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The People Under the Stairs: Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray Review

Blu-Ray Review- The People Under the Stairs

Distributor: Scream Factory

Street Date: August 11th 2015

Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio

Runtime: 103 Minutes

The People Under the Stairs: Collector's Edition (Scream Factory)

The People Under the Stairs: Collector’s Edition (Scream Factory)

The Film:

“In every neighborhood, there is a house that adults whisper about, and children cross the street to avoid.” –Theatrical tagline for The People Under the Stairs

The People Under the Stairs is not only one of Wes Craven’s very best films; I consider it a modern day Horror classic. Craven’s 1991 feature is a masterfully crafted urban horror story that is also exceptionally well written for the genre. The film offers up plenty of terrifying sequences, sadistically dark comedic moments, and a perfectly cast ensemble that delights in their over-the-top characters. It’s an endlessly re-watchable Horror treat, and fans will be overjoyed with this latest Collector’s Edition release from Scream Factory.

Poindexter “Fool” Williams (Brandon Adams) and his family are the last remaining residents of their rundown apartment complex in Los Angeles. His mother is sick and requires hospital treatment that they’re unable to afford. It certainly doesn’t help their predicament when they receive an eviction notice from their mysterious landlords, the Robesons. When his sister’s boyfriend Leroy (Ving Rhames) tells Fool about the rumored hoard of gold that the Robeson’s have stashed away somewhere in their old creepy house, they concoct a plan to steal it from the greedy old couple. After all, with that amount of gold at his disposal, Fool could certainly afford to pay for his mother’s medical care and save their apartment.

Suffice to say, Fool and Leroy’s attempted robbery goes horribly wrong, trapping Fool in the disturbing house of the utterly psychotic Robeson’s. With no possibility of escape, the deranged “Daddy” and “Momma” Robeson on his trail, and cannibalistic offspring living inside the walls of the house, Fool’s only hope of survival is Alice, the Robeson’s sheltered daughter.

The People Under the Stairs delights at every twisted turn with fantastic makeup and special effects work from KNB EFX, a moody score from Don Peake, and an impressive production design. Twin Peaks’ Everett McGill and Wendy Robie turn in wickedly terrifying performances as the Robesons, and young Brandon Adams is one of the most likeable child actors in Horror movie history. I truly enjoyed revisiting the film on this brand new Collector’s Edition from Scream Factory.

Video Quality:

Scream Factory delivers The People Under the Stairs onto Blu-Ray with the same fantastic transfer that accompanied the previous Universal release. The urban (and suburban) setting exhibits plenty of depth and clarity, with a beautiful color scheme that is respectful to the original theatrical presentation. The level of detail in facial features, clothing, and the terrifying house itself is spectacular. Black levels are solid, and there are no artifacts or damage to the print to report. Fans will be delighted with this clean, crisp, transfer of a modern-day Horror classic.

Audio Quality:

The 5.1 DTS-HD audio track is another standout addition to this Blu-Ray release. Everything from the unsettling score to dialogue and sound effects comes through very clean and clearly in HD surround. There are plenty of scary moments that definitely gave me a “jump” on this mix, and the audio is perfectly captured in tremendous detail across all channels.

Special Features:

Scream Factory has provided fans of The People Under the Stairs with an incredible selection of bonus features for this Blu-Ray release. This is truly a Collector’s Edition folks! Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:

  • Audio Commentaries (2): There are two commentaries to choose from on this Blu-Ray edition including one featuring the Director himself, Wes Craven, and the other featuring Brandon Adams, A.J. Langer, Sean Whalen, and Yan Burg.
  • House Mother with Wendy Robie– This incredible interview from Red Shirt Pictures lasts nearly 20 minutes and features actress Wendy Robie (“Woman”/Mrs. Robeson) discussing how she became involved with The People Under the Stairs, her background in Shakespeare and television roles, how the character of Hannibal Lecter inspired her audition, and the psychological profile she assumed to play the role of “woman.” Wendy discusses working with Wes Craven as well here, and further emphasizes the Director’s noteworthy likeability. My favorite sections of the interview have Wendy sharing stories from the late-night shooting schedule and the cast and crew deliriously cracking up after takes. Once again, this is a wonderful addition from Red Shirt Pictures to this Blu-Ray release.
  • What Lies Beneath: The Effects of The People Under the StairsThis 15 minute featurette from Red Shirt Pictures has KNB EFX pioneers Howard Berger, Robert Kurtzman, and Greg Nicotero (of The Walking Dead fame) discussing their involvement on The People Under the Stairs special effects work. I always find featurettes on makeup effects fascinating, and this one is no exception! The behind-the-scenes footage combined with the recollections of the KNB folks makes for some truly captivating material. I loved hearing about the development of these fantastic effects; from Ving Rhames’ life cast to Sean Whalen’s unique makeup, there is plenty to salivate over here for Horror fans!
  • House of Horrors: With Director of Photography Sandi Sissel- This is yet another great interview from Red Shirt Pictures, coming in at over 16 minutes and featuring DP Sandi Sissel discussing her work on the film. Sandi’s career, starting out in documentaries and eventually making her way to big budget productions, offers up plenty of great stories.
  • Settling the Score (with Don Peake)– This 10 minute interview with composer Don Peake offers up some insightful stories regarding the score for The People Under the Stairs. Don’s career is discussed in depth, beginning with his musical experience in High School and joining The Everly Brothers in the 1960’s to working in Hollywood. A very interesting guy with plenty of fascinating tales to tell.
  • Behind the Scenes Footage– Nearly 7 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage from Greg Nicotero include the oft-discussed disemboweling scene and makeup preparation for the actors involved.
  • Theatrical Trailer- The original theatrical trailer for the film runs just over a minute and is just as enticing for potential viewers as it was back in 1991. The tagline for the film spoken over the terrifying imagery perfectly captures the tone. It’s a short one, but sometimes less is more.
  • TV Spots- Just over a minute of select TV spots from the film’s theatrical campaign.
  • Vintage Making of Featurette- This is actually just under 4 minutes of promotional material for the film partnered with select scenes. I especially enjoyed the black and white “vintage” footage of the actors discussing their roles.
  • Original Storyboards- Just about 7 minutes worth of storyboards for various sequences from the film. You have to appreciate the amount of effort that goes into planning these unique and elaborate shots!
  • Still Gallery- Roughly 4 minutes of behind-the-scenes photos and production stills from the making of The People Under the Stairs.

