s toys when he’s able. The mansion is littered with them, lined neatly on the shelves of nearly every room, much to the delight of little Judy. But things soon take a turn for the worse, as the Hartwicke dolls come to life throughout the stormy night, and slowly begin hacking and slashing the weary travelers to death.
Stuart Gordon’s Dolls is injected with brilliant dark humor, some insanely cool special effects, and a cast that clearly understands the genre and gives it their all, making for an enjoyable horror film that is scary, silly, and cleverly self-aware. The film’s technical merits are worth nothing as well, with some impressive lighting techniques, art direction, and set design. It may take a certain brand of Horror fan to appreciate Dolls, with its over-the-top humor and corny nature, but I found it to be a heck of a lot of fun.
Simply put, Dolls looks great on Blu-Ray. The print is in terrific condition, with plenty of detail and authentic color reproduction. The natural film grain on display looks beautiful, and textures on skin and clothing are nearly tangible at times. There are no signs of DNR or other intrusive practices to speak of, which is always a bonus on catalog releases. The only seemingly out-of-place distraction is the appearance of what looks like tiny glitter flakes that fall vertically in some select scenes (most notably in the Bower’s mansion bedroom). It’s a rather small imperfection, but worth nothing as I can’t be certain that it was intentional. Otherwise, this is a wonderful transfer!
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is very effective and suits the eerie atmosphere of the film well. The dialogue always comes through crisp and clear, and the wonderful score envelops and surrounds you throughout. The dramatic high points, especially profound during the dolls’ mayhem, is perfectly captured on this dynamic track. Well done!
Scream Factory has given Dolls their Collector’s Edition treatment by including some extra fun features for fans of this little Horror gem. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:
- Audio Commentaries (2)– There are two commentaries on this Collector’s Edition, the first with Director Stuart Gordon and Writer Ed Naha, and the second with cast members Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Stephen Lee, Carrie Lorraine, and Ian Patrick Williams. Both tracks are insanely entertaining, but I especially loved hearing Mr. Gordon discuss his film along with his screenwriter. We get to hear some detail on the production, effects, and cast throughout both, with a slightly different flavor and atmosphere depending on which you’re listening to.
- Toys of Terror: The Making of Dolls– Running over 38 minutes, this brand new documentary from Scream Factory and Red Shirt Pictures features select cast and crew members discussing the film’s legacy, production, cast, and much more. Much like the documentaries on past Scream Factory releases, this is wonderfully entertaining, with plenty of fun stories for fans of the film to enjoy. I especially enjoyed hearing from the crew about filming on location in England and on the same famous soundstages where films like Barbarella and Red Sonja were filmed (which numerous cast and crew found leftover props from). The special effects discussion concerning the marionette work and lighting involved to achieve the doll scenes is fascinating.
- Theatrical Trailer- This original theatrical trailer for Dolls runs about 2 ½ minutes and provides viewers with a fun and surprisingly gory look at the kind of film they’re getting themselves into.
- Film-to-Storyboard Comparison- This fun featurette runs over 8 minutes and includes select scenes from the film itself along with a “mini-screen” storyboard comparison. Scenes include: Teddy’s Revenge, Rosemary Takes a Dive, and Punch’s Little Secret. It’s interesting to see how the filmmakers planned these difficult sequences through storyboarding and how they actually played out on camera. Great stuff!
- Still Gallery- This still gallery runs over 4 minutes in length and plays automatically when selected; featuring several production stills, theatrical posters, and select advertising from the film’s theatrical campaign.
- More from Scream Factory- Vintage trailers for other titles in the Scream Factory line are presented here including Pumpkinhead, Phantom of the Paradise, and Sleepaway Camp.
This Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory features a newly commissioned slip-cover design from artist Nathan Thomas Milliner. The coloring, detail, and overall atmosphere than emanates from the new art is outstanding! On the reverse of the case you’ll find a plot synopsis, a list of special features, technical specifications, and select production stills from the film. Inside the case is the Blu-Ray disc as well as the iconic original theatrical poster design with the “They Walk. They Talk. They Kill” tagline banner available as a reversible wrap.
