13 Blu-rays To Scream About This Halloween
For anyone blessed with an addiction to Scream Factory—the reigning champions of collector’s edition horror Blu-rays—there’s an ongoing fear that this company will eventually run out of worthy movies to release. However, there’s still no evidence of diminishing returns in Scream’s output, with all signs suggesting they’re still very much in their prime (for proof of this, compare the lively batch of Halloween releases detailed below with the company’s Halloween slates from 2016 and 2018).
In just the next two months, Scream will release a group of films (including Big Trouble in Little China, 1979’s Dracula, Road Games, Silver Bullet, and The Fly Collection) that most genre distributors would be ecstatic to release over the course of an entire year. In light of the company’s continued excellence—constantly creating transfers and extras worthy of their top-notch movie selections—we highly recommend you spend your Halloween night (and the spooky November nights ahead) with these 13 new Scream Factory releases.
Wait, didn’t you just buy The Omen Collection on Blu-ray? Believe it or not, that was 11 years ago. In spite of the many worthwhile extras included in that set—most of which are included here—there was at least one significant omission: Omen IV: The Awakening. This 1991 TV movie is not a fan favourite, but it is a missing piece of the puzzle that adds significant curiosity value to this release. More importantly, the original film has been granted a new 4K restoration from the original camera negative supervised by 89-year-old director Richard Donner (we hope he wore his glasses), which makes this release essential viewing for everyone.
In addition to most of the old extras, this collection includes new interviews with key players from 1976’s The Omen (screenwriter David Seltzer, actress Holly Palance), Damien: Omen II (cast members Lee Grant, Robert Foxworth, and Elizabeth Shepard), The Final Conflict (director Graham Baker, screenwriter Andrew Birkin), and Omen IV: The Awakening (screenwriter Brian Taggert). Nothing new is offered for the 2006 remake, but the less said about that entry, the better. Taken together, the content included in this set makes for one of the most impressively comprehensive horror franchise collections yet.
Earlier this year, Scream Factory released the first two volumes of the Universal Horror Collection—with a third volume arriving in December. While these collections bypass frequently released classic monster movies like Dracula and Frankenstein, the stars of both films (Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff) share the screen in the four movies that make up Volume 1. Highlights include two films inspired by the works of Edgar Allen Poe: The Black Cat and The Raven. The former is an expressionistic, ritualistic oddity with parallels to Midsommar, while the latter is an unusually self-aware (for 1935) riff on all things Poe that once again allows both actors to hit their sweet spots: Lugosi’s obsessive mad genius and Karloff’s lovably inarticulate monster.
In terms of both movies and extras, Volume 1 is superior to Volume 2. Both volumes include stills and commentaries, but the first volume also includes featurettes on all four films, old radio programs, and an hour-long doc about Poe. Differences aside, both sets are a treasure trove for anyone hoping to take a deeper dive into classic Universal horror.
Old and Fresh
As the previous sets illustrate, Scream’s reputation for specializing in ’70s and ’80s horror overlooks the consistently impressive work they’ve done with films from earlier decades. This is evident in their release of The Leopard Man, a 1943 murder mystery that reunites the director (Jacques Tourneur) and producer (Val Lewton) of the original Cat People. Eventually bearing some resemblance to Fritz Lang’s M, this film understandably includes a commentary by Lang mega fan (and director of The Exorcist) William Friedkin. Additional extras include stills, a trailer, and a new commentary by film historian Constantine Nasr.
Even more impressive is This Island Earth, a colourful sci-fi classic from 1955 that finally gets the deluxe treatment fans have been anticipating for years. In addition to two transfers in two different aspect ratios (to our eyes, the 1.85:1 transfer is superior), this disc includes an assortment of new extras. The best of these are film historian David Schecter’s informative 28-minute commentary on the score—which isn’t credited to anyone—and the interview with director Luigi Cozzi (Starcrash), who offers a passionate overview of science fiction cinema’s evolution from handcrafted art to corporate product made by technicians.