The Packaging:

As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory features what is quite possibly my favorite Scream Factory artwork yet! Justin Osbourne was commissioned to create this piece, which truly captures the atmosphere of the film. The purple color scheme is gorgeous, and the likeness of the actors is absolutely spot-on! On the reverse of the packaging you’ll find a plot synopsis, a list of special features, technical specifications, and select production stills from the film. On the interior of the slipcover is the standard Blu-Ray case, which has reversible artwork featuring the original theatrical poster for the film. The interior of the case features the Blu-Ray disc, also featuring artwork from the theatrical poster. This is absolutely one of my personal favorite packaging jobs from Scream Factory! Bravo.

 

The People Under the Stairs: Collector's Edition (reverse)

The People Under the Stairs: Collector’s Edition (reverse)

The People Under the Stairs: Collector's Edition (interior)

The People Under the Stairs: Collector’s Edition (interior)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Report:

The People Under the Stairs is a modern day Horror classic. The film offers up plenty of terrifying sequences, sadistically dark comedic moments, and a perfectly cast ensemble that delights in their over-the-top characters. It’s an endlessly re-watchable Horror treat, and fans will be overjoyed with this latest Collector’s Edition release from Scream Factory. This Blu-Ray edition features outstanding video and audio quality, and arrives loaded with fascinating special features for Horror fans. Justin Osbourne’s amazing cover art is yet another added bonus to what may be one of Scream Factory’s finest releases to date. Highly recommended!

Yours Truly,

Doctor Macabre


Top Ten Hi-Def Horror Releases of 2014

Doctor Macabre's Top Ten Hi-Def Horror Releases of 2014

Doctor Macabre’s Top Ten Hi-Def Horror Releases of 2014

Doctor Macabre’s Top Ten Hi-Def Horror Releases of 2014:

There is no denying that 2014 was a stand-out year for Horror when it comes to Home Video releases. Exciting would be an understatement. Not since my teenage years in the mid to late 90’s; saving up my lawn-mowing cash to pre-order the latest Anchor Bay tin set at Suncoast Video, has there been a time as good as this for fans of the genre. I found those sentiments echoed throughout the Horror community lately. It was simply a great year to be a Horror aficionado. And who do we have to thank for that? The fine folks at Scream Factory, Synapse Films, Scorpion Releasing, Blue Underground, Kino Lorber, and Grindhouse Releasing to name just a few. Their dedication to the genre, attention to detail on video transfers and extras, and pure willingness to go above and beyond to please the fans deserves admiration and applause.

2014 saw the release of a multitude of titles that many of us never saw coming, including the Halloween 6 Producer’s Cut and the Director’s Cut of Nightbreed. We saw the painstakingly beautiful efforts of 4K restorations on titles like Sleepaway Camp, Prom Night, and Curtains. And let’s not forget the incredible documentaries and featurettes included on these releases from the likes of Aine Leicht and Red Shirt Pictures. The bottom line is this: we were spoiled beyond belief this past year, and here’s to more of the same in 2015.

Without further ado, the following are my personal Top 10 picks for the very best 2014 had to offer when it came to Horror films on Blu-Ray (counting down from 10 to 1):

Countess Dracula (Synapse Films)

Countess Dracula (Synapse Films)

  1. Countess Dracula (Synapse Films)

*Besides the fact that this Hammer release is a gorgeous gothic delight all on its own (with the beautiful and sultry Ingrid Pitt in the title role), but Synapse Films delivered it masterfully in High Definition. Featuring a breathtaking new transfer and the fantastic (if short) Immortal Countess: The Cinematic Life of Ingrid Pitt featurette touching on her heartbreaking childhood spent in a concentration camp, her escape via river from Berlin (being pulled out of the water by a US soldier whom she would later marry), and beginnings in Hollywood, it’s a fascinating piece on an underrated actress. Complete with reversible cover art and a solid audio track, this one easily made my list.

Deadly Eyes (Scream Factory)

Deadly Eyes (Scream Factory)

  1. Deadly Eyes (Scream Factory)

*How can one go wrong with dachshunds in rat suits chasing Scatman Crothers down a sewer drain? This movie is simply too much fun, with earnest performances and goofy practical effects, it’s pure camp entertainment that remains one of my favorite 80’s Horror entries to revisit. Producer Aine Leicht’s Deadly Eyes: Dogs in Rat’s Clothing documentary is an absolute hoot too, with fun interviews and insight into the making of the film. Scorpion Releasing adds a few bonus features on this Scream release as well, rounding out this great disc (with solid picture and audio quality).

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Kino Lorber)

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Kino Lorber)

  1. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Kino Lorber)

*Along with F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu, this is one of my favorite Horror pieces from early German cinema. It’s incredibly well made, with plenty of memorable set designs and costumes that have gone on to inspire Horror auteurs that would soon follow. The imagery is endlessly spooky and haunting, and it looks simply stunning in this brand new 4K scan on Blu-Ray from Kino. With two separate HD audio tracks (one by DJ Spooky!) and the captivating documentary Caligari: How Horror Came to Cinema, there is so much to love on this release for fans of the film.

