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.
Blu-ray Review Round-Up: “WAXWORK”, “VAMP”, “THE THING”, More…Movies/TV,News,Reviews Ken W. Hanley
Now that Halloween is around the corner, fright fans are breaking out the big guns for their essential seasonal viewing. With an impressive line-up of cult classics and new releases now hitting shelves nationwide, 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…
WAXWORK I & II: LOST IN TIME
The latest release from the recently revived Vestron Video imprint, this double helping of WAXWORK films have been long anticipated by horror fans with an affection for this bonkers late night cable staple. As worthwhile as the films are on their own merits, which follow teenagers who come into contact with an interdimensional wax museum powered by souls, Vestron went all out to bring these titles to the high-definition format in which will likely be their definitive release.
Luckily, this WAXWORK double feature looks and sounds great, with a solid audio and video transfer that is a boon to those who have only seen the flick in standard definition. However, Vestron’s secret weapon in this release is their array of special features: while WAXWORK II is a bit sparse, with a Music Video and Isolated score, both films feature fun audio commentaries from Anthony Hickox and Zach Galligan, and the WAXWORK disc offers an incredible, newly produced 80+ minute retrospective documentary as well as nearly 25 minutes of archival footage. A great film deserving of a great release, this WAXWORK double-feature Blu-ray comes highly recommended for Halloween viewing.
There’s much hesitation among fright fans regarding “double dipping,” which is buying multiple copies of a film on the same format. Sometimes, it’s the difference between an extras-packed collector’s edition and a barebones studio release, and other times, it’s as small as collectible packaging. Yet even those who own previous Blu-rays of Brian DePalma’s CARRIE have to bow down to Scream Factory’s simply kick-ass new Blu release, which blows all previous home media iterations out of the water.
Complete with a brand new 4K scan, this release of CARRIE is insanely gorgeous, capturing a crystal clarity while retaining enough original grain to feel authentic. But in one of the most collector-friendly sets of 2016, Scream Factory gets high marks for their supplemental disc, which features a comprehensive look at almost every aspect of CARRIE, from the script, the performers, cinematography, editing, and score, with newly produced and archival interviews that compile to over 3 hours in length. So if you’re a CARRIE fan, even if you own the previous MGM disc, this Blu-ray is a collector’s fantasy and absolutely deserves a spot on your shelf.
THE HILLS HAVE EYES
One of Wes Craven’s seminal horror offerings, THE HILLS HAVE EYES has the distinction of being one of the most revered and iconic horror films whilst also being one of the hardest to watch. Featuring Craven’s early use of uncompromising, subversive brutality, THE HILLS HAVE EYES has that homegrown horror appeal akin to THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, and thanks to a brand new Blu-ray from Arrow Video, the film will likely be discovered by a whole new generation of fright fans entering a posthumous rabbit hole of Craven’s wicked work.
With a 4K mastered scan of 35mm prints (struck from 16mm negatives), the film’s natural grain is still firmly in tact, yet there’s simply no arguing that THE HILLS HAVE EYES has never looked or sounded better than on this Blu-ray disc. Furthermore, this set is also very collector-friendly, with new and archival interviews, the film’s alternate ending, outtakes, and collectible packaging; hell, those with BD-ROM capable devices on their computers will even have a chance to read the original screenplay on this disc! While those with weak constitutions should still steer clear, a testament to how well the film’s shocking violence still holds up, fans of THE HILLS HAVE EYES will find much to love in this newly forged Blu-ray release.
There are two kinds of horror fans in the world: those who love Lucio Fulci, and those who can’t stand his brand of dream-like, stomach-churning fright flicks. However, among the former, there’s even further separation: there’s those who embrace his chilling and campy work, and those who will stick by Fulci’s work through thick and thin. It’s certainly the latter who will be in the market for MANHATTAN BABY, a beautifully produced disc with an unfortunately dull late-age Fulci flick attached.
Don’t get this writer wrong: if you’re a fan of MANHATTAN BABY or a Fulci completist, Blue Underground has assembled one hell of a set for you. In fact, this disc is almost justified picking up for the special features alone, including a fantastic hour-long interview with Fabio Frizzi, as well as chats with FX artist Maurizio Trani, star Cosimo Cinieri, and co-writer Dardano Sacchetti, and a video of a live studio performance of the “Manhattan Baby Suite” from Frizzi. However, the film itself is far from a winner, especially compared to Fulci’s other directorial efforts, so even though it looks great in high-def, be sure you know what you’re getting into before you jump headfirst into this release of MANHATTAN BABY.
THE EXORCIST III: LEGION
Perhaps the most fascinating Blu-ray release of 2016, the new Blu-ray of EXORCIST III is godsend- no pun intended- from the folks over at Scream Factory. In case you picked up the previous EXORCIST box set or even the individual EXORCIST III Blu-ray, cast aside any doubts of picking up this bad boy, as it’s an incredibly produced disc with a wealth of special features and the long-await director’s cut of EXORCIST III.
So, what’s there to love about Scream Factory’s EXORCIST III disc? How about a jaw-dropping 2K transfer of the theatrical cut, which captures clarity the likes this film has never seen? If that doesn’t sell you, how about the multitude of phenomenal retrospective interviews, which puts the entire production and legacy in a whole new light? Of course, the ace in the sleeve is the director’s cut of EXORCIST III, patched together with VHS dailies to offer a new, alternate iteration of LEGION that’s unsettling and properly showcases Brad Dourif’s powerhouse performance. What are you waiting for? Add this Blu-ray to your collection ASAP!
