Top 10 Movies That Deserve Special Edition DVD/Blu-Rays

Volume I
Since the heyday of horror, VHS was a veritable treasure trove for us collectors. Didn’t matter how random or obscure the title, an afternoon of “video hunting” (pre-online shopping, of course) would often generate a number of titles you loved, hated, never heard of, or thought you’d never find. VHS did not discriminate and while a number of wonderfully odd and once-lost titles have “graduated” to the digital age, many highly revered titles have not been given the proper respect.

“But Jason, shouldn’t you just be happy that they’re on DVD or Blu-Ray at all?”

No, child. You see, as happy as I am that any and every horror film could be CONSIDERED for transfer to digital and preserved, the ones that aren’t are a whole different issue (and likely another Top 10 List). No, I’m talking about the movies that have crossed the barrier, made it to the finishing line, earned their digital stripes..

…and that’s it. No commentaries, no retrospectives, no interviews, documentaries, deleted scenes, original trailers (horror always had the best trailers!) and in some shitty cases, not even their own DVD release, forced to be packed into chintzy “Collections” with a dozen or so other titles that have been ‘corralled’ together and thrown on the shelf like leftovers found in the fridge. Being happy with a film simply making it to DVD/Blu-Ray is like saying, “I’m thrilled to get that trophy for ‘Participation’!”

Well, on behalf of all the filmmakers out there that put the blood, sweat and tears to put their horror films out there for our entertainment, I say, “FUCK. THAT.”

Every horror film deserves its moment to shine, good or bad. Why should an entertaining cult film receive a “Deluxe, Super-Mega, Limited Edition” release just because of its cult status, when something that’s been a genre fave for decades is pushed aside because its studio doesn’t ‘see a demand’. WE ARE THE DEMAND! Horror fans are nothing if not loyal, voracious hunters who will often go as far as to buy films we HATE just to give it a home next to its peers. Companies like Scream/Shout Factory, Synapse, Blue Underground, Severin and Redemption (to name a few) KNOW this and are giving fans what they want by the boatload. They’re setting the example.

So here, for the first time on the Killer Kountdown, I submit 10 titles that made it to DVD rather unspectacularly, and have remained largely forgotten since. Sure, many titles might not make THIS Top 10, but as the “Volume I” above the article indicates…believe me, I’m just getting warmed up.

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10. Waxwork/Waxwork II: Lost in Time Released by Artisan Entertainment in 2003, the 1988 classic Waxwork and its 1991 sequelWaxwork II: Lost in Time were paired up for this ‘Double-Feature’ DVD. It was one of many instances Artisan made a few bucks introducing some genre faves to DVD (another example is further down), but after 10 years, the horror comedy about a ghoulish wax museum of horrors and the teens that fall victim to the ‘set pieces’, deserves something more substantial.

For one thing, the films are presented fullscreen and contain such “Bonus Features” as “Scene Selections”. Thanks!

Futher insult to injury? A long-out-of-print Region 2 release contained a brief “Making-of” featurette that provided behind-the-scenes make-up footage, bloopers and some marketing material for the originalWaxwork. Sadly, Waxwork II remains bare-bones anywhere you go. Not much, but damn, it was something!


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9. Leviathan MGM was always pretty decent at ushering out a number of catalog titles in their own singular releases, so I won’t fault them there. They also earned some points for FINALLY giving Stan Winston’s Pumpkinhead a wonderful special edition back in 2009. But the 1989 deep-sea Alien “knock-off” Leviathan, starring Robocop’sPeter Weller, Rambo’s Richard Crenna, Amanda Pays from TV’s “The Flash” and C.H.U.D.’s Daniel Stern was forgotten!

Released the same year as about a half-dozen other sea-creature style films in 1989 (James Cameron’s The Abyss overshadowing all),Leviathan is a delightfully cheesy re-tread of Alien deep below the sea, with echoes of John Carpenter’s The Thing remake. Gross? Yep. Derivative? Sure. But undeniably entertaining, and chock full of great monster make-up and gory mayhem. With creature effects produced by the aforemented Mr. Winston, a making-of, a commentary, a retrospective, hell, even a Winston tribute of some kind seems like the perfect building blocks to produce a special edition of this fun B-Movie.


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8. Tales From the Crypt Presents: Demon Knight Wow, it doesn’t SEEM like it’s been almost 20 years since I went to see this in theaters, but time does fly! HBO’s 7-year hit anthology series brought EC Comic’s cackling Cryptkeeper to the screen in a big, gruesome, colorful way, and the 1995 film directed by Ernest Dickerson (who directed 1992’s Juice and would go on to direct a NUMBER of television shows ranging from CW’sVampire Diaries to Showtime’s Dexter) did just that.

