I remember when I would go to the video store and spend hours browsing the horror section looking for something to cause me trauma. My hands were so full of possibilities that I had to leave them at the counter so I could keep looking for more. I wasn’t alone either; many people would browse the video store looking for the perfect triple feature.
Then that went away. Straight to video became a dirty word that was code for “piece of shit film”. This is partly due to the fact that between camcorders and the internet, anyone with a camera and a girl willing to get naked (yes, this seemed to be a prerequisite) could make a movie and get it out there. We were stuck with Witchcraft 1-10, the Slumber Party Massacre series and pretty much anything by Camp Video, in other words, nothing good.
But it seems that things are changing. On the downside, we are losing video stores at an alarming rate, as I have previously discussed. However, the home video market is reborn; we just have to do our browsing a little differently.
It appears that studios these days are working hand in hand with each other to the determent of the artist, making back room deals with the film release dates as the bargaining chips (if you don’t know what I mean, see the excellent documentary, “This Film Is Not Yet Rated”). For example, when was the last time you saw a pure horror release in October that wasn’t “SAW”, yeah, it’s been awhile. Unfortunately, the phrase, “If it’s Halloween, it must be saw”, was all to true and a lot of horror films that should have had a theatrical release ended up premiering on DVD /Blu Ray or worse…Syfy Channel.
Some of the great modern horror films these days have gone straight to the home market; Dog Soldiers, which rumor has it was shafted in favor of the incredibly inferior “Cursed”, is one of the best. The film opens up in the woods with a camping couple that is attacked by “something”, it screams Friday the 13th to most, but I actually thought of The She wolf of London TV series. Either way, it’s very cool. After that the film shifts gears as a military unit on a training comes across a terrifying enemy. What follows is a siege film like no other, as they find that the enemy are actually seven foot tall werewolves! Sort of a cross between the Evil Dead and Aliens by way of The Howling, this film is simply AWESOME!
A fine British cast makes the most of this cabin in the woods story with plenty of surprises and plenty of firepower! The film takes it's time to build up it's group of soldiers but does so in a combat environment so the exposition is never boring. But be warned, the horror comes soon and when it does, it is nonstop!
Kevin Mckidd, Sean Pertwee and Liam Cunningham star. I put this one right up with the Howling as far as great Werewolf films. This isn't the kind of film you rent, it's the kind you buy, sight unseen. Yes, it's that good.
Another straight to video god send is Trick R Treat. The ultimate Halloween film that had to settle for a costume party crowd in September at a special Hollywood screening before being unceremoniously dumped onto DVD and Blu ray. Trick is definitely a Treat, combining four stories that intertwine on Halloween night. A Vampire stalks women at a downtown Mardi gras style block party, Red Riding Hood walks the woods with Werewolves and god knows what else on her trail, Zombies rise from a watery grave to seek revenge, a Witch turns the tables on her persecutors, and a Psycho Slasher trains his successor, but not in the way you would expect. Super sexy but safe for children, violent but cartoony, psychological, but tongue in cheek, I challenge you to find a more perfect film for the season.
With a cast that includes Brian Cox, Anna Paquin, Dylan Baker, and Leslie Bibb you are in for one top notch experience. It has become a Halloween staple in my house and if you give this one a try, I'm sure it will be one in your house as well!
The last recommendation for today is GASP! A remake! But fear not, my friends, it is a remake with style and purpose…Night of the Demons.
Due out in 2009 but bumped twice before being dropped all together, NOTD is such a fun and well done film that it really makes you angry at the governing powers of theatrical releasing. Now it’s by no means attempting to reinvent cinema, it is just a balls to the wall, fun and scary horror film that would have played wonderfully to a crowded theater. There is a party at the infamous Broussard Mansion being thrown by goth hottie Angela Feld and her “friend” Diane. Well, the cops raid the party and Diane makes off with the entrance fee lock box leaving Angela hanging out to dry. After everyone leaves, Angela and her friends realize that they are locked inside and can’t get out. After a bit of exploring, they discover a group of skeletons in the basement, one flashes a gold tooth that catches Angela’s eyes. As she reaches in to yank it, the skeleton bites her and we’re off and running. Infection begets infection and the demons are on the loose.
'Demons stars genre favs Shannon Elizabeth, Monica Keena, Edward Furlong, Bobbi Sue Luther and Diora Baird. There are some great jump scares and lots of fun that would have left a theater happy.
My point is that these films are class acts and deserved theatrical releases but ended up dumped on video to fight for the audience and there is a lot more where that comes from. If you are tired of the same torture porn offerings and gutless teen slashers, try some dvds that you may not have heard of. Trust me, you’ll probably be better off.