The Vincent Price Collection II (Scream Factory)

The Vincent Price Collection II (Scream Factory)

  1. The Vincent Price Collection II (Scream Factory)

*There is nothing in cinema quite as calming or comforting to me as sitting down and enjoying a good ol’ Vincent Price movie marathon. He is, without a doubt, my favorite Horror icon. The man simply knew how to deliver the goods to his audience, and delighted in the fandom of the genre that he understood so well. With a simple tweak of an eyebrow, or escalation in his vocal tone, the man was endlessly watchable on the silver screen. Scream Factory’s Volume II collection includes some wonderful films from his outstanding career including: The Raven, The Comedy of Terrors, The Tomb of Ligeia, The Last Man on Earth, Dr. Phibes Rises Again, The Return of the Fly, and House on Haunted Hill. They’ve also included an array of great special features on every disc including commentaries, featurettes, and my personal favorite, Iowa Public Television’s Gothic Horror introductions starring the man himself. Joel Robinson’s perfectly rendered artwork rounds out this great collection.

The Walking Dead: The Complete Fourth Season (Anchor Bay)

The Walking Dead: The Complete Fourth Season (Anchor Bay)

  1. The Walking Dead: The Complete Fourth Season (Anchor Bay)

*From the disease spreading among Rick and his band of survivors holed up in the abandoned prison to the Governor’s assault and subsequent heartbreak for fans of the show, Season Four of The Walking Dead offers up the very best in television entertainment. Whenever I encounter someone who hasn’t seen the series and dismisses it as “that Zombie show”, I have to shake my head. This series just keeps getting better and better, and zombies are a mere backdrop in a story about human strength, weakness, and survival. Anchor Bay’s release for Season Four featured stellar video and audio quality on every episode and countless hours of commentaries, deleted scenes, and featurettes that will entertain fans of this great show.

The House on Sorority Row (Scorpion Releasing)

The House on Sorority Row (Scorpion Releasing)

  1. The House on Sorority Row (Scorpion Releasing)

*This 1983 slasher about a group of sorority sisters stalked by an unknown killer is an absolute campy hoot, with a great score and creepy atmosphere, not to mention some less-than-stellar performances that add to the fun. Scorpion Releasing treats this minor cult-classic with the utmost respect, delivering a very solid video transfer and bonus features. The two commentaries included are absolutely worth listening to, and the extended interview with Harley Jane Kozak is one of the best of 2014.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: 40th Anniversary Edition (Dark Sky Films)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: 40th Anniversary Edition (MPI/Dark Sky Films)

  1. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition (MPI/Dark Sky Films)

                *Available in a standard box-style release and the “Black Maria” truck edition, Dark Sky Films’ 40th Anniversary release of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre exhibits strong video and audio (especially considering the original elements utilized) and an endless array of bonus material that perfectly pairs with the great packaging job. There are several commentaries, interviews, an alternate ending, storyboard comparisons and much more. The film itself remains horrifying and effective, even after all these years.

Sleepaway Camp: Collector's Edition (Scream Factory)

Sleepaway Camp: Collector’s Edition (Scream Factory)

  1. Sleepaway Camp: Collector’s Edition (Scream Factory)

                *Scream Factory’s release of Sleepaway Camp on Blu-Ray is the perfect example of why this company is the very best at what they do. Starting with the amazing cover art by regular contributor Nathan Thomas Milliner that perfectly captures the atmosphere of the film, featuring a jaw-dropping brand new 2K-sourced transfer and strong audio, and ending with some of the best bonus content on any release this year, this is the definitive version of the film to own on Home Video. The included documentary titled At the Waterfront After the Social: The Legacy of Sleepaway Camp from Reverend Entertainment’s Justin Beahm offers fans every behind-the-scenes story and anecdote that one could ever wish to discover about this Horror classic.

Prom Night (Synapse Films)

Prom Night (Synapse Films)

  1. Prom Night (Synapse Films)

*With an opening that Horror fans new and old will have a hard time forgetting, the Scream Queen herself Jamie Lee Curtis (fresh off her Halloween success), Leslie Nielsen, and plenty of teenage shenanigans and kill counts to boot, Prom Night is as enjoyable as ever on Synapse’s standout Blu-Ray release of the year. The meticulously mastered 2K scan included herein is one of the best catalog treatments we’ve seen, and for that alone, Synapse deserves kudos for taking their time to get the transfer right (something they have come to be known for). But they didn’t stop there, the packaging features reversible artwork that is gorgeous to behold, a truly outstanding 5.1 audio track, and consistently top-notch bonus material. The Horrors of Hamilton High documentary features the cast and crew discussing the film at length, and we also get never-before-seen outtakes and additional footage featured in the television broadcast. Simply superb!

Halloween: The Complete Collection (Limited Edition) (Anchor Bay & Scream Factory)

Halloween: The Complete Collection (Limited Edition) (Anchor Bay & Scream Factory)

  1. Halloween: The Complete Collection– Limited Edition (Scream Factory & Anchor Bay)

*The #1 release of the year easily belongs to Halloween: The Complete Collection (Limited Edition), the result of an unheard of partnership between two home video giants: Anchor Bay and Scream Factory. Featuring every single film in the franchise and for the first time ever, the Producer’s Cut of Halloween 6 (on a beautiful transfer), as well as a vast array of bonus materials newly produced by Scream Factory, this is the absolute definitive set to own for fans. The artwork from Paul Shipper sets the mood perfectly, and the attention to detail with the individual black cases and original theatrical artwork on each separate film case is perfection. This is dedication folks! The fact that so much time and effort went into ensuring that fans would be happy with the results of this box set (along with the aforementioned content itself) is reason enough to select this fine release as the best of 2014, and one that will be appreciated by Horror fans for years to come.

Runners Up: Frankenstein Created Woman (Millennium Entertainment), The Blob (Twilight Time), Ginger Snaps (Scream Factory), Motel Hell (Scream Factory), The Quatermass Xperiment (Kino Lorber), Scanners (The Criterion Collection), Curtains (Synapse Films), The Final Terror (Scream Factory), and Nightbreed (Scream Factory).

