Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings (Blu-ray Review)

Pumpkinhead 2Oh Pumpkinhead II, I remember the first time I saw you quite well.  I am a big fan of the first film, one of the last great practical effects monsters ever created.  My uncle had bought me the VHS for my birthday and I had no clue what was coming and I was really taken by it.  Its a hard movie to watch being a father now, but I can still tough it out (I just see that gut punch as making the film even stronger).  Pumpkinhead II was straight to video, but I first saw it when it was the big Cinemax Friday Night premiere in the fall of 1994.  Funny thing is, we didn’t even really have Cinemax.  After a thunderstorm one night we suddenly got the channel slightly fuzzy, but really you could see everything going on.  I remember telling my friends that I couldn’t do anything that night because I was staying in to watch Pumpkinhead II.  My VCR was even set to record so I could watch again and again.  Yup, this sequel was a big deal to me at the time.  And I couldn’t have been the only one, I mean they did make a video game for this movie, too.  Who remembers that?.

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Back in the 1950s there was a boy named Tommy, a mongoloid looking kid who is apparently the spawn of Pumpkinhead.  Some greasers come by and pick on him, they take it too far and he winds up dead in a well.  Lets zip ahead to 1994, where Sheriff Braddock and his family are moving back to town.  His daughter winds up in an I Know What You Did Last Summer hit and run situation with her boyfriend and friends as they hit Mrs. Osie, the woman who used to take care of Tommy who we saw in the beginning.   Mrs. Osie retreats to her cabin where she casts a spell to raise Tommy as Pumpkinhead.  Pumpkinhead then seeks out the boys who were responsible for his murder 35 years ago.

As Jeff Burr states in the interview on the bonus material, this is very much an “anthology sequel”.  Where you’re sort of doing the same thing in theme again, but with different surroundings and details.  There is stuff in this movie that goes against what we had in the first film and sort of lightens or cheapens its values.  There’s more mythology behind the monster that is Pumpkinhead in the first film, but really you could watch this sequel and be perfectly fine understanding it all.  Its really its own beast and probably should be looked upon that way when tying continuity to the original gets to be too much.

Blood Wings is a much cheaper film and I hate to say it, but it sort of shows.  This stood out to me back when first I saw it too.  To defend the film though, this was a completely different territory.  Its a straight-to-video movie and not a film planned for a bigger theatrical release.  The film stock looks cheaper, Pumpkinhead at times looks more of a guy in a suit than a real life monster and some of the performers are subpar.  And while this story does carry that sort of “raise him for revenge” ideal, its taken and used a bit differently than the first film.  There’s a lot less effort to it.

Maybe its just me, but I got a real Stephen King vibe off of this one.  And it also has the aesthetic of some of his TV movies as well.  The opening in black and white where the evil greasers pick on and eventually kill Tommy feels very much right out of the King universe and he was always prone to have evil 50s greasers in a lot of his works.  Then you have the killer coming back to take down the adult versions of those who wronged him which is a theme in a I believe more than one of his works.  I’ll tell you what one it really reminded me of a lot was that of his Sometimes They Come Back story, except I guess this one might be more in the line of something like Sometimes Tommy Comes Back…As Pumpkinhead.

This cast is kind of a mixed bag, but overall when you see someone like Roger Clinton (Yes, Bill’s brother) show up in the film as the mayor…you know you can’t take this movie all too seriously.  Ami Dolenz is our lead gal here and swoon…she’s totally 90s crush right there between this and Witchboard 2.  Playing one of her friends is none other than Punky Brewster herself, Soleil Moon Frye.  Which at the time this was a big deal and one of things, aside from ‘ol mullet king Roger Clinton, that got this movie attention.  Horror wasn’t a very highly respected acting choice back in the day and this was a step in her separating herself from her child stardom.  I know young ones today are like Soleil Moon…what was that again?  But in my youth, the girl was a big deal.  Leading the adults is a fave of mine, Andrew Robinson.  He’s all right, although at the climax of the film, he gets pretty bad and it might be some poor ADR work.  And I can’t forget the beautiful Linnea Quigley who stops by for a scene to do what she does best!  Wish she would have had a bigger role, but I’ll take what they gave me.

