It was recently brought to my attention thanks to the fantastic new podcast, Pure Cinema, that we are coming up on the 5th Anniversary of Scream Factory! It seems like just yesterday the “horror arm” of parent label, Shout! Factory, launched to provide us horror fiends with hours of wicked behind-the-scenes goodies and glorious transfers. It was May 31st, 2017 that the company announced their first slate of releases: Halloween 2, Halloween 3: Season of the Witch, Terror Train, They Live, The Funhouse, Deadly Blessing, The Island, and Phantasm II! That’s insane starting lineup, and the fact is Scream hasn’t slowed down since. From the Wiki page:
Scream Factory is a subsidiary of Shout! Factory. The label releases a number of genre films, mostly horror and science fiction, with dedicated cult followings, many of which having never been available on Blu-ray prior. Certain titles are released in a “Collector’s Edition” with new and archival bonus content, a collectible slipcover featuring newly rendered retro-style artwork, and a reversible artwork wrap with a film’s original theatrical or home video key art.
Those original pieces of art are one of the biggest highlights for many a collector. Of course, there have been some to raise the occasional controversy across the internet over certain covers. The definitive edition of Bob Clark’s seminal proto-slasher classic, Black Christmas, was met with cries of outrage when artist Joel Robinson dared depict Billy on the cover. Billy or not, it’s a glorious piece of art that I wear proudly on a shirt I picked up from Robinson at Days of the Dead in Atlanta recently. It’s that level of care and detail, all the way to the films’ packaging that takes us back to days of roaming through VHS boxes at the video store. This is just another reason Scream Factory has made such a huge impact in such a short period of time.
As part of the aforementioned Pure Cinema podcast, the hosts, Elric Kane and Brian Saur, listed off their “5 because” releases from the company and requested listeners to do the same. Well, I felt this would be an easy task – I was wrong. Their catalog is so vast, and even movies that might not be the greatest feature amazing extras that make them well worth a purchase anyway. For my selections I’ve decided to limit myself to one pick per year, ranging from 2012 – 2016 releases, thus the films aren’t ranked in any particular order.
I understand that Terror Train isn’t regarded as a classic by most. As well, it’s certainly not beloved as some of the other movies from Scream’s inaugural lineup, but dammit if I don’t absolutely love it. Terror Train has always been one of my favorite “one offs” from the American slasher cycle. The plot is terribly basic: prank gone wrong, prankee possibly returning to seek bloody revenge, drunken kids trapped in singular location – slasher hyjinx undoubtedly ensue. What’s so great about Terror Train is it’s incredibly efficient in its simplicity, all leading to a final third “final girl” chase that’s one of the best. The blu isn’t loaded to the brim as some future releases would prove to be, but there’s still a lot to love. From the eerie new cover artwork, the informative interviews, and spanking new sound mix, Scream’s Terror Train disc is the perfect amuse bouche for the greatness to come.
Honorable Mentions: They Live, The Funhouse
Scream jumped from a total of 8 titles in their inaugural year to cranking out a whopping 36 in 2013. The vast number of releases made this a particularly difficult year to select a favorite from. I’ve chosen The Fog for a couple of obvious reasons. Simply put, it’s one of Carpenter’s best films outside of Halloween, and the royal treatment slathered all over this disc is apparent from frame one of the glorious transfer to the well stocked special features. We even get an interview with none other than Jamie Lee Curtis who is notoriously absent on most releases from her Scream Queen heyday. Looking at you, Terror Train.
Scream Factory’s own, Jeff Nelson, even stated on Pure Cinema that “If I had to be on a desert island with one [of our releases] it would be The Fog.” You should need no further endorsement than that to run out and add this to your collection, if you haven’t already.
Honorable Mentions: Prince of Darkness, Lifeforce, Night of the Comet
Let’s get this out of the way right now, it’s almost unfair that I can only select one entry from 2014. Yeah, I know. I made the rules myself, but I’m sticking to em’. In 2014, Scream somehow pulled off the unthinkable. They wrangled together two other companies in order to release Halloween: The Complete Collection. No one ever thought they’d be able to maneuver through all the rights issues to get each film in the series out in one slick box-set. Even better, the often bootlegged Halloween 6: Producer’s Cut was finally presented completely remastered in HD. It was a Michael Myers fan’s wet dream. Yet, despite all of that horror movie alchemy, Scream Factory managed an even bigger coup in 2014.