Yours Truly,

Doctor Macabre


Dolls Blu-Ray Review

Blu-Ray Review- Dolls

Distributor: Scream Factory

Street Date: November 11th 2014

Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio

Runtime: 77 Minutes

Dolls: Collector's Edition (Scream Factory)

Dolls: Collector’s Edition (Scream Factory)

The Film:

From the Child’s Play series to newer offerings such as The Conjuring and its recent spin-off Annabelle, Dolls have seemingly always been a staple of the Horror genre. It’s rather curious as to why, frankly, these children’s play-things have terrified the masses for so many years. They’re meant to be so cute, cuddly, and trust-worthy…but perhaps that’s ultimately where the fear lies. How could these harmless inanimate gifts of porcelain and rubber harm the little people most near and dear to us? Or terrorize their superstitious parents? It’s a genre plot device that seems so silly, but has proved incredibly successful over the years. Much like clowns, who were meant to be so innocent and harmless, dolls in general have a tainted, horrifying aura surrounding them because of their cinematic counterparts. In 1987 Director Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator) released Dolls, a polished and entertaining entry in the subgenre that never takes itself too seriously.

In the film, 7-year old Judy Bower (Carrie Lorraine), her father David (Ian Patrick Williams), and her nasty step-mother Rosemary (Carolyn Purdy Gordon) arrive at a seemingly deserted mansion in the English countryside after their car becomes stuck in the mud during a thunderstorm. Upon arrival, they soon learn that the mansion is owned by the elderly Gabriel and Hilary Hartwicke (Guy Rolfe and Hilary Mason). Gabriel and Hilary are welcoming to their guests, and are soon joined by three more stranded strangers; the punk-rock thieves Isabel and Enid, and the likeable sad sack Ralph (Stephen Lee). Guy explains to his stranded visitors that he used to be a toymaker before he retired, but he still lovingly crafts the children’s toys when he’s able. The mansion is littered with them, lined neatly on the shelves of nearly every room, much to the delight of little Judy. But things soon take a turn for the worse, as the Hartwicke dolls come to life throughout the stormy night, and slowly begin hacking and slashing the weary travelers to death.

Stuart Gordon’s Dolls is injected with brilliant dark humor, some insanely cool special effects, and a cast that clearly understands the genre and gives it their all, making for an enjoyable horror film that is scary, silly, and cleverly self-aware. The film’s technical merits are worth nothing as well, with some impressive lighting techniques, art direction, and set design. It may take a certain brand of Horror fan to appreciate Dolls, with its over-the-top humor and corny nature, but I found it to be a heck of a lot of fun.

Video Quality:

Simply put, Dolls looks great on Blu-Ray. The print is in terrific condition, with plenty of detail and authentic color reproduction. The natural film grain on display looks beautiful, and textures on skin and clothing are nearly tangible at times. There are no signs of DNR or other intrusive practices to speak of, which is always a bonus on catalog releases. The only seemingly out-of-place distraction is the appearance of what looks like tiny glitter flakes that fall vertically in some select scenes (most notably in the Bower’s mansion bedroom). It’s a rather small imperfection, but worth nothing as I can’t be certain that it was intentional. Otherwise, this is a wonderful transfer!

Audio Quality:

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is very effective and suits the eerie atmosphere of the film well. The dialogue always comes through crisp and clear, and the wonderful score envelops and surrounds you throughout. The dramatic high points, especially profound during the dolls’ mayhem, is perfectly captured on this dynamic track. Well done!

Special Features:

Scream Factory has given Dolls their Collector’s Edition treatment by including some extra fun features for fans of this little Horror gem. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:

  • Audio Commentaries (2)– There are two commentaries on this Collector’s Edition, the first with Director Stuart Gordon and Writer Ed Naha, and the second with cast members Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Stephen Lee, Carrie Lorraine, and Ian Patrick Williams. Both tracks are insanely entertaining, but I especially loved hearing Mr. Gordon discuss his film along with his screenwriter. We get to hear some detail on the production, effects, and cast throughout both, with a slightly different flavor and atmosphere depending on which you’re listening to.
  • Toys of Terror: The Making of DollsRunning over 38 minutes, this brand new documentary from Scream Factory and Red Shirt Pictures features select cast and crew members discussing the film’s legacy, production, cast, and much more. Much like the documentaries on past Scream Factory releases, this is wonderfully entertaining, with plenty of fun stories for fans of the film to enjoy. I especially enjoyed hearing from the crew about filming on location in England and on the same famous soundstages where films like Barbarella and Red Sonja were filmed (which numerous cast and crew found leftover props from). The special effects discussion concerning the marionette work and lighting involved to achieve the doll scenes is fascinating.
  • Theatrical Trailer- This original theatrical trailer for Dolls runs about 2 ½ minutes and provides viewers with a fun and surprisingly gory look at the kind of film they’re getting themselves into.
  • Film-to-Storyboard Comparison- This fun featurette runs over 8 minutes and includes select scenes from the film itself along with a “mini-screen” storyboard comparison. Scenes include: Teddy’s Revenge, Rosemary Takes a Dive, and Punch’s Little Secret. It’s interesting to see how the filmmakers planned these difficult sequences through storyboarding and how they actually played out on camera. Great stuff!
  • Still Gallery- This still gallery runs over 4 minutes in length and plays automatically when selected; featuring several production stills, theatrical posters, and select advertising from the film’s theatrical campaign.
  • More from Scream Factory- Vintage trailers for other titles in the Scream Factory line are presented here including Pumpkinhead, Phantom of the Paradise, and Sleepaway Camp.