Stuart Gordon’s Dolls is injected with brilliant dark humor, some insanely cool special effects, and a cast that clearly understands the genre and gives it their all, making for an enjoyable horror film that is scary, silly, and cleverly self-aware. The video quality on this brand new Blu-Ray edition is stellar, sporting an incredibly clean transfer that retains the authentic film grain and boasts an impressive amount of detail. The audio track also suits the film well, delivering the dolls’ mayhem and the creepy score in fine dynamic form. As per the usual, Scream Factory has done it again in the area of special features, with the wonderful documentary Toys of Terror among other fun extras. It may take a certain brand of Horror fan to appreciate Dolls, with its over-the-top humor and corny nature, but I found it to be a heck of a lot of fun. This Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory comes highly recommended!
Blu-Ray Review- Squirm
Distributor: Scream Factory
Street Date: October 28th 2014
Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio, 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio
Runtime: 93 Minutes
I’m not ashamed to admit that the first time I saw Squirm was on the infamous Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode. Growing up in Minnesota in the 1990’s, MST3K introduced me to many horror, cult, and science fiction titles that I may otherwise have never seen. And like many of those films that were so hilariously “riffed” on the show, I would come to appreciate Squirm with and without the riffing. It may not be the most polished Horror production, but it’s damn creepy and certainly charming with its low budget southern atmosphere.
In Squirm, Don Scardino plays Mick, a young man on his way to Fly Creek, Georgia when the bus that carries him can go no further due to the flooding in the area, a result of a recent thunderstorm. Mick makes his way through the swampy terrain on foot to see his darling girlfriend Geri (Patricia Pearcy), intending to stay awhile with her family as he gets to know Fly Creek and it’s stand-offish inhabitants a little better. Little does Mick know that because the power lines were knocked down in the recent storm, the resulting electricity has given the worms in the soil super strength and general ferocity, and soon the townsfolk are up to their elbows in mutant creepy crawlies of all shapes and sizes.
Corpses begin to appear around town with their flesh ripped directly from the bone, worms slither out of showerheads and through people’s faces, among other creepy shenanigans. With little help from the local Sheriff (Peter MacLean) and time running out, Mick and Geri launch their own investigation into why the worms have invaded their town and concoct a plan to stop them.
Revisiting Squirm after many years was a delight in more ways than one. Sure, the film has the B movie stamp written all over it, with a generally low budget feel, some shoddy editing, and supporting players that seem to have been cast right out of the produce section at the Piggly Wiggly. But this film has oodles of charm! The main cast truly gives it their all, making their down-home characters quite believable in an otherwise ridiculous scenario. The gross-out effects from a then relatively unknown Rick Baker are a delight as well, providing plenty of barf bag moments for viewers (especially if you’re sensitive to our slithery soil dwelling friends). Squirm fits right in as part of Scream Factory’s ever-growing line of Horror treats, and I enjoyed revisiting the film on this brand new Blu-Ray edition.
It’s safe to say that you’re going to be quite astonished at how incredibly good Squirm looks on Blu-Ray from Scream Factory. Going in, especially with its low budget nature, I prepared myself for a likely rough-looking presentation, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. This High Definition viewing experience provides one of the cleanest transfers of a low-budget Horror film I’ve ever seen on the format. The print provides authentic natural film grain that is ever present and without any signs of digital manipulation. Colors look period-accurate and maintain stability throughout, fine object detail is shockingly pristine in most cases, and there is nary a scratch or blemish to be seen. It’s incredible, and slightly fascinating as to how the hell this looks so good on Blu-Ray.
The 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio mono track is more in line with my expectations going in, but that’s not to say it’s a disappointment in the slightest. Dialogue is always crystal clear and the track has some oomph thanks to the HD upgrade. The score and background effects balance is slightly limited, sometimes wavering in its ability to present the audio without a “tinny” or ringing dynamic attached. Given the nature of the film, it really does sound just fine, and any limitations are likely the result of the original audio source.
