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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Pumpkinhead: Ashes to Ashes
Pumpkinhead: Ashes to Ashes
Sony Pictures // R // March 27, 2007
List Price: $24.96 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted March 14, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Stan Winston's 1989 creature feature, Pumpkinhead, was a pretty solid little monster movie. Sure, it was far from perfect but it had some great southern gothic atmosphere and a fun performance from Lance Henriksen in the lead role. In 1994, director Jeff Burr, the man behind Texas Chainsaw Massacre III: Leatherface tossed out a sequel named Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings starring Soleil Moon Frye (yes, Punky Brewster) but the less said about that film the better. The most recent film in the franchise, 2006's Pumpkinhead – Ashes To Ashes, from Jake West, completely disregards Blood Wings (not a bad thing, mind you) and instead picks up roughly two decades after the events that closed the first movie.

The film starts in a small southern town two decades after Ed Harley (Lance Henriksen) has died. Doc Fraser (Doug Bradley of Hellraiser doing a southern accent!) and a few of his cohorts decide that they can make some decent cash by taking the organs out of the bodies that they are entrusted with and selling them to the highest bidder, dumping the bodies in the nearby swamp so that no one will find them. A local woman named Molly Sue Allen (Tess Panzer) is shocked to learn that her late, lamented son was one of the corpses that these nefarious scoundrels pillaged, and she and the rest of the town naturally want to pay them back for what they've done to their loved ones.

A few of the villagers leave the town and go into the woods to find an old witch named Haggis (Lynne Verrall), who they convince to help them raise up the demon known as Pumpkinhead to exact their revenge on Fraser and company. The villagers don't realize the dire circumstances they've created for themselves until it's too late and the demon goes on the killing spree he's been waiting twenty years to enjoy.

While the premise of the movie is very much in keeping with the first movie, there are some very serious problems with this film. First off, the movie was shot in Romania on a very cheap budget. While Romanian locations have worked really well for some productions, sadly that is not the case here where we're supposed to believe that the action is taking place in the deep south of the United States. Many of the supporting actors and actresses are of Romanian descent and because of this they've been dubbed, and poorly, with wonky southern accents that don't really fit their appearance and which stick out like a sore thumb. Had this production been shot on location in the south, it probably would have made a world of difference.

If that weren't bad enough, the effects for the movie are bad. Not mediocre, but legitimately bad. In the scenes where Pumpkinhead is played by an actor in a rubber suit, things don't go too horribly but unfortunately there are way too many scenes where the monster is rendered in very low budget CGI and the end result is something that looks like it was taken from a first generation Resident Evil game from ten years ago. These horrible CGI inserts, when combined with the ineffective Romanian locations, make it extremely difficult to suspend your disbelief which renders the reasonably decent storyline completely sterile.

As far as the performances go, Henriksen is really only in the movie for a few minutes, appearing as a ghost in what is very much a bit part – a shame considering that his performance was a big part of what made the first movie work and that he's a very decent actor when given good material. Doug Bradley does fine as the film's main villain but seeing the man we all know and love as Pinhead doing a southern accent is strange. Through now fault of his own, those who know him as a British actor may have trouble buying him in this part. The rest of the key cast members aren't bad, though Verrall is obviously acting underneath pounds of make up to make her look like an old woman, which is odd when they probably just as easily could have cast a genuinely old woman in the part, saved some effects dollars and had a more believable looking witch at the same time.

The movie is paced well, it has that going for it, and there are a couple of mediocre kill scenes that, while not insanely gory, are at least amusing. That's not enough to save this film, unfortunately. The movie was shot back to back with the upcoming Pumpkinhead – Blood Feud, due to debut on the Sci-Fi Channel (just as this movie did) later this year where Henriksen is supposed to reprise his role as Ed Harley a third time. Let's hope for a better movie than this one.

The DVD

Video:

Pumpkinhead – Ashes To Ashes arrives on DVD in a nice 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. There are a few darker scenes that exhibit some mild compression artifacts and a few other scenes that are a bit on the soft side but aside from that, this transfer doesn't leave much to complain about. Color reproduction is decent and more often than not the black levels are strong. Flesh tones look lifelike and natural and detail levels in both the foreground and the background of the picture are fine. Some edge enhancement can be spotted if you look for it but it's kept to a minimum.

Sound:

Audio options are provided in English and Portuguese language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound tracks and a French Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround track. Optional subtitles are available in English, French, Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese and Spanish. The quality of the English language track is fine and there are no problems with hiss or distortion to report. Surround activity isn't as intense or frequent as it probably should have been but the rear channels do kick in whenever the monster begins to wreak havoc. The rather unremarkable score sounds clean and clear and everything is properly balanced ensuring that the performers don't get buried by the effects or the music. Bass response is decent if not amazing. The alternate language tracks are of similar quality.

Extras:

Aside from some menus and chapter selection, the only extra features are a few trailers for other Sony DVDs that play before you get to the main menu screen. Aside from that, this release is completely barebones.

Final Thoughts:

While it was keen to see Lance reprising his role from the first film, Pumpkinhead – Ashes To Ashes unfortunately smells of cheap, shoddy filmmaking. Even by low budget standards the effects are poor and the story isn't interesting enough to allow us to overlook that. Sony's DVD looks and sounds just fine but there are no extra features to add any value making the $24.96 M.S.R.P. unreasonably high. Skip it.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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