I’m biased, so let’s just get that out of the way. I kneel at the altar of Carpenter, Craven and Hooper, so if you see repeats of said filmmakers on this list, that’s why: They’re some of my favorite films of all time. With that said, I thought it would be fun to go through every release that the gang at Scream Factory has put out and tell you fright fanatics about what I consider to be “The 20 Essential Scream Factory releases.” If you agree, hell yes. If you don’t, then by all means, sound off and tell me about some of your favorites. If you want to engage in some conversation beyond a comment below the article, feel free to e-mail me and we can talk all things SF, because I sure do love what Jeff Nelson, Cliff MacMillan and the rest of the of the SF company and the releases they give horror fans all around. *This list is alphabetical, so take that into consideration.
1.) ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (Dir. John Carpenter)
John Carpenter loves his westerns and ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (his followup to the quirky DARK STAR) is just that: an urban western, full of cops and gangs and one hell of an action packed experience. DARK STAR is fun and all, but this is the film I consider Carpenter’s debut. It’s full of elements that would later go on to be JC trademarks. Everything from the amazing score, the tough as nails characters and almost faceless protagonists, acting almost as the walking embodiment of evil, set on one thing: to kill.
After his daughter is gunned down for no reason at all, a grieving father shoots back and is chased to a police station which is in its very last evening of being opened and the father, a group of criminals (including one hell of a performance by Darwin Joston) and the station’s staff are all invaded by the vengeful gang of the thug who was shot. It’s pure ’70s grit and grime, led by Joston as a criminal who was never given a chance until the station’s chief (played by Austin Stoker) makes the decision to treat the jailed criminals the same as police, causing one hell of a partnership and leading to a barrage of gunfights and an entertaining finale.
The disc itself is packed with interviews featuring Nancy Loomis Keyes (Annie from HALLOWEEN!!), Tommy Lee Wallace, John Carpenter and Austin Stoker and also includes a really entertaining commentary from Carpenter himself, talking about the westerns that inspired this classic.
2.) ARMY OF DARKNESS (Dir. Sam Raimi)
The third entry into Sam Raimi’s EVIL DEAD series, ARMY OF DARKNESS was given the Collector’s Edition treatment with this releases, boasting THREE discs (with three different versions of the film), the award-winning MEDIEVAL TIMES: THE MAKING OF ARMY OF DARKNESS doc (which features pretty much EVERY one involved in the film, sans Raimi himself), deleted scenes/openings/endings, vintage making of’s, commentaries and just about every little thing you could imagine being included, it’s quite epic. Oh, and there’s the film too.
Taking EVIL DEAD 2’s comedic turn and amping it up as far as it could go, ARMY OF DARKNESS in a lot of ways is a three stooges film but with Bruce Campbell’s Ash character acting as all three stooges, laughing skeletons and a handful of different roles played by Ted Raimi. Following being transported to the days of swords, spells and kings, Campbell’s Ash does what he does best: messes everything up and reluctantly becomes the anti-hero everybody needs. WHile the film itself isn’t my favorite of the series (that spot is reserved for the first film of the trio), it’s quite fun and really allows Campbell to shine as Ash and also allows Raimi to not only showcase the imagination that led to his helming the SPIDER-MAN series, but also let’s Sam do what HE does best: put Campbell through absolute hell, all with a smile on his face.
The transfer is beautiful, the sound is grand and the loads of supplemental material alone is enough to pick up what is easily one of SF’s best releases yet. Hell, I’d buy this one again, just to give it away as a gift.
3.) BAD MOON (Dir. Eric Red)
I absolutely love this film, but let’s be honest, it’s next to impossible to not love anything Eric Red does. A truly unique voice in his characters, his stories and a talented director as well, this werewolf tale is not only original and an interesting take on the lycanthrope subgenre, it’s also a look at familial bonds and how much devotion a dog can give to its owner.
Mishandled and not marketed well upon its release, BAD MOON is a recent release from Scream Factory that allows new viewers a chance to discover what is in my opinion, one of the best werewolf films around. Adapted from the Wayne Smith book THOR, BAD MOON follows a single mother (Mariel Hemmingway), her son (Mason Gamble) and their dog Thor, whose lives are put into chaos when Ted (Michael Paré), the mother’s brother (and also a werewolf) shows up and finds suspicions within Thor. What we’re then given is a back and forth rivalry between Ted and Thor, with Ted’s vicious werewolf/man double life causing death and turmoil and the dog’s job of protecting his family coming into play as well. It’s a great film, one that is full of great performances from every actor involved and is a good metaphorical look at alcoholism and schizophrenia (look for an in depth interview with writer/director Red in the upcoming Fangoria issue #348, where he talks about BAD MOON and his various other films).
The disc itself boasts not only the theatrical version of the film, but also the director’s cut, which really showcases the great creature work that FX-master Steve Johnson did for the film. Also included, are new director’s commentaries on BOTH versions of the film, as well as brand new interviews with Red, Gamble, Johnson and stuntman Ken Kirzinger (his stories of working on the film are great). It’s a really solid release, packed to the gills with enough supplemental material to please the hardcore fans of the film and also newcomers, discovering the film for the first time.