The Packaging:

This Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory features a newly commissioned slip-cover design from artist Nathan Thomas Milliner. The coloring, detail, and overall atmosphere than emanates from the new art is outstanding! On the reverse of the case you’ll find a plot synopsis, a list of special features, technical specifications, and select production stills from the film. Inside the case is the Blu-Ray disc as well as the iconic original theatrical poster design with the “They Walk. They Talk. They Kill” tagline banner available as a reversible wrap.

Dolls: Collector's Edition (reverse)

Dolls: Collector’s Edition (reverse)

Dolls: Collector's Edition (interior)

Dolls: Collector’s Edition (interior)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Report:

Stuart Gordon’s Dolls is injected with brilliant dark humor, some insanely cool special effects, and a cast that clearly understands the genre and gives it their all, making for an enjoyable horror film that is scary, silly, and cleverly self-aware. The video quality on this brand new Blu-Ray edition is stellar, sporting an incredibly clean transfer that retains the authentic film grain and boasts an impressive amount of detail. The audio track also suits the film well, delivering the dolls’ mayhem and the creepy score in fine dynamic form. As per the usual, Scream Factory has done it again in the area of special features, with the wonderful documentary Toys of Terror among other fun extras. It may take a certain brand of Horror fan to appreciate Dolls, with its over-the-top humor and corny nature, but I found it to be a heck of a lot of fun. This Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory comes highly recommended!

Yours Truly,

Doctor Macabre


Pumpkinhead Blu-Ray Review

Blu-Ray Review- Pumpkinhead: Collector’s Edition

Distributor: Scream Factory

Street Date: September 9th 2014

Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio

Runtime: 86 Minutes

Pumpkinhead: Collector's Edition (Scream Factory)

Pumpkinhead: Collector’s Edition (Scream Factory)

The Film:

“For each of man’s evils, a special demon exists. You’re looking at vengeance, cruel, devious, pure-as-venom vengeance.”

–Haggis in Pumpkinhead

Released into theaters in 1988, Pumpkinhead remains one of the late, great Stan Winston’s few directorial efforts. Inspired by a creepy poem by Ed Justin, the film received a mixed reaction upon its theatrical release, but thankfully went on to develop a fervent cult following over the years from die-hard fans of the film (myself included). Simply put, it’s one of the best modern day fairy tales with a dark horror twist, and not only features outstanding performances from everyone involved, but one of the scariest creature designs in Horror history.

The opening prologue set in 1957 instantly conjures goose-bumps as we’re introduced to Tom Harley, his wife, and son Ed. Ed watches in horror as his father, shotgun in hand, locks up the horses, bars the door to their home, and waits patiently for something to emerge from the darkness of the woods. Soon a desperate and terrified man is running away from an unseen monster, and begins to pound on the Harley’s door for help. Tom refuses, citing his obligation to protect his family. The monster brutally kills the man as young Ed watches from his bedroom window.

Fast forward to the present day, and Ed Harley (Lance Henriksen) is all grown up, a father himself to his young son Billy. They live on the very same farm that his family has passed down through the years, and run the local Harley & Son Grocery store. They have a wonderful father-son relationship built around unconditional love, daily routines, and story time around the dinner table. One day while tending to the store, a group of dirt-bike racers and their girlfriends from out of town use the dirt paths in the nearby fields to stage some trick jumps for photographs. With Ed having to run back home to grab some feed he promised to a customer, young Billy is left to take care of the store with his dog in tow. When the dog escapes into the dirt-bike racing path, Billy gives chase, getting run over by a dirt bike, and eventually dies from his injuries. Most of the bikers leave the scene, afraid of the consequences that will likely follow.

Heartbroken over the death of his son, and filled with rage toward the bikers, Ed Harley visits a creepy old woman in the middle of the woods who is able to conjure the Pumpkinhead demon from his slumber. Once brought back to life, Pumpkinhead begins to slay the out-of-towners one by one. A guilt-ridden Ed, able to telepathically “experience” the carnage as it happens, moves past his hate and grief to help the young folks in a final battle against Pumpkinhead. That’s all I’m going to say about the film, as this is definitely one you’ll want to experience for yourself.

Revisiting Pumpkinhead on this brand new Blu-Ray edition was an absolute treat! Stan Winston’s direction is masterful, highlighting the Southern Gothic atmosphere with sweat-drenched sunshine and fog-filled moonlight, nearly every scene leaps off the page of a fairy tale. The acting is superb, especially from Lance Henriksen and Matthew Hurley, who truly make an impact on the viewers as we experience their happiness and eventual devastation. I loved the opening moments between father and son; such a touching relationship that enhances the audiences involvement in the terrifying events that follow. The creature design on Pumpkinhead itself remains impressive, and made me smile reminiscing about the good old days of animatronics and practical effects. This is a modern day Horror classic as far as I’m concerned.

Video Quality:

As a lifelong fan of Pumpkinhead, my anticipation was high for this Blu-Ray release, and I can say without a doubt that this is the best the film has ever looked on home video. The color grading is especially impressive, with the summer days drenched in golden hues, and the moonlight blues of the humid nights on bold display. The natural film grain has been left intact, and there is an abundance of detail in facial features, clothing, and the slimy skin of Pumpkinhead itself. The transfer is very clean to boot, with artifacts or anomalies to report. As Horror fans, we couldn’t ask for anything more, Pumpkinhead looks great in High Definition!

Audio Quality:

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is another high point, with dialogue, Richard Stone’s creepy score, and background effects coming through clean and clear on your home theater system. There is a nice balance to everything presented, from the quiet, peaceful opening scenes on Ed and Billy’s property, to the frenetic terror and action of the finale, everything sounds great in High Definition audio.