It contained everything you wanted out of a Tales From the Crypt Film – gruesome creature violence, ugly make-up effects, gratuitous nudity, surprise cameos, and the great Bill Sadler, who had been a Crypt mainstay on the HBO series since Episode #1. Sadly, Universal didn’t (and apparently still doesn’t) think the film (or it’s sequel, the much maligned Bordello of Blood) deserved any preferential treatment – nevermind the in-dept “making of” that exists or the deleted scenes that have been hinted at from various sources. It’s enough to make the Cryptkeeper roll over in his coffin.


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7. Poltergeist This one is practically a ‘gimme’. Rumors have circulated for years of a multi-disc, multi-houred, mega-end-all-be-all DVD that was produced for this Tobe Hooper classic about a suburban family terrorized by spirits who have kidnapped their young daughter and taken her to the ‘other side’. Documentaries, interviews, that E! special about the Poltergeist“curse”! All were supposed to be in one, wonderfully-packaged set.

So when Warner announced their impending “25th Anniversary Edition” back in 2007, everyone perked up, thinking that the rumors would finally be put to rest! That this 80s horror classic would finally get its long-awaited special edition. What we got were a few fluff pieces about paranormal activity and real poltergeist phenomena. Interesting stuff sure, but damn – what about the making of the film? Studio politics may continue to play a hand in whether we EVER get a decent edition of this film.


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6. Fright Night One of the only things that us old-school horror fans could glean from the neverending remake trend, was that in an effort to make more money off the film’s name that they were remaking, they would often re-release the original film in a snazzy new special edition to help generate more interest in the remake coming to theaters.

So while fans collectively groaned at the thought of a remake to 1985’s beloved vampire classic Fright Night in 2011, they considered the possibility that WITH it, there might finally be a special edition release of the original film. Not long before, the cast had gotten together to do a group commentary for iconsoffright.com. So where is the special edition DVD? Not a peep about it. Meanwhile a sequel to the 2011 remake has already been released, and STILL no special edition in sight, nor any word of a re-release of Fright Night Part II from 1989, a DVD in and of itself, that’s long-overdue for a re-release.


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5. The Blob On the polar-opposite end of the spectrum, a film that actually makes a solid case IN FAVOR of remakes, Chuck Russell’s 1988 update to the 1958 classic about a gelatinous goop that lands in a dusty little town and soon begins to devour the locals.

In the original, the ‘blob’ in question oozed over its victims, consuming them under its jelly-like mass. Oh, no. Not in the 80s, boy. THIS blob was semi-acidic and found ways to disintegrate you during consumption, causing skin to droop from bones. It also had the ability to yank you through tight openings, contorting your body into all sorts of nasty positions. It melted faces, shot out of faces, pulled faces into drain-pipes…it apparently did a lot of shit to your face! And all of it was presented in uber-graphic, blood-curdling detail. What do we have to show for it? A DVD release from 2001 that gave us a trailer and nothing more. Considering all the “future” talent involved in this film (“Entourage” star Kevin Dillon, Saw series regular Shawnee Smith, “The Walking Dead”‘s Jeffrey DeMunn and penned by “Walking Dead”‘s own Hollywood legend Frank Darabont, this is one film that could get one HELL of a re-release if in the right hands! No more time should ‘ooze’ by!


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4. Dead-Alive – Before he was an Oscar-winning mega-director, Peter Jackson’s films were smaller, more humble productions. As is still the case now with his multi-million dollar productions, his early films showed a visual flair and an undeniable creativity. They were just WAY fucking gorier. No better example is his 1992 zombie classic, Dead-Alive, about a young man defending the woman he loves from a hoard of blood-thirsty zombies – an outbreak that originated with his mother who was bitten by a freaky little rat monkey from Skull Island. What follows is easily one of the goriest, most over-the-top zombie films ever splattered to celluloid.

While various version of the film exist, in varying degrees of censorship, we have yet to obtain the one, true, honest-to-God, 100% UNCUT version here in The States, and worse yet, no bonus features to boot! We’re talking about Peter Jackson here. The guy documented the making of his 1987 splatter-fest Bad Taste – a film that by all accounts, was shot on a shoe-string in his backyard in New Zealand! A 3.5-hour documentary detailed every inch of production for his 1996 ghost favorite The Frighteners, and don’t get me started on the exhaustive amount of material collected for his Lord of the Rings series or King Kong remake. You mean to tell me he doesn’t have at minimum 10 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage lying around somewhere for Dead-Alive? What Hobbit do we have to kill to make this happen?


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3. Howling II…Your Sister is a Werewolf Not every title was going to be a classic, folks. But I stand by my statement that, GOOD OR BAD, every horror film deserves some love, and this car-wreck is no different. Bearing very little to do with the original 1981 film about a retreat populated by werewolves, this sequel finds the brother to the original film’s news anchor joining an investigator to try and track down a “pack” of werewolves in Europe led by Stirba, the queen “bitch” (as early titles would label her) – a gnashing blonde played with a WHOLE LOT of “zeal” by busty genre fave Sybil Danning.