4.) CHERRY FALLS (Dir. Geoffrey Wright)
The travesty of how dumped Wright’s arthouse slasher CHERRY FALLS was upon its release is well documented and thanks to the gang at Scream Factory, that’s been fixed with one hell of a release, with the VERY unique horror film finally given its due attention.
The fact that David Lynch was originally courted to helm Ken Selden’s CHERRY FALLS script speaks on what kind of film producers were going for, with a film revolving around a murderer who, quite unlike most of cinema’s various other slashers, kills virgins. Though Lynch passed, director Geoffrey Wright provides an excellent film, one that was pulled from a theatrical release date and delegated to show on the USA channel, but still packs on hell of a punch and a performance from the late Brittany Murphy (CLUELESS) that really shines. Playing the daughter of the town’s sheriff (Michael Biehn, ALIENS, THE TERMINATOR), Murphy plays Jodi, a young woman caught in a mystery of a killer targeting virgins, with a secret that possibly leads back to her and a series of murders that leads the town’s teens to throw a party with the sole intention of losing their virginity.
It’s such an interesting premise and thought in other hands, it very well could have gone into exploitation territory, the film never does that, it instead plays like an arthouse film, one that just happens to follow the mystery of a murderer and a town’s set of secrets.
CHERRY FALLS‘ supplemental material gives viewers a brand new commentary with director Wright, a series of new interview with the film’s writer, producer and even actress Amanda Anka, who not only plays the film’s deputy, but is married to actor Jason Bateman in real life). We’re also given some vintage interview featuring Jay Mohr, Michael Biehn, Geoffrey Wright and the late Murphy, as well as some behind the scene material and a digital version of the film’s original script.
5.) CLASS OF 1984 (Dir. Mark Lester)
A film so ahead of its time that it’s shocking, Mark Lester’s CLASS OF 1984 is a cautionary tale of violence in school and a teacher’s attempt to keep everything together, in spite of one gang, hell-bent on making his life a living hell. Co-written by CHILD’S PLAY/FRIGHT NIGHT director Tom Holland, CLASS OF 1984 follows Andrew Norris (Perry King, THE LORDS OF FLATBUSH), an optimistic teacher transferring into quite possibly the worst school around, filled with students who deal drugs, bring weapons to school and are regulated by the genius yet dangerous teenage gang leader Stegman, who rules the school along with his gang of punk rock miscreants. With the help of a fellow teacher played by FRIGHT NIGHT‘s Roddy McDowall, Norris does his best to clean the school up, reinvigorate the school’s music class (which features a very young Michael J. Fox in a role), but as it turns out, Stegman and Co. aren’t just bratty kids, but ones that will stab, rape and murder those in their way.
While it’s a fun exploitation film full of great performances, CLASS OF 1984 is very much a look at a future that not only happened, but continues to happen, with school shootings and violence between teenagers. It’s an interesting watch, one that if you can look past the dreadful Alice Cooper tune which bookends the film, leads into a film that not only appeals to viewers on an entertainment level but also on an intellectual one as well.
The disc’s special features include brand new interviews with Director Lester, Actors Lisa Langlois, Erin Noble and Composer Lalo Schifrin, as well a brand new HD transfer from the interpositive, past interviews with Actors Perry King and Merrie Lynn Ross.
6.) GINGER SNAPS (Dir. John Fawcett)
Like BAD BLOOD, John Fawcett’s GINGER SNAPS is a werewolf film that is much more about metaphorical meanings than just biting people left and right. Very much a film about two young girl becoming women and the pains of that, GINGER SNAPS is one of those horror films that should have been more well-received upon its release than it actually was. Sure it led to two sequels, but there is seriously no reason than it’s not referenced right along with A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, DRACULA, HALLOWEEN or JAWS as a landmark and important horror film, because it most certainly is an absolutely perfect film.
Following Brigitte Fitzgerald (Emily Perkins, IT) and her slightly older sister Ginger (Katherine Isabelle, AMERICAN MARY, FREDDY VS. JASON), the film tells the story of two girls who are obsessed with death, in everything from recreating death scenes to just hating the suburban life they live. The sisters live with the pact of an oath to stay together no matter what, a pact put to the test when Ginger is attacked by a creature and begins to exhibit a large change in her appearance and attitude, her wounds healed and with her sister wondering what exactly is going on. As the film goes on, it becomes more apparent than Ginger is slowly becoming a werewolf, and Brigitte speeds to figure out how to help her sister, while avoiding the inevitable confrontation that will come from facing Ginger head on.
A wonderful look at the pains of growing up and more specifically what it’s like to go from a girl to a woman, the film was written by Orphan Black writer Karen Walton and it’s a story that is captivating and special to anyone watching it, female or male. A lot of its charm comes from the performances by Perkins and Isabelle and the honesty that the material holds, which allows it to be elevated from just another monster movie and something truly special and unique.