Scream Factory has given Squirm the Collector’s Edition treatment with some great bonus features for Horror fans. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:
- Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Jeff Lieberman– Director Jeff Lieberman gives an in-depth and focused commentary here, providing an insightful listening experience for fans of the film. In between discussing the cast, special effects, and filmmaking techniques, Jeff is pretty funny as he naturally reacts to scenes from the film (including goofs, plot logic, etc.). Jeff talking about calling into a local television station that chose to play Squirm in black and white is especially fun, as he called not to complain but to praise them because he loved how the film looked! This is an insanely fun commentary to listen to.
- Digging In: The Making of Squirm- Lasting roughly 33 minutes, this brand new documentary from Aine Leicht and the folks at Shout! Factory provides fans of the film with plenty of fascinating behind-the-scenes stories, production details, and fun memories from the cast and crew. Director Jeff Lieberman and actor Don Scardino in particular are often hilarious to listen to, with more than a handful of funny anecdotes to share. I especially enjoyed the discussion about using the locals for supporting roles in the film. Once again Leicht and company have put together a well edited and insightful documentary for fans! Great stuff!
- Eureka! With Jeff Lieberman- Running just over 7 minutes, this is yet another fun featurette (once again from Leicht & Shout!) where Director Jeff Lieberman leaves the interview chair and brings us (quite literally) to the home he lived in when he came up with the idea for Squirm. It was nice to hear not only about the films inception, but about Lieberman’s beginnings in the industry.
- Original Theatrical Trailer- The original theatrical trailer for Squirm runs just under two minutes. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you got to love those voice overs!
- TV Spot- This vintage television spot runs under a minute and gives viewers a pretty good idea of what they’re in for.
- Radio Spot- This actual radio spot from the theatrical promotion runs just over a minute and is very effective!
- Still Gallery- This still gallery plays automatically when selected and features some fantastic color and black and white photographs from the making of the film.
- More from Scream Factory- Vintage trailers for other titles in the Scream Factory line are presented here including Pumpkinhead, Motel Hell, and The Beast Within.
This Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory features a newly commissioned slip-cover design from Artist Paul Shipper, who also recently worked on their Halloween Complete Collection. The coloring is gritty and perfect, with Roger’s worm-invaded face and Geri’s half naked shower surprise, the selected moments he chose to portray suit the film nicely. On the reverse of the case you’ll find a plot synopsis, a listing of special features, technical specifications, and select production stills from the film. Inside the case is the Blu-Ray disc as well as the amazing original theatrical “skull” poster design available as a reversible wrap.
Squirm on Blu-Ray from Scream Factory is creepy, crawly, High Definition gross-out fun! Though I first saw the film as a kid when it was featured on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, the film has its charms with or without the riff-track. Though the B-movie creature feature clearly shows its production budget, the then-amateur cast gives it their all, and the gross-out effects from Rick Baker provide for plenty of barf bag fun. I’m still quite shocked at how incredibly good Squirm looks on this brand new Blu-Ray transfer as well, with nary a blemish to be found and an audio track that works just fine. The special features on this Collector’s Edition are once again a standout aspect, especially with the wonderfully detailed and entertaining Digging In: The Making of Squirm documentary. Squirm fits right in as part of Scream Factory’s ever-growing line of Horror treats, and I enjoyed revisiting the film on this brand new Blu-Ray edition. Recommended!
Blu-Ray Review- Pumpkinhead: Collector’s Edition
Distributor: Scream Factory
Street Date: September 9th 2014
Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Runtime: 86 Minutes
“For each of man’s evils, a special demon exists. You’re looking at vengeance, cruel, devious, pure-as-venom vengeance.”
–Haggis in Pumpkinhead
Released into theaters in 1988, Pumpkinhead remains one of the late, great Stan Winston’s few directorial efforts. Inspired by a creepy poem by Ed Justin, the film received a mixed reaction upon its theatrical release, but thankfully went on to develop a fervent cult following over the years from die-hard fans of the film (myself included). Simply put, it’s one of the best modern day fairy tales with a dark horror twist, and not only features outstanding performances from everyone involved, but one of the scariest creature designs in Horror history.
