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“VAMPIRE’S KISS” / “HIGH SPIRITS” Double Feature (Blu-ray Review)

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While Scream Factory has often brought many underappreciated genre classics to the world of high definition, they’ve also done a great service to cult film fans by bringing some of horror’s most odd titles to Blu-ray as well. Yet as of late, Scream Factory has found greater success in bringing these demented discoveries to audiences as double features, which of course comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. And, particularly, Scream Factory has used this business model to help bring vintage horror comedies to fans, offering a safety net to an unpredictable subgenre that offers the likes of Robert Bierman’s VAMPIRE’S KISS and Neil Jordan’s HIGH SPIRITS.

Aside from both being horror comedies, these titles can also be connected through just how unbelievably crazy and uncategorizable they are, both in content and direction. The massive tonal shifts in each film have rightfully made them both polarizing experience, yet completely justify their individual cult appeal. And even despite how absolutely insane each film becomes, they’re each directed by a talented director with an incredibly singular vision, which attests to the production value and technical finesse to both of the films.

Of course, the most notorious of the bunch is VAMPIRE’S KISS, a film following a New York yuppie who believes himself to be turning into a vampire when he is clearly undergoing a psychological meltdown. The film has earned a reputation as having one of the most fascinating and frenzied Nicolas Cage performances of all time, and now, thanks to Scream Factory, that performance can now be witnessed in stunning 1080p. But besides that performance, VAMPIRE’S KISS is actually a legitimately amazing comedy; it’s comedy-of-errors nature is brilliantly underplayed, and the actual world Robert Bierman builds around Cage is played so straightforward that his performance is utterly (and intentionally) hysterical.

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Though this writer had long-since been familiar with VAMPIRE’S KISS, I had no idea what I was getting into with HIGH SPIRITS, aside from the incredibly dated poster art and tagline. You can only imagine this writer’s jaw hitting the floor once the name “Neil Jordan” rolled on screen, and suddenly, I was immersed in the incredible perplexing experience of HIGH SPIRITS. With an absolutely stunning production design, HIGH SPIRITS was the high concept comedy they just don’t make anymore, and even though there was a reliance on grueling sex gags and a gratingly bland performance from lead Steve Guttenberg, HIGH SPIRITS gets so close to working as a forgotten gem. Yet even an incredible cast (featuring a hilarious Peter O’Toole, Peter Gallagher, Liam Neeson, Daryl Hannah, Beverly D’Angelo and Jennifer Tilly), brilliant set pieces and some genuinely hysterical moments can’t save HIGH SPIRITS as a whole, even if the film does additionally benefit from looking glorious in its high-def transfer.

However, aside from a pair of trailers, there’s almost no features on the disc aside from the new high definition transfers and audio remastering. But… I say almost meaning there is one feature that almost single handedly makes this disc worth owning: an old ported-over commentary from Robert Bierman and Nicolas Cage on VAMPIRE’S KISS. While not new by any means, anyone who is able to discover this commentary on this disc will be stunned as both Cage and Bierman are explicitly candid and hilarious in their elaborations on the film’s weirdness. Anecdotes and reflections are abound, but perhaps the best thing on the commentary is how lighthearted it is; Cage is rarely this unguarded about his performances and persona, leading to some really fascinating tidbits. Perhaps the only people who should avoid this commentary are those who prefer the mysteries that surround the project’s tone and script, and whom prefer the singularly strange experience as is.

While this writer’s preference towards VAMPIRE’S KISS is well-documented, Scream Factory’s double-feature release is definitely worth the time of anyone who prefers their horror comedies as inexplicably weird as possible. Cult film fans will drool over the disc, and particularly may get more mileage out of the underseen HIGH SPIRITS or Cage and Bierman’s amazing commentary track on VAMPIRE’S KISS, even if the lack of other features is frankly lamentable. If you prefer your horror straight-laced, I don’t know how you’ve managed to make it this far in the review, but if you’re like me and you want to embrace the absurd in the most gorgeous picture quality possible, this cinematic two-pack is your first must-buy release of 2015.

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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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