The supplemental material for GINGER SNAPS is also unique. Instead of just close up heads talking about their roles, we’re given a making of set of interview with Fawcett, Walton, Perkins and others, a doc that never feels like an epk, instead feeling more like a doc that respects the material enough to make it interesting to watch. Also including, is a Women in Horror conversation Panel featuring Blumhouse.com Editor in Chief, Rebekah McKendry, filmmaker Axelle Carolyn (SOULMATE, TALES OF HALLOWEEN) , Etheria Film Night co-founder Heidi Honeycutt and horror writer Kristy Jett. Each woman provides their own unique insight into what GINGER SNAPS represents to them. Rounding out the disc, there’s also an audio commentary with director Fawcett, one with writer Walton, cast auditions and a look at creating the beast from the film.
7.) HALLOWEEN: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION (Multiple directors)
This could be a whole article unto itself, but let’s just dip our toes into this epic release a bit. Scream Factory made our collective heads explode with what is easily one of the best boxsets of ALL TIME, featuring every single film in the HALLOWEEN series, including the long-bootlegged “Producer Cut” of HALLOWEEN 6 and enough special features to warrant a heart-attack or four.
What’s to say about a series that begins with the GREATEST FILM OF ALL TIME? Well, everything. The grandfather of slasher films, John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN is in my opinion the holy grail of all films, a classic story of good vs evil, a film that to this day is absolutely terrifying and worthy of continuous praise. When a young boy murders his sister at the beginning of the film, we as viewers are curious what will come of such an incredible opening scene, just to have the film skip forward to present day 1978, when the kid now grown up escapes a mental hospital and heads home to stalk and potentially kill a group of teenage girls, one of which just happened to drop a key off at the wrong place at the wrong time, leading to Myers stalking her. We didn’t have any family twists in the first film, just a character with no motivations, just the desire to stalk and kill and we’re given a protagonist in Dr. Samuel Loomis, a doctor on a mission to stop the killer. Absolutely perfect and a film with the scariest ending of all time.
With HALOWEEN II, we were given a plot twist of Laurie Strode (the original film’s survivor) being Myers’ sister, which has made the entire series so problematic to me, and when the masked slasher gets set on fire at the end of the film, we’re given the Myers-less HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH, a film that got so much hate over the years but has always been a film that I adored, with its mask-maker trying to kill children plot. That film gives us a lead in Tom Atkins, one that beds women with ease, brings only a six pack of beer on road trips and offers viewers the best yell into the camera closing lines around. When Myers returns in HALLOWEEN 4 to stalk and try to kill his niece (Laurie had since died off screen in between 2 and 4 but had a daughter), Loomis also comes back to give not only an excellent performance but what is my favorite scene in the entire series (the cafe/gas station monologue he gives to Michael). We think again that Myers dies by getting plugged with bullets and falling into a shaft, but that’s all shot to shit with a quick explanation at the beginning of HALLOWEEN 5. From there on, the series tries to explain why Myers is the way he is (HALLOWEEN 6), retconned everything after the first film with HALLOWEEN: H20, killed Laurie in HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION and then headed into the much hated but uniquely weird pair of Rob Zombie-directed HALLOWEEN/H2 films. What a franchise.
We’ve all seen the films themselves, so we can leave the plots above, but what really shines in this boxset is how in depth and mind-blowing the special features are on every disc. We get an awesome doc about Jamie Lee Curtis doing her first and last convention, with the proceeds going to charity on the first film’s disc. It really shows how much work Horror’s Hallowed Grounds host/Convention All-Stars head honcho Sean Clark put into the appearance and shows how important the guy is within the genre, as he puts so much time and effort into the films we all love and getting stars from those films to appear at cons. With HALLOWEEN II and III, we’re given awesome making of docs, full of brand new interviews with John Carpenter, Tommy Lee Wallace, PJ Soles and many many other people involved. With HALLOWEEN 4, 5, 6, and on, we’re given brand new interviews, episodes of Horror’s Hallowed Grounds and that infamous Producer’s Cut (I swear if I ever have another band, I’m naming it “Paul Rudd’s Magical Runes”. We get brand new interviews with Josh Hartnett and various others in a new doc regarding HALLOWEEN: H20, and with HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION and the two RZ HALLOWEEN films that followed that, we have the regular special features that came with their first releases, but in the case of RZ’s HALLOWEEN, there’s the 3 hour-long MICHAEL LIVES doc that is enough to make fans of that film pretty stoked to say the least.
Hidden in the case for H2 is an extra disc, with not only the TV cut of HALLOWEEN (which included scenes filmed specifically for Carpenter’s original film being aired on TV), extra episodes of Horror’s Hallowed Grounds and various other goodies. The boxset is such a HALLOWEEN fan’s dream set, it’s easy to gush on this one, a release that in spite of many releases through the years, is a boxset that collects all films in the series for the first time and shows how devoted to giving fans what they want that SF is.
