Blu-ray Review Round-Up: “DEAD END DRIVE-IN”, “IT”, More…


Now that their Summer is coming to a close, boutique horror labels are breaking out the big guns to bring Halloween early to Blu-ray collectors. With an impressive line-up of cult classics from distributors such as Arrow Video, Scream Factory, and more , FANGORIA has rounded up the latest releases so that devoted fright fans can better decide which horror offerings are best suited for their home media collection…


In Brian Trenchard-Smith’s satirical tale of anarchy and Social Darwinism, an unsuspecting couple winds up in a makeshift prison after a trip to the Drive-In, forced to fend off an array of undesirables on a strict diet of booze, drugs, and grindhouse movies. In the vein of Alex Cox’s REPO MAN but with a relentless chaotic energy, this Ozploitation classic has been a cult favorite for thirty years, and now, the film is getting it’s due diligence on Blu-ray, with Arrow Video offering a loaded Blu-ray release for DEAD END DRIVE-IN!

Complete with a gorgeous 2K transfer, Arrow put together one hell of a disc for DEAD END DRIVE-IN, guarantee to please even the pickiest of Blu-ray collectors. Perhaps the crown jewel of the package is that of HOSPITALS DON’T BURN DOWN, Trenchard-Smith’s tongue-in-cheek public service film that could stand proudly among his eccentric, insane filmography. The disc also includes THE STUNTMEN, a documentary on Australian film stuntmen from Trenchard-Smith, an Audio Commentary from the prolific filmmaker, a behind-the-scenes photo gallery from Vladimir Cherepanoff, and more. If you’re a fan of the film or Ozploitation cinema in general, you’ll likely never do better than Arrow’s DEAD END DRIVE-IN Blu-ray, and with all the bonus content on display, it’s worth every penny.



Perhaps one of the most anticipated Blu-ray discs of 2016, STEPHEN KING’S IT adaptation has finally reached the high-def format courtesy of Warner Brothers. For those unfamiliar with the film, originally serving as a television mini-series, IT follows a group of troubled yet successful adults who learn that an ancient evil they defeated as children has returned to their home town of Derry, MA. In the wake of their fragile psyches and division amongst them, will these unlikely heroes be able to defeat this evil once more or will this monstrous presence have its revenge?

For fans of the fright film, the good news is that STEPHEN KING’S IT looks absolutely stunning on Blu-ray, with the cinematography and camerawork truly standing out. Sadly, the disc is also fairly barebones, save for a sole, ported-over commentary with Wallace and select cast members. Furthermore, IT is also edited as one long film rather than it’s original two-part presentation, which might throw off those who previously watched the film via 2-Disc DVD. Nonetheless, if you love IT and Tim Curry’s iconic turn as Pennywise, this is a must-buy disc for the incredible 1080p transfer alone.



Once again, Scream Factory comes out swinging with another fantastic Collector’s Edition Blu-ray, this time offering the definitive disc of Brian DePalma’s RAISING CAIN. Featuring a tour-de-force performance from John Lithgow, RAISING CAIN follows a murderous schizophrenic who learns of his wife’s infidelity and attempts to kill her. However, the wife survives the attack, and learns the true nature behind her husband, as well as his perturbing past with his child psychologist father. Now with her child missing and the schizophrenic more dangerous than ever, the wife races against time to save the ones she loves the most.

Not only does Scream Factory offer up this intense thriller in high definition, but the boutique label goes above and beyond to provide fans of the film a truly worthwhile Blu-ray release. Perhaps most alluring for fans is the newly minted “Director’s Cut,” with the film re-edited to fit DePalma’s original narrative vision for the film, as well as a pair of features focusing on this new cut as well as the restoration process. The disc also features the theatrical cut and interviews with the cast and crew, including Lithgow, who remembers the role and his working process with DePalma fondly.



Another new Stephen King release from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment, Lewis Teague’s underrated King-centric anthology CAT’S EYE has also been given the Blu-ray treatment. The film follows three stories from King’s catalogue: “Quitter’s, Inc,” which follows a man whose desire to quit smoking gets him in over his head with a mafia-run rehabilitation program; “The Ledge,” in which a rich cuckold offers a deadly ultimatum to the down-and-out sport’s star sleeping with his wife; and “General,” where a cat squares off against a troll that aims to murder its newfound owner.

As a film, CAT’S EYE is an extremely fun flick to revisit, with excellent performances by James Woods, Robert Hayes, Kenneth McMillan, Candy Clark, James Naughton, and Alan King fueling the imaginative stories and FX work. Likewise, Warner Brothers offers yet another great transfer, with the film having never looked better than it does on Blu-ray. Unfortunately, the disc is also relatively barebones, with only a ported-over commentary from Teague and the original theatrical trailer attached. Nevertheless, if you’re a Stephen King completist or a fan of this quirky anthology, this CAT’S EYE Blu-ray will make a suitable addition to your collection.



Umbrella Entertainment is doing some saintly work for genre fans these days, as the Australian-based company is following their fantastic ROAD GAMES Blu-ray release with another cult classic worthy of re-examination: Mark Goldblatt’s THE PUNISHER! A loose adaptation of the beloved Marvel comics character, THE PUNISHER follows Frank Castle going up against a new international threat that puts him and the mafia in danger, forcing an uneasy alliance between the two in which all bets are off. Produced by the Corman-led New World Pictures, this 1989 Dolph Lundgren vehicle is an incredibly fun, extremely violent, and wonderfully over-the-top action film that offers everything one can love about ’80s action films, as well as some surprisingly adept technical skill as well.

But above all else, Umbrella Entertainment has given THE PUNISHER an end-all, be-all Blu-ray release, featuring both the Unrated and Workprint Cuts of the film as well as a slew of special features. On top of an audio commentary of the Unrated Cut from Goldblatt, the disc also features brand new, exclusive interviews with Lundgren and Goldblatt, as well as a vintage gag reel and reversible cover art. If you’re a fan of this gore-hungry Marvel anti-hero, or just love outrageous ’80s cinema in general, this region-free release deserves your attention.



Warner Brother’s trio of Stephen King Blu-ray releases is rounded out by Tobe Hooper’s macabre mini-series adaptation of SALEM’S LOT. The film follows the quiet town of Salem’s Lot, which begins to befall tragedy after tragedy following the arrival of two eccentric, reclusive businessmen. Soon, the town learns that there’s a bloodthirsty, evil force behind these tragedies, and it’s up to a brave few to stand up to these supernatural villains before its too late.

If you’re a fan of Tobe Hooper’s odd yet intense brand of storytelling, SALEM’S LOT should be right up your alley, even if the pacing of the film doesn’t quite age as well as its FX or cinematography. But that said, SALEM’S LOT is jaw-droppingly beautiful on Blu-ray, with the film looking as clear as day, even as much as to make Kurt Barlow even more terrifying in high definition. And for fans of SALEM’S LOT, Warner Brothers has even featured a brand new commentary from Hooper himself, giving this release a head-up on the other King Blu-rays. Check it out!

About the author
Ken W. Hanley

Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel “THE I IN EVIL”, and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.

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