The opening prologue set in 1957 instantly conjures goose-bumps as we’re introduced to Tom Harley, his wife, and son Ed. Ed watches in horror as his father, shotgun in hand, locks up the horses, bars the door to their home, and waits patiently for something to emerge from the darkness of the woods. Soon a desperate and terrified man is running away from an unseen monster, and begins to pound on the Harley’s door for help. Tom refuses, citing his obligation to protect his family. The monster brutally kills the man as young Ed watches from his bedroom window.
Fast forward to the present day, and Ed Harley (Lance Henriksen) is all grown up, a father himself to his young son Billy. They live on the very same farm that his family has passed down through the years, and run the local Harley & Son Grocery store. They have a wonderful father-son relationship built around unconditional love, daily routines, and story time around the dinner table. One day while tending to the store, a group of dirt-bike racers and their girlfriends from out of town use the dirt paths in the nearby fields to stage some trick jumps for photographs. With Ed having to run back home to grab some feed he promised to a customer, young Billy is left to take care of the store with his dog in tow. When the dog escapes into the dirt-bike racing path, Billy gives chase, getting run over by a dirt bike, and eventually dies from his injuries. Most of the bikers leave the scene, afraid of the consequences that will likely follow.
Heartbroken over the death of his son, and filled with rage toward the bikers, Ed Harley visits a creepy old woman in the middle of the woods who is able to conjure the Pumpkinhead demon from his slumber. Once brought back to life, Pumpkinhead begins to slay the out-of-towners one by one. A guilt-ridden Ed, able to telepathically “experience” the carnage as it happens, moves past his hate and grief to help the young folks in a final battle against Pumpkinhead. That’s all I’m going to say about the film, as this is definitely one you’ll want to experience for yourself.
Revisiting Pumpkinhead on this brand new Blu-Ray edition was an absolute treat! Stan Winston’s direction is masterful, highlighting the Southern Gothic atmosphere with sweat-drenched sunshine and fog-filled moonlight, nearly every scene leaps off the page of a fairy tale. The acting is superb, especially from Lance Henriksen and Matthew Hurley, who truly make an impact on the viewers as we experience their happiness and eventual devastation. I loved the opening moments between father and son; such a touching relationship that enhances the audiences involvement in the terrifying events that follow. The creature design on Pumpkinhead itself remains impressive, and made me smile reminiscing about the good old days of animatronics and practical effects. This is a modern day Horror classic as far as I’m concerned.
As a lifelong fan of Pumpkinhead, my anticipation was high for this Blu-Ray release, and I can say without a doubt that this is the best the film has ever looked on home video. The color grading is especially impressive, with the summer days drenched in golden hues, and the moonlight blues of the humid nights on bold display. The natural film grain has been left intact, and there is an abundance of detail in facial features, clothing, and the slimy skin of Pumpkinhead itself. The transfer is very clean to boot, with artifacts or anomalies to report. As Horror fans, we couldn’t ask for anything more, Pumpkinhead looks great in High Definition!
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is another high point, with dialogue, Richard Stone’s creepy score, and background effects coming through clean and clear on your home theater system. There is a nice balance to everything presented, from the quiet, peaceful opening scenes on Ed and Billy’s property, to the frenetic terror and action of the finale, everything sounds great in High Definition audio.
Scream Factory has provided fans of Pumpkinhead with a fully-loaded Collector’s Edition featuring some truly fantastic bonus material for this Blu-Ray release. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:
- Audio Commentary– Featuring co-screenwriter Gary Gerani, creature & F/X creators Tom Woodruff Jr. and Alec Gillis, and filmmaker/moderator Scott Spiegel, this is one of the better audio commentaries I’ve heard in some time. There is never a dull moment here, the group is talkative, informative, and relate some fun behind-the-scenes anecdotes from the making of the film.
- Pumpkinhead: Unearthed- Split into several chapters and lasting over an hour, this documentary from Red Shirt Pictures and Scream Factory delves into all things Pumpkinhead: from original concepts and design, to screenwriting and Stan Winston’s involvement, and casting to special effects, it doesn’t get any better than this for Horror fans! We also get to hear from the cast including Cynthia Bain, Kerry Remsen, Brian Bremer, Florence Schauffler, and Lance Henriksen among others. I particularly enjoyed Brian Bemer reminiscing about having to do multiple takes because he couldn’t stop laughing when Pumpkinhead found him in the closet. Lance Henriksen also provides some fun stories relating to how he was able to get into his character, from obtaining fake teeth to buying his own props to enhance the realism, he’s always fun to listen to. The ad-libbed line regarding his Grandmother washing his hands is touching. It’s an in-depth and revealing look behind-the-scenes of the production, and the cast and crew share some delightful stories. Great stuff!