Special Features:

Scream Factory has provided fans of Pumpkinhead with a fully-loaded Collector’s Edition featuring some truly fantastic bonus material for this Blu-Ray release. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:

  • Audio Commentary– Featuring co-screenwriter Gary Gerani, creature & F/X creators Tom Woodruff Jr. and Alec Gillis, and filmmaker/moderator Scott Spiegel, this is one of the better audio commentaries I’ve heard in some time. There is never a dull moment here, the group is talkative, informative, and relate some fun behind-the-scenes anecdotes from the making of the film.
  • Pumpkinhead: Unearthed- Split into several chapters and lasting over an hour, this documentary from Red Shirt Pictures and Scream Factory delves into all things Pumpkinhead: from original concepts and design, to screenwriting and Stan Winston’s involvement, and casting to special effects, it doesn’t get any better than this for Horror fans! We also get to hear from the cast including Cynthia Bain, Kerry Remsen, Brian Bremer, Florence Schauffler, and Lance Henriksen among others. I particularly enjoyed Brian Bemer reminiscing about having to do multiple takes because he couldn’t stop laughing when Pumpkinhead found him in the closet. Lance Henriksen also provides some fun stories relating to how he was able to get into his character, from obtaining fake teeth to buying his own props to enhance the realism, he’s always fun to listen to. The ad-libbed line regarding his Grandmother washing his hands is touching. It’s an in-depth and revealing look behind-the-scenes of the production, and the cast and crew share some delightful stories. Great stuff!
  • Pumpkinhead: Behind the Scenes- Scream Factory has provided some fascinating footage from the making of the film, including Tom Woodruff Jr. testing out the costume design for the first time, molding and painting the various pieces in the workshop, and testing the final suit with mechanical elements in place. This one runs a little over 7 minutes.
  • Night of the Demon (w/Richard Weinman)- This is an extended interview with Richard Weinman (who co-wrote the story) from Red Shirt Pictures. Richard provides us details on his involvement in the film, how the production came to fruition, and some more in-depth details, some that were previously discussed in the aforementioned Unearthed documentary. Runs about 17 minutes.
  • The Redemption of Joel (w/John D’Aquino)- One thing is certain, John D’Aquino possesses an anti-aging potion that he needs to bottle, sell, and provide to the masses! The man looks great! This is yet another extended interview from Red Shirt Pictures featuring the actor detailing his involvement in the film, his character’s bad choice and resulting consequences, and much more.
  • The Boy with the Glasses (w/Matthew Hurley)- This great extended interview runs about 14 ½ minutes and features Matthew Hurley, who played young Billy Harley in the film. This is probably my favorite featurette on the disc behind the Unearthed documentary. Matthew talks about how he got involved in the film, coming from a Christian background and being involved in a Horror movie, working with Lance Henriksen and Stan Winston, and much more. Billy is such a vital and important character in Pumpkinhead, and it was a treat to listen to Matthew discussing his role as a child actor.
  • Demonic Toys- This short segment runs nearly five minutes and features sculptor Jean St. Jean discussing his work on the Pumpkinhead design. He talks issues involving the design itself, including weighing and balancing the different features to make the creature work on film.
  • Remembering the Monster Kid: A Tribute to Stan Winston- Lasting nearly 50 minutes, this is another standout documentary from Aine Leicht and Scream Factory involving various industry professionals, actors, and other relevant people remembering Stan Winston and the legendary work he left behind. This is wonderfully edited together, informative, and fun. What a legend!
  • Still Gallery- About 14 minutes of production stills from the film in High Definition.
  • Theatrical Trailer- I love and miss seeing that U/A logo! The original theatrical trailer for the film gives viewers a fairly good idea of what they’re in for with Pumpkinhead. It’s creepy, intense, and showcases the wonderful cinematography well.
  • More from Scream Factory- Vintage trailers for other Scream Factory titles including Motel Hell, Squirm, and Without Warning.

The Packaging:

This Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory features newly-commissioned artwork from fan-favorite artist Justin Osbourn on the slip-cover. Simply put, this is one of my all-time favorite pieces of art from their collection. You have Pumpkinhead creeping over the scenery, Lance Henriksen ready for action with pitchfork in hand, and the pumpkin patch graveyard sprawled across the landscape. The coloring is perfect, and the detail is stunning, evoking the ideal atmosphere to accompany this release. On the reverse of the slip, you’ll find a plot synopsis, a listing of special features, technical specifications, and select production stills. Inside the case is the disc artwork as well as a reversible slip-sheet for those that prefer the original theatrical poster design. This is a hauntingly beautiful looking set!

Pumpkinhead: Collector's Edition (reverse)

Pumpkinhead: Collector’s Edition (reverse)

Pumpkinhead (interior)

Pumpkinhead (interior)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Report:

Pumpkinhead is a modern day Horror classic as far as I’m concerned, and revisiting the film on this brand new Blu-Ray edition was an absolute treat! Stan Winston’s direction is masterful, highlighting the Southern Gothic atmosphere with sweat-drenched sunshine and fog-filled moonlight. The creature design is outstanding, and the father-son relationship between Lance Henriksen and Matthew Hurley feels so real in moments of happiness and devastation, making for a twisted fairy tale that comes to life on screen. The picture quality is superb, highlighting the golden summer hues and blue moonlight fog with exceptional clarity, and the HD audio is well balanced and effective. Once again, it’s in the special features department that Scream Factory knocks it out of the park with some truly fantastic documentaries and featurettes. Pumpkinhead kicks off Scream Factory’s Fall Frights in spectacular fashion, and comes highly recommended.

Yours Truly,

Doctor Macabre


Deadly Eyes Blu-Ray Review

Blu-Ray Review- Deadly Eyes

Distributor: Scream Factory

Street Date: July 15th 2014

Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio, DTS-HD Master Audio Mono

Runtime: 87 Minutes

Deadly Eyes (Scream Factory)

Deadly Eyes (Scream Factory)

The Film:

How could one not enjoy the camp value and sheer fun that a film about giant man-eating rats (played by Dachshunds) brings? Deadly Eyes is the kind of 80’s B flick that I could throw on anytime. It has a brilliantly creepy score by Anthony Guefen, solid direction from Robert Clouse (Enter the Dragon), and a terrified Scatman Crothers being chased through a sewer by loveable rat-dogs. What’s not to love?