What results is a lot of weird, kinky werewolf sex, Sybil Danning topless, Christopher Lee in “stylish” 80s garb, Sybil Danning topless, exploding heads, Sybil Danning topless, cheesy 80s pop, Sybil Danning topless and Sybil Danning topless. One of those “so-bad-its-hilarious” films, the Howling series was never a very ‘well-maintained’ franchise, though there were worse chapters in the series than this one, if you can believe it. As is often the case with most bad films, the stories from the set, a retrospective from a cast that might relish the chance to ‘sink their teeth’ into this flick, and just some simple explaination would be a RIOT to dive into.


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2. Silver Bullet Okay okay if you don’t share my opinion that even bad horror films deserve some fun goodies on DVD, can we at least agree that Stephen King’s Silver Bullet has earned enough of a fanbase to deserve a special edition? The film, based on King’s novella “Cycle of the Werewolf”, focuses on a young paralytic boy and his sister (Corey Haim and Megan Follows) trying to convince their loving uncle (Gary Busey in one of his best performances) that the kindly reverend is the werewolf responsible for the monthly murders occurring around their cozy little town.

As left-field as Howling II often got (Sybil Danning topless – yes, again and again!), I don’t know if there’s a sight more unintentionally hilarious than a werewolf lurking around BLUDGEONING people to death with a baseball bat. Or nightmares involving church organ-pounding lycans. Or Gary Busey literally going toe-to-toe with a werewolf in a living room. But it’s all just such great fun, and in a year when horror films were injecting a healthy dose of comedy into their stories, one of Silver Bullet’scharms was that it never took itself too seriously, and was just plain old fun. Even the great Roger Ebert gave the film a favorable review upon its release. And while Paramount gave semi-respectable re-release special editions to King’s Pet Sematary¬†and The Dead Zone, Silver Bullet was inexplicably ignored on that second pass. Which is odd, because a Region 2 PAL release of the film was available for a time that contained a trailer and director’s commentary. Scant features, yes, but features nonetheless, and twice more than what we got!


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1. Prom Night III: The Last Kiss/Prom Night IV: Deliver Us From Evil Now this one REALLY pisses me off. Say what you will about the state of the sequels in the Prom Night series – whether the sharp veer from slasher film to demonic possession and sultry hell-spawned prom queens did it for you or not – what Artisan did to the last two chapters in the Prom Night series is truly idiotic, no two ways about it.

As was the case with the Waxworks films at the beginning of this article, Artisan coupled up Prom Night III and IV as part of their “Double-Feature” sets. Fullscreen and bare-bones, it wasn’t much better or worse than the lack of thought placed into their previous effort (or for that matter Howling V and VI, treated exactly the same way). Until you actually took the time to WATCH the movies.

Now…while one would have loved SOMETHING on the Waxworksfilms (or Howling V – I’ll admit it, I enjoy that sequel), at LEAST those films were presented UNCUT! Yes, folks – by some unfortunate glitch in the Common Sense department, Artisan released Prom Night III and IV in their TELEVISION EDITS! No gore! No tits! No fucking SWEARING! These films were hocked to the masses no better than if you recorded it off of TNT’s “Monstervision” with Joe Bob Briggs one late Saturday night!

Who did Artisan think they were kidding back then? Was it an honest mistake? If so, why wasn’t it corrected? Seriously, who would actually BUY a movie that was void of everything that made it what it was? Horror or not, films are BOUGHT uncut! No if’s, no and’s, no but’s (and CERTAINLY no “butts” – it would have been edited!). Of all the cases presented here, this one riles me up the most. Worse than a lack of bonus features, this is a PRIME example of a company dishing out a title simply to dish it out, thinking horror fans – of ALL people – wouldn’t notice. The lack of confidence in the consumer is pretty insulting.


Stay tuned for future “Volumes” of this Top 10, as there are plenty more where that came from. But in the meantime, there isn’t home video distributor out there that doesn’t have SOME form of contact to voice your opinion on some of their titles, so be sure to e-mail them and (POLITELY – I can’t stress that enough) remind them that, yeah, “There’s people out here that would buy these titles if you spiced ’em up a bit!”

Another route is contacting companies that are doing it RIGHT, like Synapse, Scream Factory and Blue Underground, and suggesting titles to them to consider purchasing the licenses to. As much as I love Evil Dead and Halloween, I’m certainly not going to buy (nor would I NEED) 30 fucking copies of the same damn movie, because another anniversary has passed. Especially when SO MANY other films, (again, both good AND bad) slip through the cracks back into obscurity all over again. As horror fans, its truly up to us to make sure they get the respect and recognition they deserve! March on, and keep horror hemoraging!

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