8.) THE HOWLING (Dir. Joe Dante)
There definitely seems to be a werewolf theme to this list, right?! The strange part is that I’m not even particularly a fan of werewolf films at all, but the ones mentioned are some of my favorites and Joe Dante’s classic, THE HOWLING, is definitely no exception. A landmark film with groundbreaking special effects from FX maestro Rob Bottin (THE THING), this gem of a film is sleazier, more personal and just downright better (in my humble opinion, don’t crucify me) than the other werewolf film released around the same time (AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON). Dante takes his run and gun knowledge learned at the Roger Corman school of film and applies it to this tale of a serial killer who attacks a TV newscaster, causing a connection and eventually a full on werewolf transformation occur. Following the attack, Dee Wallace Stone’s Karen White character takes a vacation to a secluded retreat which leads to some bloody and really neat set pieces involving co-stars Belinda Balaski, Christopher Stone and as the killer/werewolf, Robert Picardo.
While Landis’ film is a fun and very entertaining horror/comedy, it’s also much more of a spectacle film, where as THE HOWLING is much more character-driven piece which also happens to involve werewolf transformations on two legs, some excellent performances by all involved and has that early Dante flair, something I’ve been dying to see in some of his more recent fare.
One of Scream Factory’s early releases, THE HOWLING helped the company showcase their knack for providing fans with Collector’s Editions featuring brand new interviews with actors and crew members. Aside from a commentary featuring Dante, Wallace, Stone and Picardo, we’re also given UNLEASHING THE BEAST, a multi-part documentary featuring most of the principle cast recounting the production of the film and everybody’s experience with it. There’s also a carried-over doc, deleted scenes and a brand new episode of Sean Clark’s Horror’s Hallowed Grounds as well, with the latter returning to the locations of Dante’s classic monster film.
9.) INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (Dir. Philip Kaufman)
A remake of the 1956 sci-fi/horror classic, this 1978 remake of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS is not only one of the best remakes of all time, but a rare occasion of the update being much more entertaining than both the original film and its source material (“Body Snatchers” by Jack Finney). Following a pair of co-workers from the Department of Health Workers (played by Donald Sutherland and Brooke Adams), this pod people flick sees the human race slowly becoming drones, familiar on the outside but most certainly not themselves on the inside. Seemingly paranoid at first, the film is good example of the perfect combination of Sci-Fi and Horror (it truly is quite frightening), telling a story that not only captivates and enthralls you, but is also a lot of fun at the same time. As their friends, spouses and potentially each other begin to be consumed and reborn as pod people-like versions of themselves, Sutherland and Adams’ characters are tasked with trying to not only save the ones they love and themselves, but also put a stop to the entire alien-invasion.
Featuring a cameo from the original INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS star Kevin McCarthy and smaller roles filled by Jeff Goldblum, Nancy Cartwright and Spock-himself, Leonard Nimoy, Kaufman’s film takes a lot of the paranoia of the original film and amplifies it, turning the FX up, the performances way up and just providing what is quite easily one of the best genre films of all time. The ending shot of Sutherland pointing and screaming is still memorable and terrifying at the same time.
One of Scream Factory’s newest releases, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS sees a brand new 2k scan from the interpositive, providing such a beautiful picture that it’ll leave your mouth agape. We’re also given a brand new set of interview with Brooke Adams, Art Hindle (anything with Hindle in it is gold to me, Jesus I love THE BROOD), writer W. D. Richter and also composer Denny Zeitlin, a series of carried over special features from the film’s previous release, including interviews with Sutherland, special FX docs, an interview with cinematographer Michael Chapman and an episode of Science Fiction Theater as well. An excellent release for an excellent film, this gem is one to pick up right away.
10.) MANHUNTER (Dir. Michael Mann)
Our first encounter with a certain psychiatrist turned cannibal, Michael Mann’s MANHUNTER is not only a must own for fans of Hannibal, TV show, film or novel-wise, it’s also one of the best looking, acted and scored films around. I dare you to find me a film that has such beautiful usage of lighting, an antagonist as frightening yet sympathetic as Tom Noonan’s Francis Dollarhyde character or a film so meticulously planned and executed as well as MANHUNTER. Sure when most people think of Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mann spells the character’s last name Lektor in this one), chances are, they bring up the awesome SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, the inferior trio of additional films that followed that one or Mads Mikkelsen’s brilliant performance in the Hannibal TV series, but it’s Brian Cox as Lecter that really does it for me, he plays it calmly, maliciously, not over the top as Anthony Hopkins played the character for three films.
Following Will Graham (William Petersen, TO LIVE AND DIE IN LA), a former profiler for the FBI, who against his better judgement returns to the job to help solve a series of gruesome serial killings by a murderer dubbed “The Tooth Fairy”, MANHUNTER does what Mann is perfect at doing: giving you characters you care about, real characters, and throwing them into situations in which you’re forced to experience alongside them. Scared shitless to ask a former psychiatrist now prisoner (due to a brutal attack on Graham years before) for advice, Graham does just that and seeks help in figuring The Tooth Fairy out from Hannibal, which helps the profiler learn more about the twisted killer, but also eventually puts Will and his family in jeopardy.