Deadly Eyes stars “perfectly coiffed haired” Sam Groom as Paul Harris, a recently divorced High School teacher who becomes romantically involved with Elly (Sara Botsford), a Health Department inspector, as giant killer rats begin to take over the city of Toronto. We also get to know Trudy (the beautiful Lisa Langlois), one of Paul’s students who harbors a massive crush on her teacher, whom she believes to be much more mature than her basketball player boyfriend. Lesleh Donaldson plays Martha, one of Trudy’s friends who can’t help but tease her about her complicated love life.

With the help of Paul’s friend and former Professor Dr. Spencer (Cec Linder), it’s soon determined that the massive rats have spawned from feeding off steroid laced grain that was burned on Health Department orders earlier in the film. Having lost their home and possessing a new taste for human flesh, the mega-rats begin to infest the city (and the brand new subway line), leaving our human protagonists searching for a way to get rid of them once and for all.

Deadly Eyes is simply too much fun. The acting is sincere, with everyone playing it straight, which absolutely enhances the terror and fun for the viewer. The dachshunds in rat suits are hilarious to behold, hopping along in an almost loving fashion towards their victims, and the close-up special effects shots are well done for the time. I love the cornball moments too, especially when Paul visits one of his students in the hospital, where the cheese is nearly too much to take. I’m always up for a good old fashioned creature feature, and Deadly Eyes, with its sincerity and goofy fun, remains a satisfying B-flick for a rainy Saturday night.

Video Quality:

Scream Factory brings Deadly Eyes to High Definition with a solid transfer, boasting natural film grain and accurate color reproduction, and consistently inky black levels to boot. You can almost smell the masculinity that certainly must have been emulating from Sam Groom’s brown leather jacket. The transfer is virtually free of anomalies as well, with only an occasional scratch or pop in the reel here or there. This one makes for yet another great presentation from the fine folks at Scream Factory.

Audio Quality:

The DTS-HD Mono track works very well, and adds to the natural nostalgia one feels when watching a B movie from the early 80’s. The dynamic range of a multi-channel effort isn’t here, but this authentic front mix handles dialogue, music, and sound effects very well.

Special Features:

Scream Factory has provided fans of Deadly Eyes with some fun special features for this Blu-Ray release. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:

  • Deadly Eyes: Dogs in Rats’ Clothing– This fantastic documentary piece runs over 24 minutes and features brand new interviews with the crew of Deadly Eyes. From romance budding behind the scenes between writer Charles H. Eglee and production designer Ninkey Dalton to the special effects sequences and the hilarious training of the dachshunds in rat costumes, there is an abundance of fun and engaging discussion going on here. Producer Aine Leicht and the folks at Scream Factory have hit gold on these recent collaborations, and this one is an absolute treat for fans of the film!
  • Interviews-
    • Lisa Langlois- A nearly 19 minute interview with the beautiful Lisa Langlois, brought to you in collaboration with Scorpion Releasing. Lisa talks all things Deadly Eyes, from her beginnings as an actress and her nervousness around Sam Groom with the sexual undertones between their characters. She also discusses her make-out scene with her cinematic boyfriend Joseph Kelly, and shares some funny memories of the dachshunds on set.
    • Lesleh Donaldson- Another Scorpion produced interview that runs nearly 14 minutes and features the sweet and funny Lesleh Donaldson speaking on her role in Deadly Eyes.
    • Joseph Kelly- I was amazed how little Joseph Kelly has changed over the years! If her were to shave off the goatee he would look almost the same as he did in Deadly Eyes. This Scorpion interview features Joseph’s memories on the making of the movie.
    • Allan Ipone- Ipone discusses the special effects and challenges involved in making the rats seem realistic in the film.
  • TV Spot- This lightning quick television spot for Deadly Eyes is so short that it hardly gives the viewer an idea of what they’re in for, but it’s a nice addition to this release. Even with poor film elements to work with, I love it when distributors add vintage promotional material.

The Packaging:

As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory features the original theatrical poster design for Deadly Eyes with the menacing rodent eyes above the title, the chewed through barbwire fence, and the city in the background. On the reverse of the case you’ll find a plot synopsis for the film, a list of special features, technical specifications, and select production stills. On the interior of the case is a Blu-Ray disc, a DVD disc, and more fun production stills from the film lining the slip-sheet.

Deadly Eyes (reverse)

Deadly Eyes (reverse)

Deadly Eyes (interior)

Deadly Eyes (interior)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Report:

Deadly Eyes is my type of Horror film, providing plenty of scares, laughs, and camp value in only 90 minutes. It’s the kind of genre film that you could revisit anytime and have just as much fun as you did on the first viewing. It has Dachshund’s in rat costumes for Pete’s sake! The Blu-Ray transfer from Scream Factory is very solid, sporting authentic color timing and inky black levels. The DTS-HD Mono track is effective as well, supporting dialogue, music, and sound effects with ease. But it’s the special features that fans will die for, featuring the stellar Dogs in Rats’ Clothing documentary that is an absolute blast. This brand new Blu-Ray edition of Deadly Eyes from Scream Factory comes highly recommended.

Yours Truly,

Doctor Macabre


The Final Terror Blu-Ray Review

Blu-Ray Review- The Final Terror

Distributor: Scream Factory

Street Date: July 1st 2014

Technical Specifications: 1080P, Color, 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio, 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio

Runtime: 82 Minutes

The Final Terror (Scream Factory)

The Final Terror (Scream Factory)

The Film:

I like to imagine Director Andrew Davis pitching The Final Terror to studio executives like Johnny Depp did in Ed Wood

Mr. Davis: “Alright, here we go…Bump…in the Night! The Campsite…Massacre! The Creeper! The Forest…Primeval!”

