Those who know quality home video are well acquainted with the company known as Shout! Factory. Over the years they’ve given us everything from “Mystery Science Theater 3000” to “Freaks and Geeks” to a great line of old Roger Corman features – but earlier this year they unveiled their “Scream Factory” initiative, and to say it’s been a success among horror fans would be a massive understatement. Prior to June of 2013, the Scream Factory squad had already given us fantastic releases of horror films like From Beyond, The Funhouse, Halloween 2, Halloween 3, They Live, and (a personal favorite) The Island – but this summer they officially became “the horror geek’s answer to the Criterion Collection.” Let’s take a look at the Blu-ray goods.
Lifeforce: Tobe Hooper’s oft-maligned but very cult-fan-friendly sci-fi horror film finally gets the Blu-ray treatment it deserves – complete with the considerably longer “UK version,” which makes a pretty outlandish film feel just a little more logical. But not much. It’s still an end-of-the-world gore-fest with one amazingly naked lady. Also it was based on a book called “Space Vampires,” so already you know it’s a good film. Extras include two audio commentary, several new interviews, and lots of archival treats. This is probably my favorite of all the Scream Factory releases I’ve gotten my eyeballs on.
The Howling: 1981 was certainly big for werewolf movies. There was the brilliant An American Werewolf in London, the strange but compelling Wolfen, the pretty wretched comedy Full Moon High, and this one: Joe Dante’s tongue-in-cheek werewolf classic that still holds up today, despite some somewhat outdated plot themes. (Do people still do “self help groups” like EST?) Even if you don’t get all the jokes, the scary stuff is still aces, the special effects are stellar, and that finale still holds a colorful little punch. Extras include an commentary with Joe Dante and some of his cast, an excellent multi-section “making-of” documentary, and a few little bells and whistles for the werewolf junkies.
The Fog: John Carpenter’s old-fashioned ghost story about 100-year-old leper ghosts who invade a seaside town is not often mentioned alongside classics like Halloween, Escape from New York, and The Thing, but it’s still one of my favorite movies from one of my favorite filmmakers. Maybe it’s the cast (which includes Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Janet Leigh), maybe it’s the old-school tone, or maybe it’s one of Carpenter’s finest musical scores…nah. The Fog just scared the crap out of me as a kid, and even though I can’t help but see it as an adult these days, my affection for the film has never waned. Extras include a new commentary and featurettes, plus all of the old supplements from the old MGM DVD release, including an excellent commentary track between director John Carpenter and the late Debra Hill.
The Incredible Melting Man: From a film I truly adore to one I had some serious trouble sitting through. Hey, at least Scream Factory isn’t predictable. The only SF title to also earn its own “Mystery Science Theater 3000” episode, The Incredible Melting Man is about an astronaut who returns home on Earth…and starts melting. It’s really laughable stuff, sorry to say, aside from fascinatingly goopy early FX work from the now-legendary Rick Baker. Fans of this goofball turkey will be pleased to note that the Blu-ray contains a director’s commentary and some new interviews with some effects artists you just might recognize. Or at least their names.
Swamp Thing: Think you’ve seen all of the big-screen DC Comics adaptations? Not if you haven’t seen Wes Craven’s 1982 rendition of the half-plant/half-man evil-puncher. No, it’s not exactly a horror film, but it has a few monsters and a solid comic book vibe, so we’ll include it anyway. Extras include a pair of audio commentaries and some cast and crew interviews. [Read our interview with Swamp Thing creator Len Wein from SDCC ’13 here.]
Dark Angel: Better known in America as “I Come in Peace,” this cheesy cable channel favorite stars Dolph Lundgren and Brian Benben as cops who are trying to take down an evil alien invader who also seems to be sort of intergalactic drug dealer. It’s pretty wacky. Cast interviews are included, but alas, no commentary. You’ll get over it.
Q: The Winged Serpent: If you love horror flicks, you must know who Larry Cohen is by now. The Stuff? It’s Alive? Dozens of other things? Go look the man up. Meanwhile, here’s one of most entertaining films. As the title plainly suggests, it’s about a giant demon who invades New York City and eats a whole lot of people. Michael Moriarty is a very droll hero would steal the whole show were it not for some lovely old stop-motion creature effects. This is a perfect example of the kind of film Scream Factory exists for, and hey, they even got a new audio commentary from Mr. Cohen himself…which I will enjoy this weekend!
X-Ray / Schizoid double feature: Neither of these are classics, but hell, if you wanted to see Hospital Massacre or Klaus Kinski on Blu-ray, here’s your chance. Not every horror flick can be a classic, and it’s cool to see Scream Factory go “2-for-1” on some of these titles. (Like they could have done with Dark Angel and Melting Man!) But why second guess this fantastic company, which seems like a shrieking love child of Criterion and Anchor Bay? Based on the care and effort they’ve put into horror films that many other distributors would consider junk, I’m simply a huge fan of everyone at Scream Factory.
And what do they have coming soon? Oh, only these: Day of the Dead! Prince of Darkness! Psycho 2 and Psycho 3! The original Amityville trilogy! Witchboard! Night of the Demons! Body Bags! Night of the Comet! They just keep coming!
(Special note: Scream Factory also released two brand-new thrillers this summer. Tower Block and Cockneys vs. Zombies, both of which were penned by my pal James Moran. That’s a weird coincidence, but one I certainly don’t mind mentioning.)
For info, geeky horror fun, and to request your favorite ’80s horror titles, check out the Scream Factory Facebook page right here. Tell ’em Weinberg sent you.
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