While we’re alongside Graham attempting to solve the killings, we’re also given an inside into the Tooth Fairy’s life, as we learn of his day to day life as Francis Dollarhyde, a deformed man who harbors intimate feelings for the one person who doesn’t judge him: a blind woman played by Joan Allen.
A thriller that keeps you locked in its sights until the very end, MANHUNTER also boasts some excellent music from a host of various bands and musicians, supporting roles from great actors like Dennis Farina and Stephen Lang and some marvelous cinematography by Dante Spinotti, MANHUNTER is a panic attack waiting to happen and a true classic Mann film.
Inthis Collector’s Edition, we’re given two versions of the film, the theatrical and director’s cut (skip the DC and just watch the theatrical, it’s better), brand new interviews with Spinotti, William Petersen, Tom Noonan and Joan Allen, a new interview with Brian Cox and also a series of interviews with various bands who all contributed the help shape the film’s tone with music. How in depth these interviews are is quite impressive and this isn’t just one of my favorite SF releases, but one of my favorite releases, period. It’s worth it just for the film itself, but with enough supplemental material to please the most diehard MANHUNTER fan (including EXCELLENT new artwork), this one is a must-own.
11.) NIGHTBREED/NIGHTBREED: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT (Dir. Clive Barker)
A great HD transfer of the theatrical version of Clive Barker’s NIGHTBREED would be worth picking up on its own, but when SF announced that we’d be getting the Director’s Cut of the film was a cinematic miracle, an act of Cabal or hell, just enough to make your eyes burst. Thought to have been lost for decades, what the DC gave fans is a version of the film more in tune with Barker’s original version, boasting 40 (!) minutes of footage never seen, added to the film and making NIGHTBREED a very different film than the theatrical edition. It’s almost as if you could watch both versions of the film and feel like you watched two completely different films, because in a lot of ways, you kind of are.
Following Boone (Craig Sheffer), a damaged and confused man who has dreams of a mystical place called Midian, a home for monsters and creatures alike, the film also features his girlfriend trying to save him all while his psychiatrist (played excellently by filmmaker David Cronenberg) is trying to make Boone think he’s the culprit behind a series of gruesome murdered that the evil Dr. actually committed. An excellent backdrop which sends Boone on the run and to Midian to discover that his dreams were not only real, but that the inhabitants of Midian aren’t quite the evil monsters that he thought they were, but that man is far worse. When Boone is attacked by a Midian resident and subsequently killed by police, he joins the monsters underground and the film leads to an all out war between man and monster in a visually beautiful and horrific world, one which could only come from Barker’s imagination.
The DC of the film is so different than it breathes new life into the film, which though disjointed, was already entertaining as is. We’re given much more character development, new characters in general, a different ending and less of the traditional monster film that the studio forced Barker to reshoot the theatrical version into being. It’s such a unique thing to see, a version of a film you’re already in love with, but in a version that is so different than it’s a testament to how brilliant Barker truly is.
Aside from the obvious Director’s Cut, in the supplemental section of the release, we’re given a feature length documentary about the road to restoring the Director’s Cut, an introduction by Barker, brand new commentaries and enough special features to make this release be something that should be placed in a glass case to keep any hands away from touching it. Absolutely perfect.
12. THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS (Dir. Wes Craven)
Wes Craven’s THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS is a prime example of what magic the filmmaker was able to create, when he wrote his own films, ones that dealt with a lot of subtext that flowed together with the genre elements of the film’s appeal. Taking a look at an under-privileged and desperate urban environment and building characters within that world, ones that you want to see succeed and come out ahead, is part of the film’s charm and it’s a horror film with a lot of heart behind it.
Nicknamed “Fool”, the film’s lead protagonist is a young boy whose family is set to be evicted from a decaying and poor group of the projects, so when Fool is enlisted by his sister’s criminal boyfriend (PULP FICTION‘s Ving Rhames) to break into the home of the cruel landlords who are aiming to evict his family, we’re sort of already on the young kid’s side. What he finds inside of the house though, isn’t just money, but a group of almost-creatures being stored in the basement as well as an abused young girl (A.J. Langer, ESCAPE FROM L.A., My So-Called Life) kept and abused by a demented couple played by Twin Peaks’ Everett McGill and Wendy Robie. Stuck inside of the house, Fool is subject to almost being caught by the leather-clad couple, the house’s creatures and quickly befriends the young girl as well, all while Rhames is attacked and killed by the couple’s vicious dog, who is also after Fool.
A real exercise in building suspense and giving its audience quality scares without treatment them like they’re idiots, Craven’s THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS is an underrated gem of a film and one that is typically overlooked in favor of Freddy or Ghostface, but a film that stands on its own as a solid as hell scarefest and one of the director’s best films.
