Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Scream Factory
Directed by Jeff Burr
Written by Ivan and Constantine Chachornia
1993, Region A, 88 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on November 18th, 2014
Andrew Robinson as Sheriff Braddock
Ami Dolenz as Jenny
Soleil Moon Frye as Marcie
J. Trevor Edmond as Danny
Gloria Hendry as Delilah Pettibone
Steve Kanaly as Judge Dixon
Roger Clinton as Mayor Bubba
R.A. Mihailoff as Red Byers
Linnea Quigley as Nadine
Kane Hodder as Keith Knox
Jenny Braddock is the new girl in town and she immediately hooks up with the wrong crowd, or so her father, the sheriff, believes. She starts dating “bad boy” Danny, the leader of a group of suburban dipshit teens including Peter, Paul and Marcie, who are desperate to be rebels. They drink beer and smoke pot and cruise around town in a flashy red convertible looking for fun times. The sheriff doesn't like his daughter’s friends, but, since Danny is the son of a judge, he is forced to play nice while establishing working relationships with local officials.
One night while out partying, our gang of hooligans accidentally hits an old woman in the road, but in a nifty twist, they actually stop to see if she's okay. They try to help her but get sidetracked by stealing from her instead. Things go from bad to worse and before you know it, she's dead and the demon known as Pumpkinhead is summoned to get revenge. Something is different this time around, however, as the monster goes after a seemingly random group of local adults before turning its attention on the kids. What is going on here and why does the town mayor look so much like President Clinton's brother, Roger?
Forget everything you think you know about a creature named Pumpkinhead, because as the poster tag-line tells us “Vengeance Never Dies”. This is indeed a killing spree unlike any we have previously witnessed, not because the demon is unpredictable, but more likely because the screenwriters this time around completely ignored the original Pumpkinhead. Apparently, anyone can now summon the monster whether they believe in him (or have even heard of him for that matter) or not, and once risen he can settle earlier scores before tending to new business. Perhaps most disturbing is the clumsy relationship between the creature and a deformed boy named Tommy. There are a lot of possibilities to explore the myth of the legendary monster, but this sequel drops the ball at every opportunity.
I don't believe Stan Winston intended his creation to spark a franchise, but three sequels have done nothing to dispel the fear that the man is probably rolling in his grave. Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings is a sloppy movie written by Ivan and Constantine Chachornia that has taken an original (unrelated) script and shoehorned in the titular character. Forcing the two plots together is a weak cash grab that cheapens what the first film did so well and simply drains the magic out of the fairy tale. Sequel director Jeff Burr (The Offspring) reveals on his commentary track that he did what he could with the material, but the job was a work for hire, and he had no creative input on the script, as pre-production had already begun. It is a shame more time wasn't provided for developing a stronger story, since Burr really delivers with what he is given, but it's too little, too late. Budgetary restrictions also hinder the work, as the entire film lacks the visual style of the original picture.
The cast is a bit all over the place in terms of performance, but there are no real stinkers in the bunch. The always reliable Andrew Robinson (Dirty Harry) does a fine job as Sheriff Braddock, protective father and authority figure in way over his head, trying to solve a mystery without a police force. Gloria Hendry (Live and Let Die) plays Delilah Pettibone, the coroner who stands in as general medical authority and de facto deputy, the only person in town Braddock can rely on. Beautiful Ami Dolenz (Witchboard 2) is endearing as daughter Jenny, whose only crime here is falling for the rebellious hunk, Danny (J. Trevor Edmond, Return of the Living Dead 3). Genre fans will be happy to see cameo appearances by Kane Hodder (Jason X), Linnea Quigley (Night of the Demons) and R.A. Mihailoff (Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III) as local victims. Stunt casting Roger Clinton as the town mayor is a stroke of genius in a picture like this, but he is completely underutilized. Clinton smiles his way through the part and is comically talented, but if you're tossing in a non-actor of his stature, I would have preferred him in the lead role fighting Pumpkinhead.
As much as I beat up on Pumpkinhead II, it really isn't a terrible experience and honestly, if you’re going to watch a sequel in this franchise, this is the only one you need to bother with, as the later installments feature a shoddy CGI beastie. On its own, the film has some nice moments and horror fans looking for a body count will definitely find one here, along with some nifty creature work by KNB EFX Group. Viewers nostalgic for the early 1990s will appreciate the awkward fashion styles and also be treated to a supporting role turn by TV's Punky Brewster (Soleil Moon Frye) as one of the troublesome teens. Don't worry if you haven't seen the first flick; apparently the writers didn't either.
Video and Audio:
Pumpkinhead II is finally presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and looks quite nice given that all previous releases were open matte, revealing several shots of the creature wearing tennis shoes. Picture quality is strong and both colors and flesh tones appear natural, though with the new image clarity budget limitations are more apparent. There is plenty of small-object detail and despite an occasional bit of soft focus, the film looks terrific.
The DTS-HD 2.0 track is not too overbearing, but gets the job done. Dialogue remains clear and free from distortion while music and effects tracks remain active throughout.
English subtitles are provided for anyone in need.
The audio commentary with Jeff Burr is an engaging discussion that is similar to the one that appeared on the previous DVD (although, sadly, the original track is not included here). Burr has a lot to say and wastes little time, with a rapid-fire delivery of information that is definitely worth checking out. There are a few gaps of silence as he watches the film, but once he gets into a story, the info again flows quickly.
Making Movies with Jeff Burr (62 minutes) is as informative and entertaining as the commentary. Burr has worked on a lot of difficult productions and is candid in his willingness to share the highs and lows of being an independent film director.
Re-creating the Monster (33 minutes) is a new retrospective piece with make-up artists Greg Nicotero and Gino Cragnale, joined by Pumpkinhead performer Mark McCracken. The trio have a lot of fond memories of their time on the production and reveal many giddy moments, as laughter and pranks at one point got them removed from set. Fun stuff indeed and definitely a highlight of this disc.
A collection of behind-the-scenes footage (17 minutes) shot on set during production gives another look at the making of this film.
Missing from this release is the Earning your Blood Wings featurette that graced the Lions Gate DVD, so fans will want to hang on to that disc.
The original trailer rounds out the special features on this disc.
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