13 Horror Movies To Scream About This Halloween
Due to all the streaming options available, Blu-ray never quite found the mainstream acceptance DVD once enjoyed, but horror fans have proven themselves to be voracious consumers of the format. One of the reasons for this is the consistently stellar work of Scream Factory, easily the most distinguished producer of quality horror Blu-rays. While this isn’t the only company releasing first-rate horror Blu-rays in 2016 (Pieces, anyone?), Scream is responsible for most of the year’s best releases in this genre/format. We’ve already told you about their work on discs like Death Becomes Her, Jeepers Creepers, Manhunter, and Village of the Damned, but here’s a look at 13 more discs that will put the fright in your Halloween night—with particular emphasis on the extras that keep Scream a cut above the rest.
The Thing (1982)
Okay, we already reviewed this stellar new edition of John Carpenter’s 1982 masterpiece, but this modern classic deserves another mention here. For one, our previous review didn’t offer any details about the informative new commentary by producer Stuart Cohen, who offers all kinds of memorable production anecdotes, detailing the many occasions where the film was nearly compromised beyond recognition. (For a sense of what might have been, watch the TV cut on disc 2.) However, this track’s most valuable moment comes when Cohen suggests Carpenter’s 1982 appearance on Late Night with David Letterman, which you can find here.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
The Thing is widely considered one of the best horror remakes of all-time, but 1978’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers is even better. This has been celebrated in previous special editions, but Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release also features a new transfer, a new commentary, and over an hour of new interviews—with actress Brooke Adams, actor Art Hindle, writer W.D. Richter, and composer Denny Zeitlin. Highlights include the 67-year-old Adams doing her famous eye trick from the film, Hindle recalling his glory days in Canadian horror (Black Christmas, The Brood), and Richter’s chilly memories of Leonard Nimoy.
Scream has been hoping to release Brian De Palma’s masterful 1976 classic—a strong contender for best Stephen King adaptation, right alongside The Shining—for years, but the company was only recently granted permission to generate new extras. When you consider the fact that the 2001 DVD already contained nearly two hours of featurettes (which are repeated on disc two), this might not seem necessary, but Scream discovers all kinds of untapped potential in its 140 minutes of new material. While there’s far too much to cover here, we can say that George Lucas finds his way into several anecdotes, as Carrie and Star Wars were cast in tandem and both drew on the editing skills of Paul Hirsch. Composer Pino Donaggio also notes that he saw Lucas jump out of his seat during the film’s shocking finale—just like everyone else.
While this 1992 thriller is less fondly remembered than Carrie, it is notable as one of De Palma’s last overtly Hitchcockian films. This Blu-ray release is most notable for including an alternate cut of the film that juggles the structure to match De Palma’s non-linear script—to intriguing effect. In addition to this cut and two featurettes about its creation, Scream includes 98 minutes of interviews, most notably a 30-minute chat with star John Lithgow. A friend of the director’s since the ’60s, Lithgow explains that De Palma helped him land many of his early roles. He also fondly recalls their working relationship on Raising Cain, but maintains that De Palma—who he hasn’t seen in several years—is no more knowable than this film’s bizarre protagonist.
The Serpent and the Rainbow
When Wes Craven died last year, most of the tributes overlooked The Serpent and the Rainbow, the creepy black magic movie he made just four years after A Nightmare on Elm St. Unfortunately, Craven’s death also made it impossible for him to contribute to this new Blu-ray, but Scream offers two substantial consolation prizes: The Making of The Serpent and the Rainbow and a commentary by Bill Pullman.
As Child’s Play fans already know, a sufficiently deluxe edition of the film was released on Blu-ray back in 2009, but Scream Factory generously adds a new commentary (there are now four in total), an hour of old behind-the-scenes footage, and new interviews with special effect artist Howard Berger and actor Ed Gale. After building his rep with indie horror films like Day of the Dead and Evil Dead II, Berger used Child’s Play to transition to the big time, eventually co-founding KNB EFX. Gale’s more opinionated interview is a lively counterpoint to Berger’s more nuts-and-bolts chat. During this 40-minute conversation, he details his troubled history with the franchise—and his undying affection for director Tom Holland.
Return of the Living Dead
Another beloved ’80s horror movie that already had multiple Blu-rays full of extras, Return of the Living Dead gets the ultimate deluxe edition courtesy of Scream. In addition to the material from the previous North American release, they include More Brains: A Return to the Living Dead—the two-hour documentary from the UK Blu-ray—as well as a new commentary, an hour of new featurettes, and a visit to the film’s locations in an episode of Horror’s Hallowed Grounds.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
When The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 was released on DVD a decade ago with an 88-minute documentary (It Runs in the Family), no reasonable fan believed there was more to learn about this bizarro sequel. To their amazement, Scream Factory recently dug even deeper into the film’s production history, adding a new commentary, four new featurettes, and another instalment of Horror’s Hallowed Grounds.
Psycho IV: The Beginning
You’d never guess it from the commentary track on this disc—featuring Olivia Hussey, Henry Thomas, and director Mick Garris—but Psycho IV is a significant step backwards for a franchise that started with a consistently exceptional trilogy. Still, this gossipy track makes the whole disc worthwhile. It’s not always pleasant to hear criticism of the legendary Anthony Perkins, but the behind-the-scenes anecdotes offer a welcome dose of Psycho history. Additional extras include a pair of vintage featurettes and a lengthy interview with makeup effects artist Tony Gardner.
The Exorcist III
While Exorcist II: The Heretic is an undeniably original and inventive film, it continues to leave most viewers frustrated because of how much it deviates from the spirit of the original. For The Exorcist III, writer William Peter Blatty returned to the franchise, creating a worthy companion to the first film, but one that was compromised during post-production. For this Blu-ray release, Scream has used a variety of sources to piece together something approximating Blatty’s original version, even restoring the title of his novel: Legion. A new interview with Blatty can be heard on an alternate track during this cut of the film and Scream also includes new interviews with three actors (Clifford David, Tracy Thorne, Brad Dourif), composer Barry DeVorzon, and several other members of the crew.
2001 is not remembered as a great time for horror, but that might be different if Session 9 got the wide release it deserved. The highlight of this disc is Return To Danvers: The Secrets of Session 9, a new 49-minute documentary featuring director Brad Anderson and several key cast members. Josh Lucas remembers the film fondly, but describes the production process as “a horrifying experience,” thanks to some near death occurrences that seem to be connected to a paranormal entity of some kind. Extras also include everything from the old DVD and yet another instalment of Horror’s Hallowed Grounds.
It wouldn’t be Halloween without a good ’80s anthology film. Nightmares isn’t virtuoso filmmaking, but it quickly races through each of its four pleasantly silly stories: (1) a woman gets pursued by a serial killer while buying some late night cigarettes, (2) a teenager (Emilio Estevez, no less) becomes dangerously obsessed with an arcade game, (3) a troubled priest is pursued by a Chevy 4×4, and (4) a family is attacked by a giant rat. The only substantial extra on this disc is a commentary featuring executive producer Andrew Mirisch and actress Cristina Raines.
Lady in White
This richly novelistic horror oddity from the late ’80s is ideal Halloween viewing, as it’s partly set on the holiday and goes out of its ways to put viewers inside the mind of a child (Lukas Haas, in a performance worthy of his earlier turn in Witness). While this disc lacks the assortment of interviews found on more high-profile Scream releases, it comes armed with a commentary, a promotional short, deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes footage, and no less than three cuts of the film. While I can’t vouch for the theatrical cut or the extended director’s cut, the regular director’s cut presents an overlooked gem that is unusually rich with detail, imagination, and surprise.