With a commentary featuring Craven, one with stars Brandon Adams, A.J. Langer, Sean Whalen and Yan Birch and a series of brand new interviews with Wendy Robie, Greg Nicotero and the KNB crew, Director of Photgraphy Sandi Sissel and Composer Don Peake, this release really helps shows what an underrated gem of a film it is, and also serves as a testament to one of the best directors of all time.
13.) PRINCE OF DARKNESS (Dir. John Carpenter)
HALLOWEEN. THE FOG. THE THING. When John Carpenter’s name is brought up, those films are typically what comes to mind and rightfully so, they’re great and masterpieces in their own rights. Right behind Carpenter’s 1978 calling card featuring Michael Myers, my favorite film from the master of horror is easily his 1987 evil in liquid film PRINCE OF DARKNESS. An intense and completely shocking/terrifying piece of cinema, the film is a dark and nihilistic look at an ancient canister that holds the devil and its evil in green, glowing liquid. When a group of scientists and some of their students study the liquid at the abandoned church it was found at, hell truly breaks loose, turning each member into zombie-like creatures, and providing some of the most frightening images put to film.
Where the film might have lost a large part of its audience upon its initial release is in its personification of the devil as a liquid, applying theoretical physics to evil, and going over a large group of its audience’s heads by explaining Satan as the offspring to something far more terrifying, an Anti-Matter of evil. When the film’s viewers expected another slasher horror film from Carpenter and was given a very smart and intellectual horror film, the film bombed, which makes this Collector’s Edition of what I consider a Satanic masterpiece a must-own. It’s a departure for Carpenter and though his films before and after PRINCE OF DARKNESS are all GREAT, it’s always been this film that feels like the filmmaker truly wanted to do his own thing and create a scary story the way he wanted to, which he definitely accomplishes. The film features great performances from Carpenter regulars Donald Pleasence, Victor Wong and Peter Jason, as well as rocker Alice Cooper and Jameson Parker and is a thriller of a horror film that is perfect for turning off the lights and showing to someone for the first time. Terrifying stuff.
As far as supplement material, PRINCE OF DARKNESS has a commentary by Carpenter, as well as brand new interviews with Carpenter and Alice Cooper.
14.) THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (Dir. Dan O’Bannon)
The most punk rock zombie film of all time and also one of Scream Factory’s crowning achievements, Dan O’Bannon’s THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD is as badass as it gets and this release is one in which the SF crew went all out on, giving fans and casual viewers one hell of a package. A brand new 2K scan of the Interpositive, the film has never looked better and with two discs of special features, new and old, it’s a release that should be in any horror collector’s hands ASAP.
When he accidentally unleashes toxic gas into the surrounding air, first day on the job punk rocker Freddy (JASON LIVES star Thom Matthews) and his co-worker Frank are slowly infected and turning into zombies, all while Freddy’s girlfriend and punk rock friends get ready to pick him up to party. Freddy and Frank’s boss, Burt shows up to help and hilarity ensues, and the group of punks decide to party at a nearby cemetery which as we all know doesn’t turn out that great for anybody involved (I take that back, the dancing scene featuring Linnea Quigley works just fine for me). Soon, the undead begin rising from their graves, searching for “Braaaaiiiins” to eat, Frank, Freddy and Burt do their best to get rid of the reanimated corpses and we as horror fans are given a punk rock party of awesome tunes, gory FX and enough humor to breathe new life into what was a depressing subgenre prior to ROTLD‘s arrival. Our heroes are all likable, the film’s zombie villains are just as iconic (The Tarman is a horror character staple) and the film offers enough quotes to fill up the grand canyon.
Though we’ve all see this horror classic a million times, the new transfer looks immaculate and the TWO DISCS of special features are insane to behold. The feature length MORE BRAINS doc is present (that one came out a couple of years back as a stand alone release), as well as previous carry-overs, but as far as brand new supplemental material, SF went all out, with new commentaries, new docs on the film’s FX, docs on the music from the film and various other docs, interviews and further examples of what happens when a company knows what gem they have on their hands and gives fans the ultimate, end all, be all release. This one is right up there with the HALLOWEEN boxset, NIGHTBREED Director’s Cut and every other MUST HAVE release.
15.) THE SENTINEL (Dir. Michael Winner)
A Satanic masterpiece and an underrated classic, this 1977 film from DEATH WISH director Michael Winner is everything I love about ’70s horror. A slow-burn approach, creepy atmosphere and a thirst for good storytelling as opposed to the fast-cut approach that so many of today’s genre films suffer from. Focusing on Alison Parker, a fashion model (Cristina Raines, NIGHTMARES) who, following suicide attempts, moves into a building to spend some time refreshing from the stress of her career and relationship, THE SENTINEL is a film that allows its story to slowly unfold in front of you, without ever beating you over the head with anything. Alison soon meets the building’s other inhabitants, including a lesbian couple who talks sex and masturbates in front of her, an older gentleman eccentric who welcomes her in and various other odd characters, all while curious regarding a blind old priest who sits in a rocking chair in the attic.