- Pumpkinhead: Behind the Scenes- Scream Factory has provided some fascinating footage from the making of the film, including Tom Woodruff Jr. testing out the costume design for the first time, molding and painting the various pieces in the workshop, and testing the final suit with mechanical elements in place. This one runs a little over 7 minutes.
- Night of the Demon (w/Richard Weinman)- This is an extended interview with Richard Weinman (who co-wrote the story) from Red Shirt Pictures. Richard provides us details on his involvement in the film, how the production came to fruition, and some more in-depth details, some that were previously discussed in the aforementioned Unearthed documentary. Runs about 17 minutes.
- The Redemption of Joel (w/John D’Aquino)- One thing is certain, John D’Aquino possesses an anti-aging potion that he needs to bottle, sell, and provide to the masses! The man looks great! This is yet another extended interview from Red Shirt Pictures featuring the actor detailing his involvement in the film, his character’s bad choice and resulting consequences, and much more.
- The Boy with the Glasses (w/Matthew Hurley)- This great extended interview runs about 14 ½ minutes and features Matthew Hurley, who played young Billy Harley in the film. This is probably my favorite featurette on the disc behind the Unearthed documentary. Matthew talks about how he got involved in the film, coming from a Christian background and being involved in a Horror movie, working with Lance Henriksen and Stan Winston, and much more. Billy is such a vital and important character in Pumpkinhead, and it was a treat to listen to Matthew discussing his role as a child actor.
- Demonic Toys- This short segment runs nearly five minutes and features sculptor Jean St. Jean discussing his work on the Pumpkinhead design. He talks issues involving the design itself, including weighing and balancing the different features to make the creature work on film.
- Remembering the Monster Kid: A Tribute to Stan Winston- Lasting nearly 50 minutes, this is another standout documentary from Aine Leicht and Scream Factory involving various industry professionals, actors, and other relevant people remembering Stan Winston and the legendary work he left behind. This is wonderfully edited together, informative, and fun. What a legend!
- Still Gallery- About 14 minutes of production stills from the film in High Definition.
- Theatrical Trailer- I love and miss seeing that U/A logo! The original theatrical trailer for the film gives viewers a fairly good idea of what they’re in for with Pumpkinhead. It’s creepy, intense, and showcases the wonderful cinematography well.
- More from Scream Factory- Vintage trailers for other Scream Factory titles including Motel Hell, Squirm, and Without Warning.
This Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory features newly-commissioned artwork from fan-favorite artist Justin Osbourn on the slip-cover. Simply put, this is one of my all-time favorite pieces of art from their collection. You have Pumpkinhead creeping over the scenery, Lance Henriksen ready for action with pitchfork in hand, and the pumpkin patch graveyard sprawled across the landscape. The coloring is perfect, and the detail is stunning, evoking the ideal atmosphere to accompany this release. On the reverse of the slip, you’ll find a plot synopsis, a listing of special features, technical specifications, and select production stills. Inside the case is the disc artwork as well as a reversible slip-sheet for those that prefer the original theatrical poster design. This is a hauntingly beautiful looking set!
Pumpkinhead is a modern day Horror classic as far as I’m concerned, and revisiting the film on this brand new Blu-Ray edition was an absolute treat! Stan Winston’s direction is masterful, highlighting the Southern Gothic atmosphere with sweat-drenched sunshine and fog-filled moonlight. The creature design is outstanding, and the father-son relationship between Lance Henriksen and Matthew Hurley feels so real in moments of happiness and devastation, making for a twisted fairy tale that comes to life on screen. The picture quality is superb, highlighting the golden summer hues and blue moonlight fog with exceptional clarity, and the HD audio is well balanced and effective. Once again, it’s in the special features department that Scream Factory knocks it out of the park with some truly fantastic documentaries and featurettes. Pumpkinhead kicks off Scream Factory’s Fall Frights in spectacular fashion, and comes highly recommended.