There are things to like about this film, but overall its a rather weak film.  It features some fun “not giving a crap” monster work as they’re not afraid to flaunt their Pumpkinhead (But, I swear they’re reusing footage from the first in a couple areas.  Also it does bring in a bit of a sense of humor with its violence too.  And, there are a couple REALLY awesome kills.  Especially when Pumpkinhead just sort of pops this guy’s head off.  It still looks pretty awesome too.  However, the acting and execution in some areas is pretty poor.  There’s also this weird off look to some scenes that just make it a little difficult to ever get it to a level of taking it really completely seriously as suspenseful horror.  Personally, I have a nostalgia for the film and don’t mind watching it from time to time or following up the original with it.  But I do recognize it as being pretty subpar.  To its credit though, its subpar but I still view it no problem and with some enjoyment, so take what you will with that.

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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail:  This one looks especially good, and even more so because its a 90s straight-to-video feature.  There’s some really good clarity and solid detail abound in the picture.  This might be to its dismay though, being in glorious HD, because in several scenes it was pretty easy to make out some of the wire work being used for effects and creature movements.

Depth:  Solid dimensional work.  Many of the scenes in the forest provide plenty of foreground and background distancing and clarity.

Black Levels:  Blacks are inky and provide an enhancement to the spooky atmosphere.  The nighttime scenes are actually really well defined and feature some excellent shading.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are bold and pop.  While the film leans upon fall colors, its blues and reds stand out quite nicely.

Flesh Tones:  Flesh tones are natural and consistent.  Detail is solid throughout.

Noise/Artifacts:  Shockingly clean as can be.  This print and transfer is in great shape.

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Audio Format(s): English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics:  Pumpkinhead II may only use two of your speakers, but that’s all it needs.  This one is loud and action packed.  It even contains some really well produced lower frequency portions that’ll make you forget your subwoofer isn’t active.  There’s a great individual blend of effects, voice and score that produces a nice loose and lively sound.

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Loud and clear.  A couple lines featured a hint of peaking, but other than that this is a very clean track.

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Pumpkinhead II:  Blood Wings comes with reverse artwork featuring another VHS cover image.  I must mention, while this is not a Collector’s Edition, its a pretty impressive little group of extras.  Even moreso than the most recent Collector’s Edition of Squirm had to offer.

Audio Commentary

  • With Director Jeff Burr – This is ported over from the previous DVD release of the film

Interview With Director Jeff Burr (HD, 1:02:01) – The director touches a little bit on the other notable genre films in his career and being a part of it, but he gives a very honest and detailed recollection on every aspect of this film.  The interview features stills as well as VHS behind the scenes footage.

Re-Creating The Monster – Interview With Special Effects Artists Greg Nicotero, Gino Crognale and Actor Mark McCracken (HD, 32:39) – The effects men as well as the actor who played Pumpkinhead in the film have a nice little retrospective on shooting the film from their perspective.  Like the Jeff Burr interview, there are stills and behind the scenes footage that plays during the retrospective.

Behind The Scenes Footage (HD, 17:24) – This is all of that behind the scenes VHS footage in its full form.  Pretty awesome to see the shooting of a big monster film like this.

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 Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings is a nice little bit of nostalgia tripping for me.  I find it to be a bad movie that I can still have myself some fun with.  Plus we have Ami Dolenz here in HD.  Speaking of, this has a rather impressive video transfer and a stunning 2.0 audio track that make for one hell of a good Pumpkinhead II presentation.  Tacking on the the already impressive release is the interviews supplied along with some groovy home movie footage of shooting effects shots.  You also get the commentary ported over from a previous release.  Folks, this may not say it on the cover, but its pretty much as good as some of the Collector’s Editions Scream Factory is putting out.  Definitely pick it up!

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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