Studio Exec: “How about The Final Terror?”

Mr. Davis: It’s perfect!

All joking aside, the above titles were, at one point or another, all working titles for what would eventually become The Final Terror. As Horror fans, we’re fortunate this film even saw the light of day. Luckily enough, some of the stars from the film began to make it big in Hollywood, and it was finally released in 1983 after sitting on the shelf for two years.

In the Final Terror, the young men of the Redwood County Youth Corps join some lovely local ladies (including a young Daryl Hannah) for a weekend camping adventure in the Redwood forest. On a side note, Daryl Hannah apparently felt the need to bring her Bavarian Yodeling uniform. Not that I’m not complaining, she looks incredible! The campers clear out a lakeside ravine and tell scary stories by the campfire, when the easily agitated Eggar (an unrecognizable Joe Pantoliano) leaves the group. During the first night, a camper goes missing, and the two lead counselors are brutally murdered by an unseen killer disguised in camouflage.

As the bodies pile up, the remaining campers suspect the unstable Eggar, whom they believe is hiding in a shack in the woods. After finding a working raft, the campers make their way down the river to escape the woodland killer and notify the authorities. This turns out to be harder than they imagined, as the killer stalks their every move, forcing the campers to set a trap for a final showdown.

The Final Terror is a curious Horror film, reminding one much more of First Blood than Sleepaway Camp. The kills compared to other films of the genre are relatively weak and uninspired, and the story truly moves along at a snails pace. It’s not a total loss by any means, as it provides some fun camp value, and features earnest performances from the cast. I’m glad to have seen it, but at the end of the day, I’m not sure it’s one that I would revisit again.

Video Quality:

You have to give it to Scream Factory, who truly went above and beyond for this release. Before the film itself even plays, a title card gives notice that all of the original film elements for The Final Terror were lost, and that Scream Factory utilized six different prints from private film collectors to complete the transfer for this Blu-Ray release. So before I even get into my thoughts on the transfer herein, hats off to this company for putting in the extra effort!

Given the title card and advance warning from Scream Factory, I was surprised to find that The Final Terror looks better than I had imagined it would. If there’s a main fault, it’s the consistency in each reel, as colors and skin tones can fluctuate in a single moment. There is the expected damage to the print, with scratches and artifacts popping up fairly regularly, but that’s to be expected. Believe it or not, there are actually some fine aspects to this release, such as the inky black levels, and fine object detail in facial features, the forest environment, and clothing. While it won’t knock the socks off of most High Definition enthusiasts, it’s impressive that Scream Factory was able to piece this film together after all original film elements were lost.

Audio Quality:

This 2.0 DTS HD Master Audio track works well enough for this genre title, but definitely sounds “tinny” and hollow. The catchy musical score for the film features some deep bass and guitar that resonates well, but dialogue and sound effects are often unbalanced and can get lost in the mix. Similar to any minor gripes with the video, this is likely the best this movie is ever going to sound on home video, so we have to give credit where credit is due.

Special Features:

Scream Factory has given fans of The Final Terror some outstanding bonus features for this Blu-Ray release! Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:

  • Post Terror: Finishing The Final Terror- Running nearly twenty-three minutes in length, this documentary piece from Shout! Factory and Aine Lecht is endlessly engaging, even if I didn’t appreciate the film itself as much as others seem to. We get the opportunity to hear from Post Production supervisor Allan Holzman as he discusses the complex editing of the film, and Composter Susan Justin talking about the score she created for this low budget thriller. I especially enjoyed hearing Holzman discuss Joe Pantoliano’s great performance in the film.
  • The First Terror with Adrian Zmed and Lewis Smith- Running over sixteen minutes, this fun featurette has Adrian Zmed (Marco) and Lewis Smith (Boone) discussing their roles in the film, how they got their roles, stories from the shoot, and much more. With such a low budget film, the actors talk about how they had to perform many of their own stunts, which was especially fun to listen to. Adrian even mentions the bizarre opening prologue deaths that are unrelated to the rest of the film. Great stuff!
  • Theatrical Trailer- Running over two minutes, this original theatrical trailer for the film is cleverly edited together, and the corny voice-over makes it that much better!
  • Behind the Scenes Still Gallery- This bonus segment includes roughly nine minutes of behind the scenes photos and production stills, many of which have never been seen before this Blu-Ray.
  • Commentary with Director Andrew Davis- Probably my favorite special feature on this release is the wonderful commentary from Director Andrew Davis. He provides a lot of insight into this low budget production, and some funny stories from the shoot.

The Packaging:

As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray release from Scream Factory features the original theatrical poster design for the cover art. I love the design, which almost makes it look like a Science Fiction film. On the reverse of the packaging you’ll find a plot synopsis, list of special features, technical specifications, and production stills. Inside the case itself are the Blu-Ray and DVD discs, which both feature art that mimics the cover design. Behind the discs, Scream Factory has included some nice production photos on the reverse of the slip-sheet.

The Final Terror (reverse)

The Final Terror (reverse)

The Final Terror (interior)

The Final Terror (interior)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Report:

More First Blood than Sleepaway Camp, The Final Terror features some earnest performances and camp value for fans of the genre, but features weak kills and a story that moves at a snails pace. Though I’m glad to have finally seen it, I’m not sure it’s a film I would revisit again. With that being said, hats off to Scream Factory for bringing The Final Terror to Blu-Ray, and painstakingly re-assembling the film after the original elements were lost. The picture and audio quality won’t impress many, but most of you will be glad to have the film available in your collections at long last. Even though I wasn’t crazy about the film itself, this Blu-Ray edition includes some fun and worthwhile special features, and it’s very evident that Scream Factory put in the extra effort for fans. Recommended.

Yours Truly,

Doctor Macabre

The Final Terror (cover)

The Final Terror (cover)