Independent U.S. Distributor Mondo Vision has announced some pretty exciting Blu-Ray news for Horror fans! Later this year, they will be releasing Andrzej Zulawski’s 1981 film Possession in both Limited and Special editions. The unique and bizarre flick stars Isabelle Adjani (Nosferatu the Vampyre) and Sam Niell (Jurassic Park, In The Mouth of Madness). Though it’s hard to fit this film into one specific genre, it absolutely contains elements of Horror.
The most exciting aspect of this announcement for collector’s is the Limited Edition’s packaging, which “features a fully illustrated matte laminated Hardcover Box with magnetic enclosure + a separate Hardcover Slipcase with die-cut window. The slipcase is fully wrapped with import European blue velvet. The die-cut window reveals the original poster art from the magnetic box once the slipcase is on. Silver hot stamping is used throughout the packaging to highlight the title and the credits. Inside of the magnetic box features a foldout matte laminated 6-panel digipak, shiny black trays to hold the Discs + a Hardcover magnetic pocket to store the 84pg booklet and the remaining contents. The silver hot stamping theme is carried throughout the inside.”
This specific set is limited to only 2,000 copies, so rest assured we will update you when it’s available for Pre-Order. In the meantime, here’s the full press release from Mondo Vision:
LIMITED EDITION BLU-RAY RELEASE:
DISC 1: THE FEATURE FILM-
- Digitally Restored 1080p HD Transfer Approved by Director Andrzej Zulawski [124min]
- EXTRAS: [4 Hr. 8 Mins.] [All extras except commentary come with Optional English Subtitles in White or Yellow]
- The Other Side of The Wall: The Making of POSSESSION [52min]
- Audio Commentary with Director Andrzej Zulawski [124min]
- Video Interview with Director Andrzej Zulawski [36min]
- Video Interview with Translator Eric Veaux [22min]
- Theatrical Trailer [3min]
- More from Mondo Vision [11min] [collection of 4 trailers from Andrzej Zulawski films]:
- La Femme Publique
- L’important C’est Da’imer
- La’mour Braque
Disc 2: SOUNDTRACK CD [Digitally Remastered]-
This complete 32 track CD consists of all the music composed for the film, plus additional outtakes that did not make the final cut. Track 32 is a Bonus Track and exclusive to this MONDO VISION edition.
- 84-page Commemorative Booklet – Content rich including 4 Exclusive Essays + Rare and Insightful Archival Essays & Interviews (retranslated and published for the first time ever in English) + Rare Photos and Artwork.
- POSSESSION: A Brief Review By Tom Huddleston, TIME OUT (2012)
- God Figured as a Public Whore Gone Crazy: Notes on Andrzej Zulawski’s POSSESSION (1981), An Essay By Daniel Bird (2009)
- POSSESSION: An Essay By Jeremiah Kipp (2011)
- Pink Socks and Monsters: Excess in Andrzej Zulawski’s POSSESSION: An Essay By Todd Garbarini (2010)
- “Cinema Superactivity”: Extracts From An Interview With Andrzej Zulawski — By Daniel Bird & Stephen Thrower (Spring 1998)
- Double Apocalypse in Berlin: POSSESSION: By Max Tessier (1981)
- Doubles Working in Concert (POSSESSION): By Hubert Niogret (1981)
- POSSESSION by Andrzej Zulawski: By Max Tessier (1981)
- POSSESSION, Andrzej Zulawski: By Carine Varène (1981)
- The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters: By Stephen Thrower (1998)
- 8 [ 5×7 ] U.S. Lobby Card Reproductions Inside Custom Envelope
- 5 [ 4×6 ] Exclusive Art Cards [ Original Paintings Courtesy of French Artist Jean-Philippe Guigou ]
- 1 Japanese Movie Flyer Reproduction
- Individually Numbered Certificate Of Authenticity With Unique Serial # [Only 2000 Individually Numbered Sets Produced]