Why is VAMP not regarded in the same way that NIGHT OF THE CREEPS and the original FRIGHT NIGHT? With the excellent character-driven performances, the neon-soaked visuals, and a series of truly fun set pieces, one would assume VAMP would be in much higher regard than it’s fairly obscure status would seemingly suggest. Yet those who remain in the film’s loyal cult audience are certainly there for good reason, and with the film now on Blu-ray from Arrow Video, here’s your chance to discover this eerie oddity as well!
Beyond the feature, which looks stunning and sounds great as well in High-Def, this VAMP Blu-ray also offers a wealth of strong special features on the set. While the newly-produced documentary will be the highlight to many, those with a knack for old school filmmaking will enjoy the rehearsal footage and blooper reel attached to the film. However, for this writer personally, what really makes this VAMP disc shine is DRACULA BITES THE BIG APPLE, director Richard Wenk’s short film that is a fantastic time capsule into a different era of horror filmmaking. This is another disc that comes highly recommended, and will likely become a quick favorite to those who go in blind.
This writer has always had an odd relationship to the European zombie films of the ’70s and ’80s, often times taking the visage of old Mummy and Haunting movies and replacing the traditional big bads with the living dead. Of course, the melodrama and slow-paced tension is nothing new for the era or drama, but when compared to the deft, character-driven stateside zombie films, these films don’t quite have the same replay value. However, for those who do have an affection for this peculiar brand of zombie madness, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a disc as solid as Severin’s new Blu-ray of Andre Biambi’s BURIAL GROUND.
First off, this Blu-ray looks spectacular, with a 2K restoration and brand new color correction that makes the images really pop off the screen. From there, Severin really stacks on the extras, from deleted scenes to a retrospective location visit to newly-produced cast and crew interviews, including a memorable Festival Q&A with infamous performer Peter Bark. Overall, BURIAL GROUND gets its definitive home media release with Severin’s latest HD release, and if you’re a fan of Italian zombie films, this cinematic oddity is guaranteed to please.
In the year’s since his highly-publicized domestic troubles, an odd subgenre of films has arisen that feature Mel Gibson in roles of various states of amoral integrity: Melsploitation. From EDGE OF DARKNESS to GET THE GRINGO to MACHETE KILLS, Mel Gibson has taken roles of grizzled, blue-collar badasses and over-the-top villains to work during his struggle with sobriety as well as attempt to own the narrative of his own public perception. And while Gibson may be turning heads with his latest film behind the camera, potential Oscar buzz title HACKSAW RIDGE, Melsploitation continues to live on with BLOOD FATHER, MESRINE director Jean-Francois Richet’s hard-hitting, white-knuckle thriller about a sober former veteran-turned-ex-convict who finds himself reunited with his estranged daughter after she runs afoul a dangerous gang.
With a Blu-ray courtesy of Lionsgate Home Entertainment, BLOOD FATHER’s digital cinematography comes across beautifully in HD, with a sleek, clear image that offers plenty of depth to the image among little grain. Same goes for the 5.1 audio mix, which is dynamic and should make for an immersive experience for those with more impressive home theater set-ups. Sadly, there’s not much to admire in the extras department, save for a 25+ minute behind-the-scenes featurette. At the end of the day, if you’re still in the camp to see Mel Gibson brood and kick-ass for 90 minutes, BLOOD FATHER is in your wheelhouse, even without the bells and whistles of a comprehensive Collector’s Edition release.
Although horror fans can be a bit picky when it comes to double dipping on their home media releases, the work of John Carpenter seems to be the exception to the rule. While Carpenter’s big genre successes will usually get a standard studio release, Scream Factory’s pitch-perfect discs for PRINCE OF DARKNESS, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, THE FOG, VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED, and BODY BAGS have given them free reign with fandom to deliver their own impressive Collector’s Edition. And deliver they have with THE THING, offering one of their strongest packages to date with the end-all, be-all Blu-ray release of John Carpenter’s terrifying cult classic.
While the gorgeous 2K transfer might be enough for some to double dip on this release alone, the new 4.1 Audio Mix (struck from the 70mm Dolby Mix) creates a phenomenally eerie immersive experience, making this disc perfect for the Blu-ray connoisseur. But the treasure trove of special features is what really makes this HD release worth every penny, from several audio commentaries (new and old), to new interviews, to the TV version of the film, and a feature-length making-of documentary. However, perhaps the real gem in this Blu-ray release is the John Carpenter interview moderated by Mick Garris, which is a uniquely conversational discussion about a film that was candidly difficult for Carpenter. Overall, this is a no-brainer; miss this disc at your own risk.
THE HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS FEAST BOX SET
This writer could spend the next hour delving into Arrow Video’s incredible HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS FEAST BOX SET. This writer could sing the praises of its transfers, the incredible assembly of features, and the legacy of HG Lewis himself. But if the fact is if you’re an HG Lewis fan, you’ve already got your copy of the FEAST BOX SET, and if you’re not an HG Lewis fan, it’s either because you’re not initiated or there’s no point in trying to convince you otherwise. If you know someone who might be in the market for HG Lewis and own this set, introduce them to his frightful filmography and push them to get this gory set, as there’s literally nothing better for HG Lewis die-hards than this beautiful box-set release.