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Director: Jeff Burr
Cast: Andrew Robinson, Ami Dolenz, Soleil Moon Frye
Length: 88 min
Label: Scream Factory
Release Date: November 18, 2014
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio:English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
- Re-Creating the Beast Newly commissioned featurette with special effects artists Greg Nicotero, Gino Crognale and actor Mark McCraken
- Audio Commentary by director Jeff Burr
- Making Movies: Interview with Jeff Burr
- Behind-the-Scenes Footage (13:16, HD)
“They Couldn’t Leave Dead Enough Alone,” is perhaps either a genius and self-conscious effort on the filmmakers part to mock their own task of unearthing the Pumpkinhead character, or one of the most ill-conceived taglines in cinematic history, and it is in that duality that Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings is thematized. Considering that Pumpkinhead II was produced solely for a VHS release, it is somewhat ironic that 20 years later it is receiving a Blu-Ray re-release. As part of a series of direct-to-video horror sequels that plagued the 80s and 90s and continues with only a stronger vigor in the age of Internet distribution, Pumpkinhead II does represent one of the more interesting of these cash grabs. Written by Ivan and Constantine Chachornia—who don only this film in their credits, and have very little biographical information otherwise available online—and directed by Jeff Burr (Night of the Scarecrow, Leatherface), the film does pick and choose which aspects of Stan Wisnton’s film it wants to honor, but does overall seem to adhere to the basic folklore of the creature. Following a few collected German releases by NSM, Scream Factory offer the first Region A release of the film, presenting the film in a manor that the filmmakers probably never expected the film would be granted—it is safe to say that this is the best way you’ll ever see this film.
At its core, Pumpkinhead II is concerned with the same aspects that the original film was: revenge. Like the original, the film opens during a past event—shot in black and white so its not confuse viewers—, only instead of a cold open that would introduce the creature (buying extra time to develop a working backstory) the film opens on a scene that will prompt the ultimate revenge play. It could be argued, and rather successfully, that Pumpkinhead II is an almost exploited remake of the first film. The backwood hillbilly family and Haggis are supplanted for a sort of deranged, deformed, and perhaps inbred Tommy and Ms Osie. The film opens with Tommy’s brutal murder at the hands of a local greaser gang who believe Tommy to be some sort of monster. To the film’s testament, while ridiculous, the scene is quite disturbing and, even, a bit heartbreaking.What marks the biggest difference between the original film’s trajectory of events, and the sequel’s, is the enacting of revenge. With the cold open, it may be expected that Ms. Osie, who has taken it upon herself to care for Tommy—and is implied to a witch of some sort—would be the one to resurrect ole Pumpkinhead, but it is not, or at least she is bidding her time. Otherwise, Ms. Osie seems to content to live out her days in solitude—that is until she is run down by a group of teenagers, who proceed to set her house on fire, but I am getting ahead of myself. The main events of the film, thus, take place 35 years after the inciting incident. Escaping the danger of the big city, Sean Braddock (Andrew Robinson) has accepted a job as Sherriff of his birthplace, Ferren Woods. It is not long before his daughter, Jenny (Ami Dolenz), falls in line with the ‘bad’ crowd—although bad, here, is used loosely as they certainly don’t live up to the ‘bad boys’ of the original film. The film is thrust into motion when Jenny and her newfound friends accidentally run over Ms. Osie. When they go back to check on her body, however, she is nowhere to be found. The gang, at the behest of Jenny, head to Ms. Osie’s home to check on her condition, but once inside they stumble upon a series of spells that suggest the resurrection of the dead. To cut to the point, the teens enact the spell, which they wrongly believe to be unsuccessful, and in the process accidentally light Ms. Osie’s house on fire with her still inside. The rest of the film plays out in typical Pumpkinhead fashion, with the creature methodically tracking down its victims, one-by-one. There is a sort of give-take to the sequel’s relation to the original. Overall, as mentioned, the film seems to honor the basic tenets of Pumpkinhead, with two strange derisions. The first is that Pumpkinhead now takes it upon itself to paint wings with blood at the scene of its crimes. Other than adding a nice ringing subtitle to the film, it is arguable that this aspect adds nothing to the narrative—to be fair, it doesn’t really detract either though. The second, and perhaps more egregious, determent is that Pumpkinhead is no longer possessed by the spirit of the person who resurrected it, but by the spirit of the deceased Tommy. This changes a major component of the thematic nature of the film. Whereas the first film is a sort of mediation on the ways in which lust for revenge can transform us into monsters, the second film is far more of a typical creature fare.
As for direction, I would argue that Jeff Burr is a far more competent director than Winston in regards to technicality. Pumpkinhead’s movements feel less stiff and there is generally a better sense of tension created by adequate cutting and pacing. Where Burr fails is in set design. With the original, Winston developed a visual world that matches the film’s dark tone; a blend of the supernatural and real. Burr’s vision, perhaps because of stricter budget, is more conventional and striped down. As far as creature design is concerned, the sequel is faithful to original film. The only noticeable blunder is the film’s finale, where everything sort of falls apart and the strings of the mechanism (to put it quite literally) are exposed—but in the best way possible. The tone of this film is far more comical than the first, it seems aware of itself, completely understanding its limited nature. In that light, this is a movie that you have fun with, not one you try to take seriously. It could be argued that the original rides the line between camp and serious horror too hard, and that Blood Wings is smarter by fully engaging in the camp sensibilities.Video
Originally intended for VHS, there is only so much you can do with this release. That is not to say that it is in any way a bad transfer, in fact the opposite, it is a surprisingly pleasing 1080 1.85:1 presentation of the film. The fact is that it would seem like there wasn’t a great deal of time spent on the visual nature of the film itself, leaving there only so much to be done with the filmic evidence. Colors are natural and contrast is fine, but there is still a somewhat cold low budget feel to the film—something that no amount of restoration can do away with. With that said, there are no attempts to beautify the film digitally, leaving a faithful and adequate representation of a movie with a specific intent.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track is a satisfactory representation of the aural elements on display. Not a ton to note here. Good balance between dialogue, sound effects, and score, and no age related issues on display.
Probably the piece that fans of the film will be most excited about is the newly commissioned featurette, Re-Creating the Beast, which includes interviews with special effects crew Greg Nicotero and Gino Crognale and actor Mark McCraken. A nice companion to the pieces that appeared on the Pumpkinhead Blu-Ray with Winston’s crew, the aptly titled Re-Creating the Beast serves to highlight the process of re-envisioning Pumpkinhead. There are additional features ported over from various releases including an hour-long interview with Jeff Burr, Making Movies, and a feature length commentary track, as well as some behind the scenes footage. Making Movies, while perhaps a tad too long, has some great moments with Burr where you can really get a sense that he is a man that loves cinema and, while he may be a bit upset that he has been pigeonholed into the direct-to-video style horror world, he doesn’t lose the love for his work.
There are only so many people that will find pleasure in Pumpkinhead II, but they are our people; people that go to midnight screenings, people that appreciate good cheese. At the same time that Blood Wings differs from the original in a drastic manner, it pays homage to Winston’s concept. Those who enjoy Winston’s film will no doubt find some form of entertainment in the sequel, and further, those who found Winston’s film to be a bit dry might take to the sequel a bit better, as it is no doubt more lighthearted. The bottom line is, only companies like Scream Factory would dedicate this kind of time and effort to a film like Blood Wings, when by all means this a film that was not envisioned to stand the test of time. So pick up the disc, call over a bunch of friends, and enjoy.