As Alison investigates more thoroughly, she soon discovers that nothing is as it seems, and that her new home just might be a gateway to hell, with her soul being just another damaged one to offer the great below. It’s a very eerie film, full of great supporting roles by Jeff Goldblum, Chris Sarandon, Beverly D’Angelo, Ava Gardner and many other notable actors all playing memorable parts in the bigger picture of Alison’s soul being targeted, due to her multiple suicide attempts. It works the tension machine to full capacity, culminating in a shocking and scary ending, one in which director Winner opted for real deformed people to play demons from hell, a decision that didn’t sit well with many, but adds to the film’s eerie qualities.
As far as supplemental material, we’re given three audio commentaries, one with Writer/Producer Jeffrey Konvitz, one with Writer/Director Winner and one with Actress Cristina Raines. Also included is an interview with Assistant Director Ralph S. Singleton. Though it’s slightly bare when it comes to special features, the film itself is a great reason to pick this one up, as its quite simply a spectacular chiller.
16.) THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW (Dir. Wes Craven)
The last Craven release for Scream Factory before his passing last year, THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW is a great film to go out with, the 1988 film based on the real-life encounters with voodoo by author Wade Davis providing classic Craven scares but in a way he hadn’t seen from the director at the time. Telling the story of Dennis Alan (Bill Pullman, LOST HIGHWAY), a anthropologist who retrieves a powder that is rumored to bring people back from the dead, THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW is one of the first mainstream films of its time to deal with the real-life subject of voodoo, being pretty authentic and dreadful. When Alan upsets the wrong Shaman, he is buried alive, drugged and thrown into the hallucinatory world of walking zombies, the netherworld and some pretty intense and scary rituals (one involves getting his testicles nailed to a chair). Tricked and framed for a murder he didn’t commit, Alan scrambles to figure out who is behind the voodoo rituals and get out in piece, all while being injected into Voodoo culture and shamanism.
Most definitely a different type of film for Craven, Pullman and pretty much everybody involved, the film was notorious for the cast and crew being told that because of Civil and Political upheaval, moving a lot of the film’s production to the Dominican Republic. Real life tension such as that led to the film coming off even more authentic in the tone and the actors’ performances. Pullman really does an excellent job of playing Dennis Alan and though he might be more well known for playing the President in INDEPENDENCE DAY, THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW has always been one of my favorite films of his. I’ve always love when filmmakers step outside the box of what they’re known for, and in the time of FREDDY and so on, Craven made this Voodoo horror film tht really ages well, showing that the late director was full of many different gems in his career.
We’re given new interviews from Pullman, Author Wade Davis, the film’s D.P. John Lindley and FX artists Lance Anderson and David Anderson, but the real treat in my opinion, is the brand new commentary by Bill Pullman. Recorded during a very short break from filming the second INDEPENDENCE DAY film, Pullman sat down with Icons of Fright Co-creator and Blumhouse.com editor Rob Galluzzo for a little while to recount a film that in my mind has always been one of the little hidden gems in the history of horror.
17.) SESSION 9 (Dir. Brad Anderson)
To this day, SESSION 9 is one of the scariest films I have ever seen and I seriously doubt that’s going to change anytime soon. Shot on Mini-DV and set in the real life Danvers State Mental Hospital, Brad Anderson’s demonic possession film follows a group of Hazmat workers who take on the massive job of removing asbestos fro the abandoned hospital and places them into a haunting and completely scary environment, with each member of the group finding something or someone either taking them over or taking them down…for good.
A mystery that leaves you guessing until the last creepy scene, SESSION 9 employs the less is more approach, relying on performances, sound design and a series of tape reels documenting the study of a former patient at the hospital to scare the living hell out of you, and all of that works, AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN. It’s a nightmare of a film that really showcases how strong writing, performances and one hell of a location can be just as frightening as huge budgeted scarefests, and in the case of SESSION 9, it can be even scarier than those films.
The film’s cast, including David Caruso, Josh Lucas, Brandon Sexton III, Stephen Gevedon (who also co-wrote the film with Anderson) and Peter Mullan all bring their own uniqueness to the film and butt heads to the point of the friction between them seeming too real to deny and also adding to the terror of the strange happenings around them. Are they becoming possessed, have they already been possessed? We’re given multiple questions to figure out, all while the film’s shocking climax prepares to arrive.
Boasting brand new interviews with the majority of the cast, including Josh Lucas, Brandon Sexton III and Stephen Gevedon as well as writer/director Brad Anderson, the film’s supplemental material is quite impressive. Along with the interviews, we also get a brand new episode of Horror’s Hallowed Grounds and a scary featurette titled THE HAUNTED PLACE, as well as a few deleted scenes to round things off.