Go to Hell
Even the most enthusiastic fans of Hammer horror have to admit that the British company’s films occasionally drift into territory that is somewhat dry or even dreary. In spite of the participation of Hammer regulars Christopher Lee and director Terence Fisher, The Devil Rides Out is a departure from the norm, a refreshingly outré film about the recruitment efforts of a satanic cult. If you’re unable to appreciate the film’s considerable charms, you should find valuable guidance in the new interviews with film historians Kim Newman and Jonathan Rigby, both of whom exhibit palpable enthusiasm for this film and Hammer in general.
In 1981’s Fear No Evil, Lucifer is at it again, but this time he takes the form of an evil high school student facing a viable challenge from archangels sent by God. While this film has been accused of taking itself a little too seriously, fans of outrageous early ’80s horror should find plenty to appreciate on this disc, including a strong transfer and over an hour of new interviews—with star Stefan Arngrim and special effects artist John Eggett.
As Fear No Evil reminds us, Scream Factory tends to thrive in the ’80s, but this is even more apparent on their new discs for Vice Squad and Night of the Creeps. The latter was previously released on Blu-ray a decade ago, but the former has been hard-to-find on home video for years. This turns out to be a totally unjustified oversight, as Vice Squad is a vivid, gritty film about a night in the life of Los Angeles cops and criminals—that easily emerges as the finest hour of well-regarded horror director Gary Sherman (Death Line, Dead & Buried, Poltergeist III).
Both discs are overflowing with worthwhile new extras, though there are a few standouts. In the case of Vice Squad, the highlight is a 72-minute interview with Sherman that spans his entire career. Specific to the film in question, he details (a) how he came to work with frequent Stanley Kubrick cinematographer John Alcott, (b) the enlightening research he did for the film, and (c) how he created a villain (Ramrod) that can accurately be described as “the essence of evil.” As for Night of the Creeps, the standout is a new interview with actor Jason Lively, who remains enthusiastic about all aspects of the film—and its devoted cult following.
Back from the Dead
As any devoted Blu-ray collector knows, Twilight Time has long been one of the industry’s most exciting and challenging companies, releasing an impressive assortment of titles—in limited quantities that have always been difficult to acquire. Two of the company’s biggest sellers of all time are 1988’s The Blob and John Carpenter’s Vampires, as both were released in higher-than-usual quantities, only to sell out. Fortunately, these movies are now back in print on Blu-ray, thanks to Scream Factory.
Even better, both discs come stacked with new extras. Vampires includes over an hour of new interviews—with actors Tim Guinee, Thomas Ian Griffith, and James Woods, special effects artist Greg Nicotero, and director John Carpenter (who is joined by producer/wife Sandy King Carpenter and cinematographer Garry B. Kibbe). Even more exhaustive, The Blob disc includes two new commentaries and over four hours (!) of new interviews, exceeding even the biggest Blob fan’s appetite for anecdotes. In other words, even if you managed to get your hands on the Twilight Time Blu-rays, it’s time for a double dip.
Venturing all the way into the 21st century, Scream has revived two underrated movies ripe for rediscovery, in spite of their undeniable shortcomings. Made with an atmospheric sense of craft, Silent Hill is the rare video game movie that suggests there’s real potential in this marriage of mediums. As for The Green Inferno, this is yet another cautionary tale about the dangers of travel and/or recreation of any kind from director Eli Roth. Sure, there’s an abundance of bad acting and inept screenwriting, but when Roth taps into his affection for cannibal cinema, this film reaches playful heights he hasn’t hit since his memorable 2003 debut, Cabin Fever.
As is the case with many recent Scream Factory releases, both of these films were previously available on Blu-ray, but these new discs offer plenty of new material. The highlight of Silent Hill is a three-part, 72-minute interview with director Christophe Gans, who has made just one film (2014’s Beauty and the Beast) in the 13 years since Silent Hill. On the more prolific end of the spectrum, Green Inferno director Eli Roth (who had two films and a TV series in release last year alone) sits down for a new 50-minute interview that is stuffed full of memorable anecdotes and cannibal movie history. Even if you can’t stand the aggressively immodest Roth, this is a behind-the-scenes bonanza—that every horror fan should appreciate.