Clive Barker’s Nightbreed was notorious for the studio meddling that led to various cuts and re-edits on the road to the film’s original theatrical release. That excised footage was thought long lost by careless studio execs but had been uncovered in rough VHS workprints. This footage gave birth to Nightbreed: The Cabal Cut, an overly long edit of Clive Barker’s butchered film that threw in every last frame unearthed from the 1984 production. Scream Factory soon stepped up, promising to clean the VHS footage as best as possible so that fans could finally see a version much closer to Barker’s original vision. That wasn’t enough for the fine folks at Scream Factory, however. They went one step further to find the original excised film elements from Nightbreed. With that, they hired an editor and based off meticulous notes from Clive Barker, we were gifted Nightbreed: The Director’s Cut.
The theatrical cut was something that always left me wanting as a kid. I enjoyed it. The monster designs and practical effects were splendid, but the story always felt muddled to me…even as a 13 year old kid watching the VHS alone in my bedroom. Something was off, and this new director’s cut went above and beyond to bring new life to Barker’s maligned masterpiece. Viewing this cut for the first time, I was swept away by the emotion and the fantasy on display. It’s a beautiful film, and we should be so thankful for Scream Factory giving it the presentation it so justly deserves. While the films on this list aren’t ranked in any specific order, this would easily land at number one if they were. This is seriously the prized gem of my bluray collection.
Honorable Mentions: Lord of Illusions, Night of the Demons, Monkey Shines
Okay, this certainly isn’t the most illustrious disc from Scream Factory. Not by a longshot. But, what I love about the company is along with all the more prestigious horror releases they manage to unearth the occasional oddball flick. Some of these movies, in all honesty, really have no right looking this good. Yes, the dics are barebones minus theatrical trailers, but no one thought they would ever make the leap to high def to begin with.
Ghosthouse and Witchery, both bottom barrel Italian imports, were also known as La Casa 3 and 4, respectively (considered as unofficial “sequels” to The Evil Dead). While Witchery has the mozzarella cheese factor of both David Hasselhoff AND Linda Blair, Ghosthouse is an underrated effort from low-tier Italian schlockmeister, Joe D’Amato. It features a genuinely creepy opening and plays fast and loose with logic, latex, and karo syrup. This double feature is a must own for fans of 80’s fare that falls a bit more on the sillier side of things.
Honorable Mentions: Dog Soldiers, The People Under the Stairs, Demon Knight
This was another tough choice. Two of my favorite horror films of all time got top notch treatment from Scream Factory last year, Black Christmas and TCM 2. Of course, there’s also “never thought we’d see the day” The Exorcist 3: Director’s Cut, although it was pieced together with the only available elements. Unfortunately, those elements are equal to those found in the original Nightbreed: Cabal Cut. While, Black Christmas is a true-to-original-presentation transfer that has gorgeous, vibrant pops of color, it suffers from heavy amounts of grain (again that is true to what the film would’ve looked like upon it’s first run). Because of that, however, TCM 2 just edges out the competition.
I already owned the Special Edition DVD release of Hooper’s whacked out sequel and didn’t immediately see the need to upgrade as that set was fully loaded. Thankfully, I received the blu as a Christmas present. I took it over to a friend’s place with an 80″ projection screen and popped the disc in. We were both blown away as the the film literally looked like it was made two years ago, not 30 years ago. The transfer is immaculate and there’s a whole meat locker full of extras. The feature length documentary ported over from the “Gruesome Edition” really does take you inside the insane workings of the cast and crew. Scream even dug up 30 minutes of deleted clips from the doc for an even further dive into production hell. It was a close call, but this package certainly comes out on top swinging a chainsaw victorious.
Honorable Mentions: Black Christmas, The Exorcist 3, The Thing, Bubba Ho-Tep
Before we wrap this up, I did want to point out Scream Factory’s first original production, Fender Bender. I finally caught it this past week streaming on Shudder. While my expectations were very low based off the footage I’d seen in trailers, I was pleasantly surprised by what a hell of a fun ride it was. Mark Pavia pulls off a super slick production on what must have been a tight budget. It’s a straightforward slasher scenario with teens making the WORST decisions and getting sliced and diced by a leather clad psycho. For a modern flick it still fits right at home in the Scream Factory brand. Here’s hoping that Fender Bender isn’t the last original piece.
There you have it, gang. Writing this article has brought to my attention the numerous blurays that I need to be throwing in my Amazon cart. Starting a Go Fund Me for my home video collection would be in poor taste, huh? What are some of your favorite Scream Factory releases, or what do you wish they would release?