18.) TALES FROM THE CRYPT PRESENTS: DEMON KNIGHT (Dir. Ernest Dickerson)
It’s next to impossible to find a horror/comedy/action film as entertaining, silly and imaginative as Ernest Dickerson’s DEMON KNIGHT. Shown like it would be a long version of a Tales From the Crypt episode, DEMON KNIGHT follows Braker (William Sadler), a man who has lived with the burden of keeping the last of Christ’s blood for centuries, all while being hunted by The Collector (Billy Zane, having SO much fun in the role).
Following him to a local hotel, The Collector traps Braker and the hotel’s residents inside, while trying to find his way in (the blood acts as a guard to ward off evil demons). Watching Zane’s Collector character try to sweet talk his way into every one of the hotel’s residents is hilarious, with everybody from Dick Miller to Jada Pinkett-Smith all doing their best to keep the maniacal villain away.
It’s a very funny, VERY gory time, a film that never feels like anything more than what it set out to be: a fun time. There’s enough blood, boobs and special effects to please the most diehard fan around, and with a soundtrack as killer as DEMON KNIGHT‘s, it’s hard NOT to be enamored by this one.
With commentaries featuring Ernest Dickerson, SFX wizard Todd Masters and other, the release would already be worth picking up, but good lord did SF go all out on this one. The UNDER SIEGE: THE MAKING OF DEMON KNIGHT doc is so jam-packed with interviews and stories that it could warrant being a standalone release, with everybody from Dickerson, Sadler, Zane, Brenda Bakke, Todd Masters and just about EVERY person involved in front of or behind the cameras all recalling what a great experience it was and really documenting something great. There’s also a live Q&A featuring Director Dickerson and Actor Dick Miller, which is a fun watch as well.
19.) THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: PART 2 (Dir. Tobe Hooper)
The Saw might be family, but this two-disc release of one of the zaniest, off-kilter sequels of all time is something I consider even closer. Instead of going for another serious and depressing vibe like the first TCM, Director Hooper decided to make its sequel a pitch-black comedy, seeing the first film’s cannibal family on the run as chili-cookoff winners, trying to kill Stretch, a local radio DJ (played by the gorgeous Caroline Williams) after she played a tape of the death of two yuppies at the hands of Leatherface and family. Also thrown into the mix, is Lefty Enright (Dennis Hopper), a Texas Ranger who wants revenge for the death of his nephew Franklin in the first film (shouldn’t he be THANKING Leatherface for that one?!), which gives us one of the most insane performances around. Hopper chews up the scenery like no other, and the combination of insane performances by Hopper, Bill Moseley as Leatherface’s brother “Chop Top” and the return of Jim Siedow as Drayton “The Cook” Sawyer, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 is unlike any film you’ve seen before.
Unlike the first film, TCM 2 is ultra-gory, with FX legend Tom Savini providing some of the grizzliest fx around (one involves a human face being put on Stretch by Leatherface), some definite sexual undertones between Leatherface and Stretch and an over the top approach that every single cast member uses to their advantage. It’s a wild time, completely unique and one of the most entertainingly silly sequels of all time, and one that deserves to be seen.
Not only do we get a brand new 2K HD scan of the film (which makes it look better than ever), the carried over 85-minute IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY doc and various other oldies, but more than a few brand new bonus features that makes this a real Collector’s Edition. Two commentaries, brand new interviews with a massive amount of the FX artists who worked their asses off on the film, a set of interviews with the two actors who played the film’s opening yuppies who get slaughtered, a brand new interview with the film’s editor, a new interview with Leatherface stuntman Bob Elmore and a brand new episode of Horror’s Hallowed Grounds. Great stuff to say the least.
20.) YOU’LL LIKE MY MOTHER (Dir. Lamont Johnson)
Much lesser known yet so worth your time, Lamont Johnson’s YOU’LL LIKE MY MOTHER is the best kind of psychological thriller around. Following the death of her husband in Vietnam, the very pregnant Francesca Kinsolving arrives at the doorstep of her mother in law, expecting a warm welcome, but instead receiving a cold and heartless greeting by her late husband’s mother. With a snowstorm keeping her there, Francesca is forced to bear the cruel and mean-spirited abuse from her mother in law, the frightened mute sister in law who wants to help and a far deadlier and sinister individual hiding within the shadows.
What makes YOU’LL LIKE MY MOTHER so intriguing is how harshly Francesca is treated, it’s as if the woman she assumes is her mother in law has a personal vendetta against her and the more things begin to reveal themselves, the clearer things get and this effective and very chilling mystery/thriller begins to make total sense. Led by great performances, especially by Patty Duke as Francesca, Sian Barbara Allen as the mute little sister (Allen was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance) and one sinister turn by IT star Richard Thomas, YOU’LL LIKE MY MOTHER is a ’70s gem, waiting to be discovered by genre lovers.
Supplemental materials include a set of brand new interview with Sian Barbara Allen and Richard Thomas, both of whom speak highly of the filming and also tell of their dating during and after the film.