Throughout October I am going to highlight 5 releases from some of my favorite Blu-ray labels that every horror fan needs in their collection for October. Think of it as a Christmas shopping guide, but with a Halloween slant.
Arrow Films launched in the UK way back in 1991. It didn’t take long for the company to establish themselves as a premier player in the home video market thanks to their state-of-the-art in house restorations and overwhelming amount of expertly curated bonus features. After becoming the undisputed leader in the cult and horror home video spectrum on the UK, the company teamed with distribution mega-force MVD Entertainment and expanded their scope into the US in the early part of 2015.
With a collection of hundreds of titles, offering up something for every type of horror fan, it can be difficult narrowing down recommendations. I’ve taken on the task, however, and have chosen five of the more recent releases from Arrow’s US slate that every horror fan is going to want to get their hands on this Halloween.
Doom Asylum (1987)
I unabashedly love Doom Asylum. This is a silly, ultra campy, mostly bad slasher, but hidden somewhere, deep within all its faults is something charming and fun. Filmed on a real-life abandoned insane asylum, this story revolves around a lunatic should-be dead doctor that brutally murders teens that enter the asylum. Each gory murder is followed by a cheesy one-liner. Throw this one on at your Halloween party this year and I assure you that your friends will thank you.
The film is available to be watched in either 1.78:1 or 1.33:1. Both versions look awesome. In addition the two different framings, there are plenty of fun bonus features:
- Tina’s Terror – interview with the film’s star Ruth Collins
- Movie Mad House – interview with DP Larry Revene
- Morgues & Mayhem – interview with makeup effects creator Vincent J. Gaustini
- Archival Interviews with executive producer Alexander W. Kogan Jr, director Richard Friedman and production manager Bill Tasgal
- Stills Gallery
- Audio Commentary with screenwriter Rick Marx
- Audio Commentary with The Hysteria Continues
The interviews included fantastic, especially the ones with Collins and Gaustini. Collins discusses the cult status of the film and her career in general. Gaustini, who has since gone on to be a big name in makeup effects, recalls his experience working on Doom Asylum, which was his first film. At the time he hated, but has since changed his tune and remembers it fondly.
Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)
Killer Klowns from Outer Space is a staple of ’80s horror. I don’t think I need to tell you, but just to be safe I’ll remind everyone that the film is about a spaceship that lands in an empty field near a small town and out come killer klowns that turn people into cotton candy. I will forever be grateful to Stephen and Charles Chiodo for providing this film for me to grow up on. I feel like every night of every summer in my childhood was spent watching this on repeat on VHS.
Fortunately, I no longer have to watch it on VHS because earlier this year Arrow released a gorgeous Blu-ray. The original 35mm camera negative was scanned in 4K and the result is one of the best looking Blu-rays you’ll find. And a film like, with so many bold and vivid colors, was made for 4K Blu-ray presentation. And then you have the special features and they fall out of this disc like clowns coming out of a clown car.
- Let the Show Begin – interview with the Dickies, the band behind the film’s incredible theme song
- The Chiodos Walk Among Us – a retrospective on the brothers featuring clips from their early childhood films
- Chiodo Brothers Early Films – a number of the brothers early films are presented in their entirety
- Land of Terror
- Beast from the Egg
- Africa Danny
- Sludge Grubs
- Free Inside
- Bringing Life to These Things – a tour of the Chiodo Brothers’ production facility
- Killer Interviews
- Grant Cramer
- Suzanne Snyder
- Chiodo Brothers
- Charles Chiodo
- Charles Chiodo & Dwight Roberts
- John Massari
- Behind the Screams with the Chiodos
- Klown Auditions
- Deleted Scenes
- Killer Bloopers
- Image Galleries
- Audio Commentary with the Chiodo Brothers
I told you there was a lot. Every interview is great, especially those with the Chiodo Brothers because those dudes rule. And the early films, those are fantastic and give you some insight on how the brothers got their start and honed their craft.
The Bloodthirsty Trilogy
Thanks to the success of Hammer’s string of films in the ’60s, Japan’s Toho studios decided they would take a stab at the gothic horror world and thus came three films — The Vampire Doll, Lake of Dracula, Evil of Dracula — collectively known as The Bloodthirsty Trilogy. They’re not likely to be anyone’s favorite vampire movies, but they’re strange, unique and at times kind of wild. It’s Toho doing Dracula and that’s very much worth seeing. If your plan for October is to watch new-to-you stuff, this is a good place to start.
Special features are a little light here by Arrow standards, but still good:
- Kim Newman on The Bloodthirsty Trilogy
- Original Trailers for all three films
- Stills Galleries
The Newman feature is great. In about 15 minutes he dives into the films while touching on Japanese horror in general. Newman always brings so much passion to the screen making it a pleasure every time he pops up.
The Crazies (1973)
A combat virus spreads throughout a small Pennsylvania town as the military desperately tries to contain it in this classic from George A. Romero. Everyone knows Romero built his horror empire on the backs of zombies and his Living Dead series, but he did a lot of other great stuff as well with The Crazies being maybe the best of the bunch and this new Arrow Blu-ray is the best release to date.
The Crazies comes with a brand-new 4K restoration from Arrow that greatly improves on past efforts. There are still a few small imperfections throughout, but generally speaking this is a very detailed presentation with quality film grain present. Included are the following special features:
- Audio Commentary with Travis Crawford
- Romero Was Here: Locating The Crazies
- Crazy for Lynn Lowry
- Q&A with Lynn Lowry
- Lee Hessel Audio Interview
- Behind the Scenes Footage
- Alternate Opening Titles
- Image Galleries
- Trailers and TV Spots
The Romero Was Here feature is a nice looking at some of the locations used in Pennsylvania.
Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972)
If you’re anything like me you can’t have Halloween without Lucio Fulci. Where you get your Fulci fix from can vary, but I’d suggest going with Don’t Torture a Duckling because it’s, well, awesome. The story revolves around a reporter trying to solve a series of child murders in a small Italian town. This doesn’t feature the same level of gore and Euro trash that Fulci is typically known for, but I’d argue that it may be some of his best directing and is still incredible provocative. This is an engaging thriller that keeps you glued to the screen.
I waited for this film to get a US Blu-ray release for a long time and the wait was worth it. The restoration is a 2K digitally restored version using a 35mm duplicate negative. It’s not the best work from Arrow, with some variations throughout, but unless you’re super picky you won’t notice anything significant. It’s an overall fabulous presentation.
- Audio Commentary with Troy Howarth
- Giallo a la Campagna
- Hell is Already in Us
- Lucio Fulci Remembers
- Cast and Crew Interviews
- Florinda Bolkan
- Sergio D’Offizi
- Bruno Micheli
- Maurizio Trani
The commentary is great because if you’re going to have a Fulci commentary track you need Fulci expert Troy Howarth. The winner here though is Luci Fulci Remembers, which are taped audio interviews from the late ’80s with Fulci himself. There’s nothing better than hearing Fulci on Fulci.
For more information and to purchase these US Arrow releases, please visit MVDEntertainment.com.